Friday, September 11, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! The Legend of Zelda

Retro Game of the Day! The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda - a landmark in the annals of gaming history. So much has already been said about this game, by so many people, it's to the point where "what more needs to be put out there?" Well - it's part of my history, too.

Released early in 1986 in Japan and about a year and a half later in the States - and shortly afterward in Europe, this game dropped to an unsuspecting public unaware of the impact it would soon have on so many thousands, errr, millions of childhoods. I remember seeing the bizarre commercial for the game, you all remember it - the weird guy all dressed in black yelling "Zelda, Zelda?" The brief gameplay shown was interesting enough, if unspectacular. Something about the name "Zelda" sounded goofy and unconvincing, and I remember thinking "this game doesn't even have a score - how can it even be fun, what's the point?"

Still, there was not much out for the NES at that time, and anything put forth by Nintendo was going to get some kind of attention. Also, the box had a hole cut right into it so you could see this - GOLD cartridge inside. Something was unusual about this game with the dopey name and no score. Anyway, soon after it's release I was compelled to journey out to Kay-Bee Toy and Hobby and pick up my copy. I got home and cracked the beautifully-illustrated instruction booklet (that thing was FAT!) "Link?" Really? This was sounding stupider and stupider. I loaded up the game, entered my name and off I went-

Instantly, I was hooked. The perspective was rendered in a bizarre fashion, but I didn't care. I had this cool sword and I could shoot at red things. Pretty soon I had a boomerang (that was WILD). There were dungeons with gorgeously pixel-arted bosses, and filled with dozens of different, formidable foes. Stalfos, Digdogger, Like Like, Octoroks, Tektites, Zora. All of this stuff was fascinating - this whole colorful and lively world that I had no idea of, and now I was slowly picking it apart.

As you progressed through the levels you'd uncover lots of new weapons and implements - no game, ever, had done anything like this before! Upgrade your boomerang, get a powerful magic wand, a raft to sail on the water, a ladder to climb over crevices. A much more powerful sword, a ring to protect your health. It all sounds so trite now, so childish, but at the time this was absolutely unprecedented stuff - each step through the game really gave you this fulfilling feeling of accomplishment, like you were learning how to operate in this whole other complicated world.

It was a difficult game at the time, they'd never make a product like this now - having to ruthlessly bomb EVERYWHERE, burn every tree, push every tombstone, to look for clues, hidden entrances, secret passageways - no, that's too hard and frustrating and gamers no longer have that kind of patience (they'll give you super-obvious clues these days to find everything!) Yeah it was a pain, but so gratifying when you did figure it out.

Zelda has left a strong, lasting legacy unmatched by any other game series. It's a totally different ball game now, but I don't think anyone could argue that gamers everywhere owe a massive debt to the people who assembled this masterpiece.

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