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Games - NES

drewmg in gameoftheyear


The Legend of Zelda, 1986 (Nintendo Entertainment System) - Played on Wii Virtual Console

My quest to recap Zelda begins with The Legend of Zelda (AKA Zelda 1). I began playing through this game a few months ago, and last weekend picked up my save file. Halfway through the fifth dungeon, I decided on this whole entire project.

This is what struck me most on this playthrough of the first Zelda; I have no idea how we figured out any of this stuff when I was a kid. There are caves under random trees, behind random rocks; the only way any of this must have made sense was via the use of a strategy guide. Back when Zelda 1 was in it's heyday, I remember the locations of the secrets in this game as being passed down from friend to friend, from cousin to cousin, brother to brother, in almost the same way fairy tales were passed down to the next generation. A boy would see his friend burn down a certain tree to get a bomb expansion; he would go to his cousin's place to show him this top secret trick, and so on.

But in the end, I'm certain it all went back to an strategy guide. Or maybe we were just a lot more patient when we were children. Me? I remember almost everything. I remember what items you get where, how to get all the heart containers, how to get all 16 bombs; I remember everything. I didn't have that luxury when I was 8.

Zelda 1 has a beautifully orchestrated soundtrack, and stands up there with Super Mario Bros and Metroid in terms of music. There's a reason that it's Nintendo franchises who have notable melodies - they were all great on the NES, and the themes merely got better as they got re imagined in the future.

Another thing that surprised me about Zelda 1 on this playthrough was how easy it was when you knew exactly where everything was. I beat the game in probably under 3 hours, split amongst maybe a half dozen sessions. It's not hard to knock out 2-3 of the 9 dungeons without leaving your chair.

So how does it hold up? Pretty well. It shows its age in the poorly translated text, and also in the inability to slash your sword at an angle, but all in all, it does hold up pretty well. Level 9 is still a beast, but I remembered exactly where to go.

RANK THE GAMES: (so far we just have the one under our belt, so this should be easy):



You always had an uncanny memory for stuff like that. Band music, too. I don't think I'd remember any of the expansions (well, maybe one or two), heck, I think I'd have a hard time remembering where the dungeons were! :P Or maybe not if I just got in there and poked around.

I want to think that it was a sort of ultra-fast generational pass-down sort of thing, regarding the secrets... but I think you're right in that, at the source there was probably usually a strategy guide. But for me, there was another way: I remember going tediously from tree to tree on each screen for HOURS, trying to burn them down. I remember walking along a cliff face, and setting bombs at every interval that, if there was a door there, I'd find it. Trial and error sucked, but I did it anyways. I guess I was OCD even at that young age, haha.
I think there's an interesting parallel in Zelda between finding all the burnable trees, explodable walls, and moveable rocks vs. something like Ocarina of time which has you hunting down hundreds of Gold Skulltulas, which is the part of the game that inevitably makes me fearful to try to replay. It's POSSIBLE to be a completionist in Zelda 1, even if it's difficult. In Ocarina of Time, it is exponentially harder to do so.

I'm about 35% through Zelda II right now, and this game is a little harder to remember, but so far I'm doing okay. It's also a much, much more difficult game.

January 2010

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