The Legend of Zelda Review

Legend of ZeldaThe Legend of Zelda (Available on Wii U, Wii, and 3DS)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Original Release Date: August 22nd, 1987
Wii Virtual Console Release Date: November 19th, 2006
3DS Virtual Console Release Date: July 5th, 2012
Wii U Virtual Console Release Date: August 29th, 2013

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates The Legend of Zelda E for everyone because of mild fantasy violence. I’m not sure how the ESRB can rate the game so low when it features one of the most grotesque scenes in any NES videogame ever. Don’t know what I’m talking about, finish the game and look at what happens to poor old Ganon. Truthfully though, children of all ages can easily pick up and enjoy even the most mature officially licensed NES games. Parents have nothing to fear here.

Plays Like: At the time of its release it didn’t really play much like anything else out there. It was one of the first truly open videogames, allowing players to explore each and every square foot of Hyrule. By traversing the overworld and the various dungeons, players acquired new weapons and power-ups along the way. Eventually they would take the fight to Ganon and become the hero of legend, or something like that. For anyone looking to play through the game today, think of it as a much simpler version of A Link to the Past or any of the 2D Zelda games released after it.

Review Basis: I’ve finished the game once or twice over the years, maybe a few more.

The Legend of Zelda truly doesn’t need an introduction, nor a review for that matter. This game was so ground-breaking when it hit the NES that it single-handily established an entire genre. It remains one of the best selling NES games of all time, and the series has become one of Nintendo’s most successful to date. Instead of looking at the game through the eyes of someone who grew up playing it, let’s look at it from the perspective of a brand new gamer. How does the game hold up some twenty-six years after its original release?


The Great:

The sense of exploration is superb. From forests to a great mountain, The Legend of Zelda offers players unique environments to explore. Pre-NES games tried to give players the same sense of freedom, but failed due to technical limitations of the hardware they were released on. Here players didn’t have to imagine what the forest or river looked it, they could actually see it. Even today the graphics do a good job of highlighting key areas. You can easily tell where you are, and where you’re heading next. It’s because of this that you’ll want to keep exploring until you’ve seen everything Hyrule has to offer. That joyous sense of wonderment hasn’t aged a day.

One well placed bomb and this guy is toast.
One well placed bomb and this guy is toast.

The Good:

+ Great variety of weapons, and items. Each new one you find unlocks just a little bit more of Hyrule. Be it the raft, or the ladder, every time you get something new, you start to wonder where you’ll be able to go next.

+ Dungeon map system is great. Not only can you see the direction of doors, but it’s also extremely useful to locate hidden rooms, or areas where you can bomb to make shot-cuts to other sections.

+ Combat is exceptional. Not only do you have a sword that throws a beam when you have full health, but you can mix and match sword fighting techniques with ranged attacks such as using the boomerang to stun enemies and then moving in for the kill with the sword, or a well placed bomb. Every weapon can be used against multiple enemies and that’s where the deepness of the combat system shines through.

+ Surprising amount of content. There are exactly eight main dungeon, plus one final hooray against Ganon up on Death Mountain. The game was so big it came with a battery to save your game. Thankfully the Wii U version goes one step further and allows you to use restore points for those frustratingly difficult parts.

+ Miiverse integration with the Wii U version is outstanding. Now I can finally show players the proper way to play this game. What do I mean, I’m talking about having six heart containers, the magic shield, the blue ring, blue candle, bombs, and arrows, all before even entering the first dungeon. Now that’s how you roll baby!

Ah yes, I remember the first time I saw this.  Classic moment.
Ah yes, I remember the first time I saw this. Classic moment.

The So-So:

+/- The map system on the overworld hasn’t aged so well. Sure it’s great being able to see a dot in a large black rectangle, but realistically it’s too rudimentary for today’s spoiled gamer. You might remember there was a heart piece somewhere to the right of the map, but without having a detailed map, getting there may prove much more difficult than you realize.

+/- Link can only move in four directions, and because of that sword fighting feels far looser than it should. When you come face to face with a Darknut for example, it can be extremely difficult to attack and move a split second later. The bizarre thing is that the boomerang can be thrown in all eight directions, so clearly this was a design choice, not a technical limitation.

+/- Secrets are not highlighted or otherwise hinted at. Sure there are some poor translations which will get you to the next dungeon, but I’m talking about secret heart containers, rupee stashes and things like that. These secret areas are truly secret. The only way to know where one is, is to spend hours upon hours bombing every wall, or burning every tree. As such, modern gamers will likely have no choice but to use a strategy guide in hopes of acquiring all the necessary power-ups in order to complete the game. Good news is the Wii U has a built-in web browser players can use.

Really expensive, yes, but awesome just the same.
Really expensive, yes, but awesome just the same.

The Bad:

– Translation is awful. You would have no clue Miyamoto-san actually had anything to do with this game if you were to look at his name in the credits. What does “Master using it, and you can have it” mean anyways? Oh it means you require a certain number of heart containers, oh…well why didn’t you just say that? Some dungeons require you to follow explicit instructions in order to find their entrance, good luck with that.

The Ugly:

The Legend of Zelda has some of the absolute worst boss battles in the series. Some of the dungeons can be brutally hard, and yet you get to the boss and he can be defeated with literally one bomb.

It's around here where the game becomes rather challenging.
It’s around here where the game becomes rather challenging.

The Lowdown:

Wow this game sounds awful doesn’t it? The truth of the matter is that while some aspects of the game haven’t aged so well, this is still a game that deserves to be played. Remember that I’m reviewing this not for its past accomplishments, but rather as a game that’s being played for the very first time by someone in 2013. Even the newest of new players will find a lot to enjoy in this classic. There’s just something magical about it that holds up over two decades years after its original release, and that really speaks volumes to just how forward thinking it was.

Final Score: 8/10

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