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The Legend of Zelda (NES) artwork

The Legend of Zelda (NES) review

"You know me as Overdrive, but my name is Rob....and I'm a video game addict. "

You know me as Overdrive, but my name is Rob....and I'm a video game addict.

It wasn't always this way. When I was a mere lad, I owned an Atari 2600. While I loved Haunted House, Defender, Adventure, Riddle of the Sphinx and more, I wasn't obsessed with any of them. I then obtained an Atari 7800. Sure, Desert Falcon was great and both Xevious and Robotron 2084 were cool, but I still was able to keep my gaming under control.

But one day, it happened. The purchase of a Nintendo Entertainment System along with The Legend of Zelda was all it took for me to slide into a magical place I call ďGamersí Purgatory.Ē A place where time seems to stand still and the only thing that matters is to just get a little bit farther in whatever your poison of choice for that day is. Abandon all hope all ye who enter...

To put it simply, I donít care what wondrous games have been or will be released ó this is the best none. It is the game that turned me from a recreational player into an addict. It is Heaven, Valhalla and Olympus rolled into one. To quote the late Robert Palmer, it is "simply irresistible".

You are Link and you start in the middle of nowhere. Next to you is the open mouth of a cavern. Enter it and meet a wise old man. He offers a wooden sword which you take without question. And now, the quest begins. Princess Zelda has been kidnapped by the foul Ganon and you must rescue her. To do so, you must collect the eight pieces of an ancient artifact known as "Triforce". Each fragment was hidden in a dungeon and guarded by the most powerful members of Ganon's immense army. Their names are legend: "Aquamentus", "Gleeok", "Dodongo", "Gohma", "Manhandla" and "Digdogger". But they all have their weaknesses ó it's just up to you to find and exploit them....

And thus begins your quest. For one versed in the short, linear games of the Atari systems, it was an epiphany. You don't play until you've been bested by the enemy ó you play until you've emerged victorious. Nine dungeons are scattered throughout the land. By venturing through the first eight, you'll obtain each piece of the Triforce. The final dungeon....well, that's the home of the vile Ganon. You won't be able to enter there until deemed worthy.

But you'll need more than some musty old symbol to topple the likes of Ganon. Shops throughout the land and secret rooms in dungeons hold bows, bracelets, candles and other necessary tools. Only a thorough adventurer will be able to snare the necessary ingredients to topple the diabolical adversary. The hunt is on....

But what do you do first? To my eyes, the greatest thing about The Legend of Zelda was the sheer amount of freedom you had to plot your own course through the land and its dungeons. After getting that free wooden sword, you could venture a few screens north and enter the first dungeon ó just like that! Or, you could be more scour the land until Link gets his hands on a couple of bombs. Using those devices in the proper places will grant you access to rooms containing free heart containers that increase your diminutive life meter. Collect two heart containers and then you can hunt down a more powerful sword which will make that first labyrinth a breeze to clear. If neither of those strategies is your cup of tea, there are plenty of alternate solutions to this game, such as beating the game sans sword or collecting all the hidden items out of the dungeons before going after any of the bosses.

The Legend of Zelda rewards players for being persistent in seeking out every nook and cranny. Youíll try to burn down 60 trees to no avail, only to find a secret room with 100 Rupees (game currency) stashed under the 61st. Youíll bomb walls in screen after screen just hoping to find another secret shop. Youíll ignore the danger posed by wraiths to shove gravestones out of Linkís way. Ninety-nine percent of these little things you do will be mere wastes of time. The other one percent makes it all worthwhile ó especially when finding a rich cache of Rupees finally gives you enough moolah to buy that Blue Ring to double your defense!

It takes no time to delve into The Legend of Zelda. If you grab the wood sword and head straight to the first dungeon upon beginning a game, you easily can nab that initial piece of Triforce after only minutes of adventuring. To be honest, the only thing that really can absorb time in this game can be obtaining the necessary funds to buy some of the most costly items. Then again, this is another area in which having a mind for exploration can really pay off. If paying 160 Rupees for that improved shield seems a bit excessive, start hunting for a bargain. A little investigating should turn up shops selling that same item for 130 or even 90 Rupees.

But regardless of how much time you spend earning Rupees or exploring, itís a given that youíll eventually invade Ganonís domain and engage him in battle. The Legend of Zelda was a great game, but after this fight, it will be over. Or maybe not, as Nintendo cleverly included a second quest. This isnít what you think ó Iím not talking about one of those bonus trips through a game where you get to take superpowered characters on a tour of the countryside in order to crush previously-imposing foes like bugs. Instead, what youíre given is a completely NEW game with nine original dungeons. Most of the mazes, shops and key items all are in new locations and youíll find a couple of new tricks designed to prevent you from running your record against Ganon to 2-0.

There are plenty of fake walls in the second questís dungeons that only may be revealed as such if you walk into them. And you definitely donít want to completely explore EVERY room of a couple of these labyrinths, as they hold diabolical traps you may only escape at the cost of 50 Rupees or one heart container ó PERMANENTLY! In the case of some of these new, improved mazes, beating the boss is the easy part ó itís finding your way to it in one piece thatíll give you fits.

Compared to the games of today, The Legend of Zelda is simplistic and unattractive. Watching a blocky little elf scamper past blocky little adversaries on a sparsely-decorated screen just isnít that appealing. But put the control in my hands and everything changes. I find myself humming the catchy overworld tune, as I send swords whipping across the screen at hapless foes. I marvel at how quick and easy it is to zip into the subscreen, replace my bombs with the candle and get back to the action. I realize Iíve conquered both quests of this game dozens of times, but it never gets old. The fast-paced, addictive play quality combined with the thrill of exploration just strikes a chord with me, telling me that if a game ever were worthy of the name ďLegendĒ, this is the one.

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (March 31, 2005)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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