Friday, January 29, 2010

The Legend of Zelda... A Retrospective on the NES one.

Some random day last weekend, I had some Wii Points left over and even though I rather save for upcoming Virtual Console or WiiWare games like Mega Man 10, I decided to buy a classic I should of bought a long time ago, which is the first Legend of Zelda game on the NES. I'll be honest, I've never beaten it till tonight and running through that game for the first time felt as satisfying as the 3D Zelda games I beaten (Ocarina of Time and Twlight Princess). Now of course, any 2D Zelda game past or present has been a little more harder than the 3D ones due to precision and how much damage you would take from enemies, but going through the first game, I have seen all the foundations it established for the rest of the franchise to be what it is today. I also tried to play this game with limited help from the interwebs for videos as I wanted to feel like the 80s playing it, but I couldn't resist when I was stuck or something isn't right like not being prepared equipment wise for a certain dungeon. With the first game, I have experienced the frustrations like players would feel back in the day from getting lost in the overworld wandering what to do next, dying too much (50 times for me till I killed Ganon at the end), and lots of backtracking.

I went into this game knowing what I seen from previous speed runs and go from there. The first Zelda did something games today rarely do, which you are thrown into this world and beat the game. The sense of exploration was there finding secrets, being surprised of how much damage you take in a single hit (pending if you don't have the blue ring or even the red ring at the end of the game), and so on. Early on, you can not as reckless as you can be with limited health and even with as many heart containers because the difficult enemies will take out if you go in the various dungeons guns blazing. This is especially the case later on against rooms filled with Darknuts or Wizrobes, as you feel like you actually approach them with a gameplan in mind and timing your attacks. Even with lots of heart containers, you still like you're not safe from everything, you're some badass with all these weapons mowing everyone away compared to the 3D games. Maybe that's the classic philosophy behind old school and new school where later Zelda games, you rarely feel like you are in trouble unlike Zelda 1. It is some trial and error effect that works, well for me, in a classic game like this.

I also did approached Zelda 1 in a completionist mindset trying to do everything the game offers, such as get every weapon, have the max health, explore every dungeon room (this was the case with the final dungeon), and so on. From what I seen, the formula didn't really establish itself until A Link To The Past (which I also have on my Wii via the Virtual Console but haven't finished that one yet) as the items you get within a certain dungeon, you don't use them to defeat that boss (Ganon being the exception with Silver Arrow). Most of the bosses can be taken out with just the sword and bombs for certain ones. I never realized how valuable the bombs in this game compared to modern Zelda games opening more doors in dungeons, taking out multiple enemies at once, and opening hidden areas in the overworld. These days with Zelda games, the usage of bombs have been limited to doing the same thing, but it is not as powerful than it should be. Your sword is still your bread and butter (with long distance powers at full health) in every situation and I often used the boomerang a lot too in this game compared to the bow/arrows since it required Rupees to use.

For the start of a legendary franchise that influenced all of gaming, being Game Informer's best game of all-time, and a phenomenon in the late 80s when the NES was the hotness, The Legend of Zelda definitely established the foundations and standards for games then and even today. Now that I finally experienced this landmark game from beginning to end, I have realized how this game was amazing at the time. The sense of adventure was definitely something ahead of its time then and pushed players to explore the world taking chances on what they see. We'll see if I decide to play the harder second quest or even finish A Link to the Past, but playing through Zelda 1 was definitely one of those times I feel like killing time to do something. This ain't a review of Zelda, but for something I have missed for quite a while, it is a good thing I got around to doing it. (The videos up in this post is not me playing, but a speed run by one of the best Zelda players around in the Speed Demos Archive community).

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