Friday, January 25, 2013

The Legend of Zelda (NES, 1987)

The 1987 game is a big one. The genesis of the Zelda series. ...wait, what? The title screen says 1986, you say? I'll explain that in a moment. In any case, this game is the beginning of an era, and captured the imaginations of countless kids. It all started here.

In any case, this game wasn't released in the U.S. until 1987. I'd have no problem replacing Gradius with this game if need be, but in this case it isn't necessary.

Since your name never actually comes up once the game starts, I just roll with it. Normally in these games I give the hero his correct name, Link. However, I've been told that doing that in this game causes it to be bugged, or something along those lines. Bizarre.

Here's the first screen of the game. Right off the bat, there's a sense of being able to explore.

The first cave of the game has the first sword. "The Aristocrats!" says BOBSAGET when reached for comment.

 You can head for the first dungeon right away, but there are some items to collect first. Cool thing about this game is that, unlike most of the Zeldas, you can get a majority of the overworld items at any time. So it's a good idea to run around and collect as much as possible before you even start the dungeons.

Is that Mario? Either way, the shops in this game have some important items. On the left there is the upgraded Shield, which is quite useful in this game.

I take an early Game Over before I can even really get started.


There are a bunch of heart containers in the game outside of dungeons (five, to be exact) and the majority of them are in caves just like this one. It's weird that the game offers you a choice between a heart and a red potion, when you can always just buy red potions at will. I wonder how many young people unwittingly went for the potions, cheating themselves out of several hearts by the time they reached the endgame.

The "dialogue" in this game is great, with stuff like this and "DODONGO DISLIKES SMOKE". This carries over into the second game in the series, with such magnificent lines as "I AM ERROR".

In this tree stump, our hero finds...

...this. A strange old man in a tree stump wants to play "Money Making Game" with me? SOLD! Actually, this is probably the best source of money in the game, and the best way to be able to afford the Blue Ring, Shield upgrade, Arrows, and various other buyable items early.

Here's the White Sword, second of the three swords in the game. It has 2X the attack power of the starting sword, which makes a huge difference. Best of all, you can get it near the beginning of the game. Players who have a guide or otherwise know where the items are have a huge advantage.

Besides the White Sword, you can also get the Blue Ring early-on, which doubles defense.

Here's the first of the magical fairy springs found throughout the Zelda series. The fairy in question is far from becoming the Great Fairy Whore of the N64 days.

Finally, after that lengthy collection mission, I head for the first dungeon. It's in a tree stump (of course).

Behold! The first dungeon. You use keys to get through locked doors, and for the most part the goal is to find as many keys as possible by clearing rooms.

The Stalfos have always been my favorite Zelda enemies. They remind me of the skeleton army in Jason and the Argonauts.

Here's the Bow. It's quite powerful, as usual in this series. As far as I know, you can't actually use it until you buy Arrows from a shop. Once you buy them once, you never need to again, because every shot consumes one of your rupees. Well, that's one way to do it...

The boss of the first dungeon is the fearsome Aquamentus. For a dragon, this guy isn't too difficult to defeat. Helps that I have 2X attack, 2X defense, and 2X the health that I started the game with.

First shard of the Triforce. This game revolves around getting these things from the dungeons and re-assembling said Triforce. Luckily, unlike Wind Waker, there's no lengthy, tedious ocean search involved.

The second boss is Dodongo, who infamously dislikes smoke. This fight is simple, and over quickly. The difficulty levels of the bosses in this game seem wildly varied; some of them can be one-shotted while others are quite tough to defeat.

The third boss, Manhandla, is one of the difficult ones. It gets faster the more damage it takes.

The Raft is the big treasure of dungeon three, and it's easily missed. I had to go back to find it. This lets you cross rivers if there's a dock to jump off of. Unfortunately, the usefulness of this is limited; there are only two spots in the game that I can think of offhand where you make use of it.

In dungeon four, there's another similar item. The ladder lets you cross one-space gaps, whether they're pits or overworld streams. This is REALLY useful and I'm surprised that no other Zelda games feature it.

Boss of dungeon four is Gleeok, the multi-headed dragon. This is another difficult fight, and probably the most visually-impressive boss in the game.

Under an Armos Knight lurks the Power Bracelet. This lets Link move heavy boulders. However, like the raft, there are only one or two spots to use it in the entire game.

Next stop, the Master Sword. At least, I assume that's what this is. It's the third and final sword, with 4X the power of the starting sword.

The sixth dungeon is absolutely brutal, and features the debuts of some nasty new enemies. Blue Wizzrobes are probably the worst, second only to Darknuts (which are, most likely, a bad translation of Dark Knights) in annoyance level in this game.

The Magical Rod. This mostly replaces the Bow, but there are some enemies that it doesn't work on (and the Bow does).

Case in point, the boss of this dungeon. Gohma is another boss that appears in other Zelda games. It's only vulnerable when it opens its eye. Once that happens, one arrow ends the fight.

What's this? A Mario-esque warp zone? This saves a bit of overworld-crossing time.

Weird boss here. You can't damage it until you use the Flute, and after that it can be taken down in a few sword hits.

Here's a shady merchant. Moments after Link left the room, representatives from Homeland Security broke in and hauled the old man off to Gitmo.

One of the weirder dungeon entrances is at the bottom of a pond, and you dry up said pond by playing the flute. Nothing relieves the stress of the day like playing with your flute, let me tell you!

The boss of the eighth dungeon is Gleeok, now with FOUR heads. Yeah, I totally skipped over dungeon seven. Didn't take any screenshots because there wasn't really anything new to take shots of. I also did dungeon six before dungeon five, which observant readers have already taken note of.

In the ninth and final dungeon (Death Mountain), the red ring is acquired. This gives you 4X defense, which is awesome. Too bad you don't get it until the game is basically over.

"DON'T MAKE ME CUT YOU" says the old man. What is with these guys?

The final dungeon also has the Silver Arrows, which as usual are required to damage Ganon. Not sure if they're any more powerful than before otherwise.

And here's Ganon himself, the big boss. Link whips out the assembled Triforce and it totally blinds Ganon with light and goodness and whatnot. This fight is a bit disappointing, because aside from a few brief moments, Ganon is invisible the entire time. So basically you just run around stabbing at the air until you hit him, then repeat a few times. Once you hit him enough, he becomes visible and glows for a moment, and that's when you shoot him with... one Silver Arrow? That's right, one. Fight over. A bit underwhelming...

He also explodes when defeated, leaving a pile of gore on the ground with the second of the three Triforces. Link and Zelda possess the other two, and so forth. Most importantly, this is about as gory as an NES game will ever get.

Mario saves Toadstool Link saves Zelda! Woo hoo!

Zelda isn't much for showing enthusiasm in this game, speaking in an intense monotone like everyone else. Is she German?

Link and Zelda hold up their Triforces in a scene straight out of "Big American Party!"

Credits roll. Notice how they mis-spelled Shigeru Miyamoto's name. And... Hiroshi Yamauchi? I know that guy...

"I'll swallow your soul!"


  1. The dialog for this game reads like an imaginative 8 year old. It's get a musicality to it

  2. More like money LOSING game. Also, you could have included a Grumble, Grumble shot from dungeon 7.

  3. MAN, three straight undisputed classics.
    The Second Quest (that could start immediately if you used the name Zelda) was a really cool concept. The first New Game + came that soon!
    You're right, it's so key they give you FOUR different options on the first screen.
    I like how direct the shopkeepers are. "Buy somethin' will ya!"
    I've never seen someone do the entire overworld before going into the dungeons. This is brilliant!
    The Reagan Administration should have used "DODONGO DISLIKES SMOKE" for its "Winners Don't Use Drugs" ads. a great boss name.
    The misspelling of Miyamoto's name is a mistranslation, because the character for Moto could also be read as Hon. But not really, because it's never read as "hon" when it's used in names. The translator for this game had 0 Japanese knowledge, basically.
    I really like what Ronald Metellus said about the dialogue of this game. It -does- have a musicality to it.
    This game is really exciting, looking back. You start with nothing and then get more and more stuff that helps you, after earlier experiences make you wish you had it. The world being huge was awesome in these days. It's also impressive how many of the series mainstays were invented right here. Great post, yo.