The Legend of Zelda - Review

The Years Have Been Kind

By: jaraph

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 8
   Plot 4
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

6 - 12 hours


Title Screen

   Over the years, I've spent many, many dollars on rpg's. $20 for Breath of Fire, $70 for Final Fantasy III, $40 for Final Fantasy IX...however, the $5 I recently spent on The Legend of Zelda are some of the most worthwhile ever. Released in 1987 by Nintendo, this game began one of the most purely fun series of games in any genre. While a quick dissection of its various attributes shows LoZ delivers in most areas, a more in-depth look reveals the fact that this game is more than the sum of its parts.

   First, we take a quick look at LoZ's graphics. No, they aren't superb, and yes, compared to later NES titles, they are lacking. However, it was 1986, and more importantly, the graphics fit the game. The gameplay itself is so good, you find yourself not minding that every tree is an identical green ball, and every temple seems to have been constructed by the same unimaginative builders. Each area of the game is an independent, non-scrolling block. Picture LoZ: A Link to the Past being cut up into many small pieces, rather than using large, scrolling ones. This approach works well in that it allows you to explore and fight enemies in a more controlled environment. You will be doing a lot of exploring, by the way. There are eight temples to find plus Gannon's lair, and the hints you receive are sparse and not especially helpful.

   Complimenting LoZ's graphical elements is a small but impressive musical score. As the first game in the series, LoZ introduced the classic Zelda theme that is used to this day in the N64 incarnations. If this melody isn't already firmly embedded in your brain, it soon will be, since you spend most of your time navigating the overworld, and the theme is the only tune played there. There are a couple of dungeon tracks as well, each appropriately spooky. The sound-effects, while well-done, aren't superb. None stand out in my mind...

A legend is born...  

   Legend of Zelda employs an interface much like that used in the new Zelda games. One button is used constantly for your sword, while the other is set to one of the game's special items, the number of which is remarkable. While not all can be 'used' persay, each is unique, and finding them all offers a small level of replay value. The idea of a magic meter had not yet been introduced, so any 'magic' items you find can be used ad infinitum, an idea I found refreshing. The single most curious element in the game is bow & arrow usage. Rather than collecting and using arrows, every time you shoot an arrow, it costs a rupee. I have no idea what the justification behind this is, but it does make for some interesting times if you're fighting a boss that requires the bow and you run out of money...

   Originality is another of LoZ's strong suits. While the 'go to temple; get map, compass, and special item; defeat boss; go to next temple' pattern has begun to wear thin with the newer games in the series, at the time it was a fresh and wonderful concept. As well, the real-time, action/rpg style of gameplay offers a pleasant contrast to the more traditional rpg's of the day, such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior.

   One area in which LoZ doesn't shine is plot. Of course, the story is the basic tale of Link, Gannon, Zelda, and the Triforce, but you will find very little mention of any of these elements in the game itself. In fact, I didn't receive the player's manual with my copy, so I had to go online to read about the story. Accompanying the lack of tale-telling, there is very little text. What's there is well-localized, though I did note one glaring exception. When actually playing the game, however, please note that I didn't say the hints were good, just that they were well-translated.

   Legend of Zelda's other small downfall is its difficulty level. This game is easy. Even the poor hints don't matter much because you can just search the world from top to bottom and eventually find what you're looking for. It'll take you between 6-12 hours to complete, depending on how quickly you stumble across the temples. There is quite a bit of replay value here, however, due mainly to the large fun-factor. As well, there is a 'second quest' after you defeat Gannon, which is simply the same game with tougher enemies and shuffled item locations. Since most of your time is spent searching for temples the first time you play, the game will take a significantly shorter amount of time to complete on successive attempts. However, if you're one of those people who has to find everything, the search for heart containers will keep you entertained for quite a while.

Z! Z! Z!
No precious Z-targeting to help you now!!  

    When taken alone, these individual elements would presumably produce an average game, at best. For one simple reason, however, this is not the case. The game is bound together by the glue of sheer fun. Almighty in its ability to make or break any game, fun is what turns The Legend of Zelda into a work of art. So go track down a copy; you should be able to find it online without much difficulty. That $5 plus s&h will be some of the best you've ever spent.

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