Game Review: The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda

Legend of Zelda Title Screen

  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Released: June 1987
  • Game Type: Adventure
  • Players: 1
  • Product Number: NES-ZL-USA
  • Rarity: E (Very Common)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 10

    Box Scan
    Legend of Zelda Screen 1 Legend of Zelda Screen 2

    This was the game that started one of Nintendo's most recognized franchises (other than Mario), and the game that wrote the book on the adventure genre. Ever since the first Legend of Zelda hit the NES in 1987, it was a blockbuster hit that occupied the hearts of NES gamers for many years. It helped bring in a new type of game, one where players has to use their brains as well as their brawn, featuring plenty of monster-slaying action with RPG-like exploration, with a little problem solving added it. Amazingly, after 20 years and countless sequels, the original still proves to be a worthy quest today.

    This game introduces us to the land of Hyrule, a princess named Zelda and the heroic elf-boy named Link. Long ago Hyrule was act peace thanks to two golden triangles known as the Triforce. However one day an evil army of monsters led by the wicked wizard Gannon invaded the land and stole one of the Triforces, the Triforce of Power. Zelda managed to hide the other Triforce, the Triforce of Wisdom, by splitting it into eight pieces and scattering them in the Hyrule underworld, but Gannon had her imprisoned in the underworld as well. Once Link hears of this he decides to embark on a quest to reunite the Triforce of Wisdom, rescue Princess Zelda nad defeat Gannon and his evil.

    The object of the game is to defeat Gannon, but first you must find the eight pieces of the Triforce before you can enter his realm. This game consists of an overworld and nine underworld dungeons, all seen from the top-down. Link can move in four directions and moves fron screen to screen by going off the edges. The overworld consists of 256 screens, most of which are crawling with monsters of different kinds who are out to end your adventure. You start your quest with just three life hearts and a wooden sword that can shoot projectiles if all you hearts are full. Fortunately you can find stronger swords and heart containers to extend your life meter as you progress. Slaying the monsters you come across nets you Rupees, which you can use to buy extra weapons and items such as shields, bombs, arrows, and more from the merchants who live in caves. In other caves you'll often find old men who will give you advice and old women who will sell you the Water of Life, which can restore your energy.

    Once you feel you're equipped enough, you must enter the nine underworld dungeons. Even though each dungeon is numbered you can explore them in any order, but you cannot enter Level 9 until the others are conquered. In each dungeon you're out to find the Triforce piece, but more monsters block your way, some even stronger than the overworld foes. You also have to pass through doors to get from room to room. Some doors are locked and require keys to open, others act as shutters and you have to do something special to open them, such as defeating all the enemies in the room. Some walls can also be blasted with bombs, opening paths for you. Each dungeon also contains a special item that's vital to your quest. Eventually at the end of each dungeon you have to battle boss monster that guarding the Triforce piece. If you can dispatch the guardian, you'll collect the Triforce andbe teleported back to the entrance to continue your mission. Once you have all eight pieces, you can enter the final dungeon at Death Mountain for a showdown with Gannon.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics are decent for a 1987 release, but not the greatest. The layout of each screen isn't terribly impressive, with some basic-looking objects, but they do their job with the setting. While the sprites are a little on the small side, you can pretty much make out what Link and all the creatures are supposed to look like. Some slowdown does pop up when too much happens on the screen.

    The audio is excellent. There's only four sets of music (the intro, the overworld, the underworld and Level 9) but they all sound great and never get old. The intro theme and the creepy underworld theme are especially good. The sound effects are also well done, from the sound of enemies being zapped to the clang of you shield deflecting projectiles. The fact that you can hear the boss monsters in the dungeons before you enter their room is also a nice touch.

    The controls do a good job with the action. Link can only move in four directions but his movements are tight and he takes small steps, allowing for some precision positioning. Sometimes he does tend to get hung up near a door or a corner, but that's easily overlooked. Using the items is also easy; Button A wields the sword, while Button B uses the secondary weapon that's selectable from the sub-screen, and there's no delay after you push the button.

    Challenge & Playability:
    The gameplay of The Legend of Zelda is well done, without to need of the complex RPG elements. It's great fun to just wander around the overworld slaying monsters and collecting items and money, and it's easy to get started; simply grab your sword and start zapping foes. The dungeons also provide some good challenges, and if you die odds are you'll want to try again to see if you can get to the end. None of the puzzles you come across are too complex, though some will require a bit of thinking. The free-roaming format is also great, letting you choose different ways to tackle this game. You can either try to get all the items before the first dungeon, or get them as you progress. You can even attempt to go through the game without all the heart contianers or getting the sword at all. This was also one of the first games to use a battery backup system, which is easy to use and eliminates the need for passwords.

    As far as the challenge level goes, this game may not seem difficult at first. Most of the enemies and bosses can be handled without too much trouble. Much of the challenge lies in solving the puzzles and finding the items you need to progress. If you perish in one of the dungeons, the continue feature starts you back at the entrace, but with only three red hearts. This can be annoying especially at the later levels. However, when you complete the game, you get a chance to tackle the Second Quest. Instead of simply replaying the game, the layouts of the dungeons and the locations of the items are all different, and the game gets much harder, giving you a new challenge. The Second Quest will definetly require you to invest more time into it, adding more playability to an already-stellar game.

    The Legend of Zelda has been hailed as one of the best games of all time with good reason. White it may seem simplistic on the surface, all the elements come together to produce another Nintendo masterpiece. Plus Zelda 1 set the precedent for most of the later entries in the series. Most importantly, it's still fun to go through all the dungeons and try to uncover all the game's secrets as well as trying to beat the Second Quest. Without a doubt The Legend of Zelda has stood the test of time and is indeed worthy of its legendary status.

    - Review posted on December 18, 2006