Publisher: Nintendo of America
Completed: 03 July 2015
The importance of The Legend of Zelda simply cannot be overstated. In a time when video games were mindless entertainment trying to beat high scores, or sidescrolling run and jump platformers at best, Zelda brought an almost personal computer level of complexity to console gaming. It was the first game to feature a battery backup to save the player's progress. It didn't hold your hold or tell you where to go next - that was up to you to discover. For its time, the overworld map seemed daunting and enormous. Each of its nine maze-like dungeons contained unique challenges and secrets. Players spent hours bombing every wall looking for hidden doors. Heck, it even featured arguably the first mini-game with the rudimentary gambling game.
Yes, The Legend of Zelda is a classic in every sense of the word. It is to video games what the addition of sound was to motion pictures - a groundbreaking, bold step towards making their respective mediums more than simple entertainment.
Few classics have aged as gracefully as Zelda. Its graphics may be pretty basic, but they've lost none of their charm. Forests, deserts, mountains, lakes and rivers, and even a graveyard all occupy the overworld map, and you're free to move between them as you see fit. There was a sense of discovery in each screen, and even today I'm amazed by some of the clever secrets they hold.
Despite having only three music tracks - one of which is only heard during the final dungeon - the iconic music is as catchy and spirited as ever. It instill a sense of adventure, and one of foreboding in the dungeons. Both tracks are short and loop continuously, yet somehow they never become tiresome. I played through the game today in a single sitting, and never once found the music monotonous. It's occasionally broken up by fanfare, such as the instantly recognizable chime that plays when a secret is uncovered that the series still uses to this day, and the sound of your fully charged sword soaring across the screen is still one of my all-time favorite gaming sound effects.
The Legend of Zelda was one of the first games I know of that featured a New Game+ mode. With rearranged dungeons and tougher enemies, the second quest is actually worth playing and adds replay value to a game that was already massive for its time. I can beat it in a few hours now, but in my childhood it took an entire summer, and that was just for the first quest.
It's almost unfair to review Zelda at this point, since we've had nearly 30 years to romanticize it. I'm sure some of the cynical professional critics can find things to nitpick, but I truly cannot think of one. Nintendo managed to improve upon the formula, but for its time, the original Legend of Zelda was about as perfect as video games could be made.
The Legend of Zelda was completed on a real NES with no cheats.