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The Legend of Zelda (NES) artwork

The Legend of Zelda (NES) review


"The Legend begins"


I owned The Legend of Zelda well into the last legs of the NES' life in the gaming world. I would start a new game even after beating it because I enjoyed rediscovering every other item and fighting big battles at the end of each dungeon, even though I could never beat the Second Quest. The first game of the log, famous series is still a classic which is worthy of praise and revisiting, not only for nostalgic reasons but also because it’s a game that innovated the adventure genre and inspired many on making their own. The games spawned a cartoon series, food items like cereals and fruit snacks, merchandise, comics/manga adaptations and many other things which prove its timeless mark in our gaming hearts. All starting with this title on the gold-painted cartridge.

As soon as you turn on the system with the cartridge inserted you are greeted with a grandiose title screen accompanied by a nostalgic tune playing in the background. If you let the title screen play for a few more moments it tells you the story behind the events of the first game along with the many items that you may encounter in your quest, some of which are dire to complete it in fact. Nothing more is said other than the main protagonists and the villain on the prologue, so starting a game from here on is the only logical choice.

From the very beginning you don't see much out of the game. Link stands besides an entrance on a wall to a cave sporting a shield and little else. You will find out if you venture around you will not be able to attack enemies being he's unarmed, although you *could* go on without acquiring the sword from said cave entrance from the very beginning, it would be advisable that you get it straight away before moving to another screen filled with dangerous monsters who do not think twice on attacking and stopping your adventure right there and then. As you progress you will find out that its non-linear venture allows the player to explore the extensive world of which the game is taking place on, going into more caves to talk to people, buying items, encountering secrets, and also reaching some of the dungeons where you must fight ferocious foes in order to obtain pieces of the triforce.

You will find out that although there are places and items placed in clear view, reaching them is another matter altogether. Legend of Zelda is a game built to explore and backtrack in order to find everything that Link needs in order to reach said items crucial to finish the game. Everything from burning bushes, setting bombs in the right spots, and solving puzzles on the world map and dungeons are all part of the game to the road to success. No rock must be left unturned.

Link can attack by throwing his sword when his health is full, or engage in physical combat whenever he is hit, losing his ability to shoot from it, defend himself with his shield when not using his sword, and also use other weapons and items as means to attack. Items like Candles and Bombs can be used to open up secret areas or to attack enemies as well. A well placed bomb can turn the tide in your favor extremely well in fact.

Enemies are varied in this game, each with their own degree of difficulty. They can also respawn as soon as you return to a screen where you had met them in the first place, which can be quite dangerous if your health is low and don't have any means to replenish it. You could "grind" by revisiting screens where you can find weaker enemies for more health items or rupees (the in-game's currency) in order to ensure your safety. Perhaps the meat of the game is within said dungeons, where the challenge increases and so does the reward that comes with it. In here you can find more key items and weapons as well as battling the powerful bosses that guard a part of the triforce you must complete before venturing to the game's final dungeon and battle with the evil Ganon. The game offers a save feature to ensure everything you had gained during your last session isn't lost and thus having to start all over again. Whenever you lose you have an option to save and quit, or save and continue, which if it happens on a dungeon you will start from that point on instead of having to find it anew.

While the game is pretty much open world exploration Link cannot advance to certain parts of it, including getting access to some dungeons that are hidden or just out of reach without using an item to do so. Even if you manage to find the last level you will not be granted access through it unless you have obtained all pieces of the triforce. These are well thought methods that encourage you to continue exploring and finding what's needed in order to finish the game. The few NPCs encountered here give cryptic hints to access some areas, or will rob you away from your hard earned rupees when you dare barge into their homes. Some items while seemingly useless also form their own way of necessity when bought, such as the meat item which is not exactly used to recover health when you obtain it.

Although it feels like an Action RPG, Link does not get any experience points nor increase his stats by defeating enemies and conquering dungeons. Instead he does so by obtaining more heart containers on his menu and upgrades his weaponry and armor. You do this by finding new more powerful swords located in certain areas and by acquiring items like rings which will reduce damage when wearing them. Magic shields are the easiest to find, although a bit costly. Having the latter can deflect enemy beams making your quest easier. Upgrading Link to the fullest is a must in order to ensure success in your quest, although you could challenge yourself into skipping all of it to see how well you could fare without them...which is something no one would recommend unless you are quite the veteran at this game.

After finishing the game you are given the option of starting a Second Quest if you figure out the way to access it, on which the game shakes it up a bit by changing locations and items all throughout the map, as well as adding other methods of solving puzzles and wandering through dungeons, such as the addition of invisible walls. A nice way to add replay value on an excellent adventure game all in all. The feeling of accomplishment you get when finishing either quest is quite rewarding, leaving you with the desire to start all over again and see how fast you can finish it a second or third time around. While recent installments of the series have more advanced ways to experience them the original has its charm and no doubt will still be played no matter how many more entries are added in future generations.

4/5

CptRetroBlue's avatar
Community review by CptRetroBlue (August 15, 2020)

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