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The Legend of Zelda (video game)

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The Legend of Zelda
Legend of zelda cover (with cartridge) gold.png
North American box art, including a cutout in the upper-left corner with a visible gold cartridge
Developer(s)Nintendo Research & Development 4
Producer(s)Shigeru Miyamoto
  • Toshihiko Nakago
  • Yasunari Soejima[1]
  • I. Marui[1]
  • Takashi Tezuka
  • Keiji Terui (manual backstory)[2]
Composer(s)Koji Kondo
SeriesThe Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda (Japanese: ゼルダの伝説 Hepburn: Zeruda no Densetsu?), subtitled The Hyrule Fantasy in its original Japanese release, is an action-adventure video game developed and published by Nintendo and designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka.[7] Set in the fantasy land of Hyrule, the plot centers on a boy named Link, the playable protagonist, who aims to collect the eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom in order to rescue Princess Zelda from the antagonist, Ganon.[8] During the course of the game, the player sees Link from a top-down perspective and must navigate him through the overworld and several dungeons, defeating enemies and finding secrets along the way.[9][10]

The inaugural game of the The Legend of Zelda series, it was originally released in Japan as a launch title for the Family Computer Disk System in 1986.[11] More than a year later, North America and Europe received releases on the Nintendo Entertainment System in cartridge format, making the game the first home console title to include an internal battery for saving data.[12] This version was released in Japan in 1994 under the title The Legend of Zelda 1 (ゼルダの伝説1 Zeruda no Densetsu Wan?).[6] The game was ported to the GameCube[13] and Game Boy Advance,[6] and is available in emulated form via the Virtual Console.[14]

The Legend of Zelda was a bestseller for Nintendo, selling over 6.5 million copies. It is often featured in lists of games considered the greatest or most influential and is regarded as a spiritual forerunner of the role-playing video game genre. A solitary sequel, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, was first released in Japan less than a year after its predecessor's debut. The game spawned several prequels and a number of spin-offs, establishing a series that has become one of Nintendo's most popular.

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

Link attacking Octorok monsters with his sword in the overworld

The Legend of Zelda incorporates elements of action, adventure, and role-playing games. The player controls Link from a flip-screen overhead perspective as he travels in the overworld, a large outdoor map with varied environments.[9] Link begins the game armed only with a small shield, but a sword becomes available to Link after he ventures into a cave that is accessible from the game's first map screen.[15] Throughout the game, various characters aid Link by giving or selling equipment and clues. These people can be found in caves scattered throughout the overworld; some are readily accessible, while others are hidden behind obstacles such as rocks, trees, and waterfalls.[16]

Barring Link's progress are creatures he must battle to locate the entrances to nine underground dungeons.[17] Each dungeon is a unique, maze-like collection of rooms connected by doors and secret passages, and guarded by monsters different from those found on the surface.[10] Dungeons also contain useful items which Link can add to his arsenal, such as a boomerang for retrieving distant items and stunning enemies, and a recorder with magical properties.[18] Link must successfully navigate through each of the first eight dungeons to obtain all eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom. Once he has completed the artifact, he can enter the ninth dungeon to rescue Zelda.[19] Apart from this exception, the order of completing dungeons is somewhat left to the player, although they steadily increase in difficulty and some of them can only be reached or completed using items gained in a previous one. In addition, the entrances of the three highest-level dungeons are hidden. Link can freely wander the overworld, finding and buying items at any point. This flexibility enables unusual ways of playing the game. For example, it is possible to reach the final boss of the game without ever receiving the sword.[20]

After completing the game, the player has access to a more difficult quest, officially referred to as the "Second Quest" (裏ゼルダ Ura Zeruda?, lit. "other Zelda"),[21][22] with new dungeon locations/layouts, different item placements, and stronger enemies.[23] Although this more difficult "replay" was not unique to Zelda, few games offered entirely different levels to complete on the second playthrough.[20] The Second Quest can be replayed each time the game is completed and can also be accessed at any time by starting a new file with the name "ZELDA".[24]

Plot and characters[edit | edit source]

The plot of The Legend of Zelda is described in the instruction booklet and in the short prologue after the title screen. A small kingdom in the land of Hyrule, the setting of the game, is engulfed in chaos after an army led by Ganon, the Prince of Darkness, invaded it and stole the Triforce of Power, a part of a magical artifact bestowing great strength.[8] In an attempt to prevent Ganon from acquiring the Triforce of Wisdom, another of the pieces, Princess Zelda splits it and hides the eight fragments in secret dungeons throughout the land.[8] Before the princess is eventually kidnapped by Ganon, she commands her nursemaid Impa to find someone courageous enough to save the kingdom.[8] While wandering the land, the old woman is surrounded by Ganon's henchmen, though a young boy named Link appears and rescues her.[8] After hearing Impa's plea, he resolves to save Zelda and sets out to reassemble the scattered fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom, to become powerful enough to defeat Ganon.[8]

During the course of the game, Link locates the eight underground labyrinths, defeats several guardian monsters, and retrieves the fragments. With the completed Triforce of Wisdom, Link is able to infiltrate Ganon's hideout, Death Mountain, eventually confronting the pig-like enemy and destroying him with a Silver Arrow.[19] Link picks up the Triforce of Power from Ganon's ashes and returns both pieces of the Triforce to the rescued Princess Zelda, restoring peace to Hyrule.[25]

History[edit | edit source]

Development[edit | edit source]

The game was first released in Japan as a disk for the Famicom Disk System. It was later converted to a cartridge for the American release on the NES.

Development for this game was directed and designed by Shigeru Miyamoto (credited as S. Miyahon) and Takashi Tezuka (credited as Ten Ten).[7][26] Miyamoto produced the game, and Tezuka wrote the story and script.[26][27] The development team worked on The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. concurrently, and tried to separate their ideas: Super Mario Bros. was to be linear, where the action occurred in a strict sequence, whereas The Legend of Zelda would be the opposite.[7] In Mario, Miyamoto downplayed the importance of the high score in favor of simply completing the game.[28] This concept was carried over to The Legend of Zelda. Miyamoto was also in charge of deciding which concepts were "Zelda ideas" or "Mario ideas." Contrasting with Mario, Zelda was made non-linear and forced the players to think about what they should do next.[29] In the initial game designs, the player would start the game with the sword already in their inventory. According to Miyamoto, those in Japan were confused and had trouble finding their way through the multiple path dungeons. Rather than listening to the complaints, Miyamoto took away the sword, forcing players to communicate with each other and share their ideas to find the various secrets hidden in the game. This was a new form of game communication, and in this way, "Zelda became the inspiration for something very different: Animal Crossing. This was a game based solely on communication."[30]

With The Legend of Zelda, Miyamoto wanted to take the idea of a game "world" even further, giving players a "miniature garden that they can put inside their drawer."[28] He drew his inspiration from his experiences as a boy around Kyoto, where he explored nearby fields, woods, and caves, and through the Zelda titles he always tries to impart to players some of the sense of exploration and limitless wonder he felt.[28] "When I was a child," he said, "I went hiking and found a lake. It was quite a surprise for me to stumble upon it. When I traveled around the country without a map, trying to find my way, stumbling on amazing things as I went, I realized how it felt to go on an adventure like this."[31] The memory of being lost amid the maze of sliding doors in his family's home in Sonobe was recreated in Zelda's labyrinth dungeons.[32]

A "symbol of courage, strength, and wisdom",[33] Link was designed by Miyamoto as a coming of age motif for players to identify with: he begins the game an ordinary boy but strengthens to triumph over the ultimate evil.[7] The name of the princess was inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald: "Zelda was the name of the wife of the famous novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. She was a famous and beautiful woman from all accounts, and I liked the sound of her name. So I took the liberty of using her name for the very first Zelda title," Miyamoto explained.[34]

Koji Kondo (credited as Konchan)[26] composed the game's music. He initially planned to use Maurice Ravel's Boléro as the game's title theme, but was forced to change it when he learned, late in the game's development cycle, that the copyright for the orchestral piece had not yet expired. As a result, Kondo wrote a new arrangement of the overworld theme within one day.[35]

Japanese release[edit | edit source]

In February 1986, Nintendo released the game as the launch title for the Family Computer's new Disk System peripheral. The Legend of Zelda was joined by a re-release of Super Mario Bros., Tennis, Baseball, Golf, Soccer, and Mahjong in its introduction of the Disk System. It made full use of the Disk Card media's advantages over traditional ROM cartridges with a disk size of 128 kilobytes, which was expensive to produce on cartridge format.[28] Due to the still-limited amount of space on the disk, however, it was only in katakana. Rather than passwords, it used rewritable disks to save the game. It used the extra sound channel provided by the Disk System for certain sound effects; most notable are the sounds of Link's sword when his health is full, the roars and growls of dungeon bosses, and enemy death sounds. The sound effects used the Famicom's PCM channel in the cartridge version. It also used the microphone built into the Famicom's controller that was not included in the NES.[36] This led to confusion in the U.S. as the instruction manual reads that Pols Voice, a rabbit-like enemy in the game, "hates loud noise".[37] Blowing or shouting into the Famicom's microphone kills these creatures.[36] However, they cannot be killed through use of the recorder, and on the NES must be killed with weapons. The cartridge version made use of the Memory Management Controller chip, specifically the MMC1 model. The MMC could use bank-switching, allowing larger games than had been previously possible. They also allowed for battery-powered RAM, which let players save progress for the first time on any cartridge-based system or game.[38]

American release[edit | edit source]

The gold-colored cartridge

Contrary to the fears of Nintendo's management, the game was popular and well received. Zelda had been available for a year and a half in Japan, and its sequel, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link had been released for six months before Nintendo brought this game to North America.

When Nintendo published the game in North America, the packaging design featured a small portion of the box cut away to reveal the unique gold-colored cartridge. In 1988, The Legend of Zelda sold two million copies.[39] Nintendo of America sought to keep its strong base of fans; anyone who purchased a game and sent in a warranty card became a member of the Fun Club, whose members got a four-, eight- and eventually 32-page newsletter. Seven hundred copies of the first issue were sent out free of charge, but the number grew as the data bank of names got larger.[40]

From the success of magazines in Japan, Nintendo knew that game tips were a valued asset. Players enjoyed the bimonthly newsletter's crossword puzzles and jokes, but game secrets were most valued. The Fun Club drew kids in by offering tips for the more complicated games, especially Zelda, with its hidden rooms, secret keys and passageways.[40] The mailing list grew. By early 1988, there were over 1 million Fun Club members, which led then-Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa to start the Nintendo Power magazine.[41]

Since Nintendo did not have many products, it made only a few commercials a year, meaning the quality had to be phenomenal. The budget for a single commercial could reach US $5 million, easily four or five times more than most companies spent.[42] One of the first commercials made under Bill White, director of advertising and public relations, was the market introduction for The Legend of Zelda, which received a great deal of attention in the ad industry. In it, a wiry-haired, nerdy guy (John Kassir) walks through the dark making goofy noises, yelling out the names of some enemies from the game, and screaming for Zelda.[42]

Nintendo released a great deal of merchandise related to The Legend of Zelda, including toys, guidebooks, watches, apparel, trash cans and a breakfast cereal called Nintendo Cereal System. The game and its sequel, The Adventure of Link were adapted into an animated series, episodes of which were shown on television each Friday on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!. Link and Zelda appeared in several episodes of Captain N: The Game Master that revolved around themes from The Adventure of Link.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Review scores
AllGame5/5 stars[43]

The Legend of Zelda was a bestseller for Nintendo, selling over 6.5 million copies;[44] it was the first NES title to sell over 1 million.[45] It was reissued in 1992 as part of Nintendo's "Classic Series" and featured a grey cartridge. The game placed first in the player's poll "Top 30" in Nintendo Power's first issue[46] and continued to dominate the list into the early 1990s. The Legend of Zelda was also voted by Nintendo Power readers as the "Best Challenge" in the Nintendo Power Awards '88.[47] The magazine also listed it as the best Nintendo Entertainment System video game ever created, stating that it was fun despite its age and it showed them new ways to do things in the genre such as hidden dungeons and its various weapons.[48] GamesRadar ranked it the third best NES game ever made. The staff praised its "mix of complexity, open world design, and timeless graphics".[49]

Computer Gaming World in 1988 named the game as the best adventure of the year for Nintendo, stating that Zelda had been a "sensational success" in translating a computer RPG to consoles.[50] In 1990 the magazine stated that the game was a killer app, causing computer CRPG players who had dismissed consoles as "mere arcade toys" to buy the NES.[51] Zelda was reviewed in 1992 by Total! #2 where it received a 78% rating due in great part to mediocre subscores for music and graphics.[52] A 1993 review of the game was printed in Dragon #198 by Sandy Petersen in the "Eye of the Monitor" column. Petersen gave the game 4 out of 5 stars.[53]

The Legend of Zelda is often featured in lists of games considered the greatest or most influential. It placed first in Game Informer's list of the "Top 100 Games of All Time" and "The Top 200 Games of All Time" (in 2001 and 2009 respectively),[54][55] fifth in Electronic Gaming Monthly's 200th issue listing "The Greatest 200 Videogames of Their Time",[56] seventh in Nintendo Power's list of the 200 Best Nintendo Games Ever,[57] 77th in Official Nintendo Magazine's 100 greatest Nintendo games of all time[58] and 80th among IGN readers' "Top 99 Games".[59] Zelda was inducted into GameSpy's Hall of Fame in August 2000[60] and voted by GameSpy's editors as the tenth best game of all time.[61] Editors of the popular Japanese magazine Weekly Famitsu voted the game among the best on the Famicom.[62]

The Game Boy Advance port of The Legend of Zelda is rated 79% and 87% respectively on GameRankings' and Game Ratio's rankings compilations. In individual ratings, IGN scored The Legend of Zelda with an 8 out of 10, GamePro a 4.5 out of 5, Nintendo Power a 4.5 out of 5, and an A.[63][64]

Guinness World Records has awarded The Legend of Zelda series five world records in Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition, including "Highest-Rated Game of All Time" and "First Game with a Battery Powered Save Feature".

Impact and legacy[edit | edit source]

The Legend of Zelda is considered a spiritual forerunner of the role-playing video game (RPG) genre.[20] Though it is often not considered part of the genre since it lacked key RPG mechanics such as experience points, it had many features in common with RPGs and served as the template for the action role-playing game genre.[65] The game's fantasy setting, musical style and action-adventure gameplay were adopted by many RPGs. Its commercial success helped lay the groundwork for involved, non-linear games in fantasy settings, such as those found in successful RPGs,[66] including Crystalis, Soul Blazer, Square's Seiken Densetsu series, Alundra, and Brave Fencer Musashi. The popularity of the game also spawned several clones trying to emulate the game.[67]

Zelda was largely responsible for the surge of action-oriented computer RPGs released since the late 1980s, such as the Origin Systems game Times of Lore.[68] The Legend of Zelda series would continue to exert an influence on the transition of both console and computer RPGs from stat-heavy turn-based combat towards real-time action combat in the following decades.[69] When it was released in North America, Zelda was seen as a new kind of RPG with action-adventure elements, with Roe R. Adams (who worked on the Wizardry series) stating in 1990 that, although "it still had many action-adventure features, it was definitely a CRPG."[70] In more recent years, however, there has been much debate regarding whether or not The Legend of Zelda qualifies as an action RPG.[71]

The Legend of Zelda spawned a solitary sequel, many prequels and spin-offs and is one of Nintendo's most popular series. It established important characters and environments of the Zelda universe, including Link, Princess Zelda, Ganon, Impa, and the Triforce as the power that binds Hyrule together.[28] The overworld theme and distinctive "secret found" jingle have appeared in nearly every subsequent Zelda game. The theme has also appeared in various other games featuring references to the Zelda series.

An arcade system board, called the Triforce, was developed jointly by Namco, Sega, and Nintendo, with the first games appearing in 2002. The name "Triforce" is a reference to Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda series of games, and symbolized the three companies' involvement in the project.[72]

GameSpot featured The Legend of Zelda as one of the 15 most influential games of all time, for being an early example of open world, nonlinear gameplay, and for its introduction of battery backup saving, laying the foundations for later action-adventure games like Metroid and role-playing video games like Final Fantasy, while influencing most modern games in general.[66] In 2009, Game Informer called The Legend of Zelda "no less than the greatest game of all time" on their list of "The Top 200 Games of All Time", saying that it was "ahead of its time by years if not decades".[73]

In 2011, Nintendo celebrated the game's 25th anniversary in a similar vein to the Super Mario Bros. 25th anniversary celebration the previous year.[74] This celebration included a free mailout Club Nintendo offer of the Ocarina of Time soundtrack to owners of the 3DS version of that particular game, the first digital for Nintendo eShop release of Link's Awakening DX, special posters that are mailed out as rewards through Club Nintendo, and a special stage inspired by the original Legend of Zelda in the video game Super Mario 3D Land for the Nintendo 3DS.

Re-releases[edit | edit source]

The Legend of Zelda has been re-released on multiple platforms since its original domestic and international releases. The game was first re-released in cartridge format for the Famicom in 1994.[4] The cartridge version slightly modified the title screen of the Disk Card version of the game, such that it displayed the number 1 at the end of the title. In 2001, the original game was re-released in the GameCube game Animal Crossing. The only way to unlock the game is an Action Replay. An official re-release was included in 2003's The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition for the GameCube,[75] and the game was again re-released on the Game Boy Advance in 2004 along with its sequel, The Adventure of Link, as part of the Famicom Mini/Classic NES Series. In 2006, another rerelease was made available to players on the Wii's Virtual Console, and most recently a timed demo of the game was released for the 2008 Wii game Super Smash Bros. Brawl, available in the Vault section. All re-releases of the game are virtually identical to the original, though the GameCube, Game Boy Advance, and Virtual Console versions have been altered slightly to correct several instances of incorrect spelling from the original, most notably in the intro story. A tech demo called Classic Games was shown for the Nintendo 3DS at E3 2010, showcasing more than a dozen classic games utilizing 3D effects, including The Legend of Zelda.[76] It was announced by Reggie Fils-Aimé, president of Nintendo of America, that the titles were slated for release on the 3DS, including The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man 2, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and would possibly make use of some of the 3DS's features, such as 3D effects, analog control, or camera support.[77] The Legend of Zelda standalone was released for 3DS Virtual Console on September 1, 2011 for the Ambassador users while the full version was released on December 22, 2011 in Japan, April 12, 2012 in Europe and July 5, 2012 in North America on the Nintendo eShop.[78][79]

Sequels[edit | edit source]

There have also been a few substantially altered versions of the game that have been released as pseudo-sequels, and ura- or gaiden-versions. As part of a promotional advertisement campaign for their charumera (チャルメラ?) noodles, Myojo Foods Co., Ltd. (明星食品 Myoujou Shokuhin?) released a version of the original The Legend of Zelda in 1986[80] entitled Zelda no Densetsu: Teikyō Charumera (ゼルダの伝説 提供 チャルメラ?).[81][82] This game is one of the rarest video games available on the second-hand collector's market, and copies have sold for over US$1,000.[83]

From August 6, 1995, to September 2, 1995,[84] Nintendo, in collaboration with the St.GIGA satellite radio network, began broadcasts of a substantially different version of the original The Hyrule Fantasy: Legend of Zelda for a Super Famicom peripheral, the Satellaview—a satellite modem add-on. The game, titled BS Zelda no Densetsu (BS ゼルダの伝説?), was released for download in four episodic, weekly installments which were rebroadcast at least four times between the game's 1995 premier and January 1997. BS Zelda was the first Satellaview game to feature a "SoundLink" soundtrack—a streaming audio track through which, every few minutes, players were cautioned to listen carefully as a voice actor narrator, broadcasting live from the St.GIGA studio, would give them plot and gameplay clues.[85] In addition to the SoundLink elements, BS Zelda also featured updated 16-bit graphics, a smaller overworld, and different dungeons. Link was replaced by one of the two Satellaview avatars: a boy wearing a backward baseball cap or a girl with red hair.

Between December 30, 1995, and January 6, 1996,[86] a second version of the game, BS Zelda no Densetsu MAP 2 (BS ゼルダの伝説MAP2?), was broadcast to the Satellaview as the functional equivalent of the original The Legend of Zelda's Second Quest. MAP 2 was rebroadcast only once, in March 1996.[84]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Reported dates for US release varies; sources either state it was released in July 1987[3][4][5] or on 22 August 1987[6]

References[edit | edit source]

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