"Nintendo didn't make any noteworthy changes. Those expecting visual improvements may be disappointed, especially after the stellar job Nintendo did with Super Mario All-Stars so long ago, but the lack of modifications really isn't so awful as one might imagine. Pixel by pixel, things are precisely as you may remember them."
Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf have been entertaining gamers since The Legend of Zelda was released for the NES back in July of 1987. Some of the names have changed slightly, and the graphics have been overhauled a few times, but we're still always happy for another trip to Hyrule, another chance to topple the Prince of Darkness (that would be Ganondorf, not Bill Gates) as he wipes the dirty rag of despair over an otherwise sparkly fairytale.
For years, gamers have clamored for a compilation of the Zelda games, similar to what Nintendo produced for the Super Nintendo with Super Mario All-Stars. Now, just as all but a few diehard fans stopped caring, Nintendo decided to hear our pleas and answered them with The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition. Deemed by some a gimmick on Nintendo's part, an attempt to squeeze a little more money out of an aging franchise, the release is worth a look just the same.
The first thing you need to know before you get excited about this compilation is that Nintendo has made almost no changes to the original material. When you pop the disc into your system, you're pulled immediately to a selection of titles. There's no title screen, and really it feels like you're just playing an in-store demo. You can press right or left on the control stick to shuffle the menu. For the most part, the choices are presented as logos with a little bit of art. For example, the sword from the original cover of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link looks the same as always, except for a tiny artistic touch that causes it to gleam. Similar modifications add slight touches to each title in the collection. It's unfortunate that Nintendo couldn't have taken more time to spruce this aspect of things up, but it's hardly a crippling blow.
Besides the four games the compilation contains, there is also a 20-minute demo for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. This is cool if you've not played the game, but otherwise is a blatant attempt to sell more copies of that title that will be meaningless to those who already own it. To further that hype, Nintendo included a video highlighting special moments in the same game. The video certainly does its job. Watching it, I couldn't help but think that the game looks great (even better than the actual product, I would say).
Besides the video and demo of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the disc also includes a look at the series from the first game in the series to the last (though the CD-I games are excluded, naturally). I was expecting a more interesting retrospective, perhaps even with narration, but all you get is some music supplementing brief clips of gameplay footage. It's certainly not an awful presentation, but it also isn't something I'd care to watch twice. Most people who are excited by this collection have already played most of the titles displayed. And if they haven't, the majority of those games are included on the disc.
Speaking of which, you may well be wondering which four games made the cut. They include The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. In case you're wondering, I didn't make a mistake. There's a gaping hole that prevents the collection from being complete, and that hole is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Many older gamers consider it the best title in the series. The reason for its absence is obvious: Nintendo plans to get more money out of that title with its upcoming releases (and probably also doesn't want to cut into sales of the Game Boy Advance port). While I can certainly understand the business decision, the fact remains that the title's absence is a glaring mark against this package's completeness.
And now we're left with the games themselves. Like the title screen, Nintendo didn't make any noteworthy changes. Those expecting visual improvements may be disappointed, especially after the stellar job Nintendo did with Super Mario All-Stars so long ago, but the lack of modifications really isn't so awful as one might imagine. Pixel by pixel, things are precisely as you may remember them.
This is particularly true of The Legend of Zelda, the recommended starting point for this collection. When I popped the disc in, I couldn't help myself; I played through the whole first quest without so much as a bathroom break. And really, nothing is any different. Link can be moved with both the d-pad and the control stick. For awhile, I tried the stick to see if it made any differences. It doesn't. Link is either running or he isn't, so there's no sensitivity applied. In fact, moving about with the stick is more difficult than just using the d-pad. My thumb kept slipping off the stick as I dashed through the forests and cliffs, while the d-pad felt perfectly natural and enabled me to breeze through the game with little effort.
Music is the same as always, which should make most people quite happy. The sword does sound a little different when thrown than I recalled, for whatever reason, but the change isn't one that really bothered me. All in all, the treatment of the title is very true to the original. In fact, the infamous slowdown in some rooms in the eighth dungeon is just as bad as ever. The GameCube really does a wonderful job of emulating the NES.
That definitely extends to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, the other game in the collection that was originally released for the 8-bit system. Of all the titles on the disc, this is the one the fewest people will have played, so it's good to see it in the spotlight again. As was the case with The Legend of Zelda, the port is almost perfect. If there's a difference, it's that the colors seem slightly more vibrant. However, this could just be my imagination.
What I'm not imagining is the sometimes awkward interface. Much to my disappointment, there were several instances where I paused the game and ended up starting back at the North Castle without intending to. Because the GameCube controller lacks a 'select' button, such features are now mapped to the 'Y' button. It certainly doesn't feel as intuitive as Nintendo probably thinks it does, but it works. Within a few hours, you should become accustomed to it easily enough.
The final two offerings on the disc are likely quite a bit more familiar to most of you. Both were released for the Nintendo 64, and both sold quite a few copies. As it so happens, they're also both great games.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time quickly became a fan favorite after its original release, and would be reason enough to pick up this package if not for the fact that Nintendo just recently brought us that title along with a master quest, also for the GameCube, as a pre-order bonus for those purchasing The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. If you're one of the ones that missed out that time around, you can redeem yourself now by getting this edition.
As far as controls go, both The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask are quite similar. Link is moved with the control stick, which can be used to make him walk, dash, or creep. Instead of using the 'Z' button to target distant objects or enemies as you might have on the Nintendo 64, you'll instead find yourself using the 'L' button. It should only take a few minutes to adjust to this, or you may already be familiar with the control scheme if you got the chance to play The Wind Waker.
Again, Nintendo made sure to port the titles faithfully. There's not much else to say about that matter, other than that they had some troubles with Majora's Mask. Originally released near the end of the Nintendo 64's cycle, that title required the black box's expansion pack for improved visuals. On the GameCube, something went wrong. Nintendo actually includes a note about this, both in the instruction manual and on the game menu itself. As far as I could tell, the main problem isn't even with the visuals. Rather, it is with the audio. Sometimes the music will be streaming quite nicely, and suddenly it will skip for a moment. The overall effect is like listening to an old cassette tape, annoying but bearable.
The final concern with the compilation is a minor one: it takes quite a bit of space to save your progress for all the games. If you want to save your adventures for all four titles, be prepared to set aside a whopping 36 blocks. It's not so much compared to some sports titles, but the space still will take a bite out of your memory reserves. The worst offender is Majora's Mask, which requires 21 blocks to save. Fortunately, you'll use memory only for those games you actually play, but it would be a shame if you got this disc and didn't experience Majora's Mask.
Speaking of which, make sure you do get this disc. Nintendo is offering several opportunities to get it at no cost, whether as a subscription bonus with Nintendo Power, a pack-in with a GameCube purchase, or as a reward for purchasing multiple titles and registering them on the web site if you already own the console. What this means is that the most you'd have to spend is $20.00 on a magazine subscription to make this bundle yours. And while it may not be the greatest compilation of all time, it's still pretty terrific. Get it while you still can.
Staff review by Jason Venter (December 19, 2003)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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