Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Director(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto & Takashi Tezuka
Producer(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto
PEGI – 7
There are few games that have had as much of an impact on the industry as The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game was designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, who based the game on his childhood, whereby he would explore the countryside of Kyoto, Japan, traversing forests, glades, and caves. He created it to try and recapture the feeling of exploration he had when he was a kid. And the game has a heavy emphasis on exploration for a game of the time, as well as combat and puzzle-solving; things that would go on to become staples of the series. Although This game wasn’t the first to do a lot of the things it does, indeed the designers also took a great deal of inspiration from the Ys series by Nihon Falcom, The Legend of Zelda did all these things bugger, better and all at once, therefore going on to become more influential.
Graphics – 8/10
Though a fraction of the quality of a modern-day AAA mainstream in terms of the technical side of the graphics, back in the day, they were exemplary. The developers did an exceptional job with this game, especially taking into account the lack of outlines and the limited color palette of the NES console. Locations vary from the countryside to mountains to lakes to dungeons; again, all things which would go on to become series tropes, with the likes of Death Mountain and Lake Hylia. The conceptual design would also go on to be adapted bigger and better for future titles, with enemies such as iron knuckles, gohmas, and moblins going on to become iconic.
Gameplay – 8/10
The objective of the game is to explore the landscape of Hyrule to find the missing pieces of the triforce artifact in order to defeat the game’s final boss Ganon. Along the way, there are weapons and armor upgrades to find as well as new items used to traverse new areas and solve puzzles in the game’s dungeons and take on what have now become some of the most memorable boss fights of the NES era. Unless you have a strategy guide, however, there’s not much direction given. Even a lot of the elders that can be found throughout the game give hints that are actually translation errors. For example, the elder who says “10th enemy has the bomb” was supposed to have said “look for the lion key” But these days, that kind of thing only adds to the charm of the game, and with a strategy guide, it’s pretty enjoyable; players won’t have to waste hours of their time trying to bomb every piece of wall to see if it will reveal a secret opening like what kids back in the day found themselves doing. Outside the dungeons, there are a lot of additional items to discover, such as more powerful swords and health upgrades. When players acquire more weapons and items from dungeons, it only adds to the overall experience making it more enjoyable as time goes on.
Controls – 8/10
The control scheme of this game isn’t perfect, however. After being introduced to the series at a later time with A Link to the Past, I could see how much the original game was sorely lacking the feature of being able to move Link diagonally. As he can only be moved up, down, left and right, it can cause unnecessary complications; especially at times when the player is surrounded by enemies in some of the later stages of the game. Besides which, however, the player interface was actually unlike most things are seen in gaming prior, and it’s impressive to think how many different items the player could equip with what was quite a limited control scheme by default.
Lifespan – 7/10
The game can be made to last there around 2 to 3 hours, which whilst meager by today’s standards was revolutionary at the time. It’s double that, even, taking into account the additional hard mode that was added to the game due to the excess amount of space left on the cartridge. I personally would’ve preferred a bigger world with more to do than to have had the hard mode added, but I’m nitpicking at this point; there were few games that were made to last longer at the time.
Storyline – 8/10
The original Legend of Zelda game is set in what Nintendo calls the era of the decline following the events of A Link Between Worlds. It introduces us to the game’s protagonist Link, who must assemble the triforce of courage in order to defeat Ganon and rescue Princess Zelda, thus saving Hyrule from Ganon’s tyranny. Future games in the series would go on to tell this story in increasingly inventive ways, but this is where it all began. Born partly from a few scrapped ideas that found themselves into later games in the series, the story is an epic odyssey that despite how many times it gets repeated, still holds up to this day.
Originality – 9/10
Though like any good game it had its share of influences, this game was revolutionary at the time and would go on to become a beloved classic and played by millions all over the world for 35 years now. It spawned an entire series of beloved games within that time, many considered by fans to be better than the original, but in many other fan’s minds, this remains to be one of the best; if not, the best. It birthed one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises and provided a gaming experience like never before.
Overall, while the original Legend of Zelda isn’t my personal favorite in the franchise, (by some distance, that honor would go to Ocarina of Time), the fact of the matter remains that it is, and always will be a classic. Whilst presenting some issues in conjunction with the time this game came out, the enjoyment to be had and wonders to discover far outweigh any of those issues and remains a certified pleasure to play after all these years.