Retrospective: The Legend of Zelda

February 21, 2016 was 30 years since the release of the original legend of Zelda. In celebration of that, here is a retrospective on the games in the series I have played. (I have not played all of the games.)

The Legend of Zelda (NES) — This was an amazing game, and more so when you consider the time it was made. It was revolutionary in the various different kinds of weapons you could collect and use, and the sheer size of the game. Looking back thirty years later, the attention to detail in the graphics is truly stunning.

The Adventure of Link (NES) – This was a quality game that suffered by being radically different from its predecessor. Nintendo abandoned the top-down approach for a side-scroller, so it was a completely different game that to this day does not feel like it belongs in the Zelda family. Nonetheless, the graphics were amazing for the time and the combat system (while rudimentary by today’s standards) was groundbreaking in having the player actively use both his sword and shield while learning the opponent’s weaknesses.

A Link to The Past (Super NES) – A bigger game, with more weapons, more items, better graphics and the first real attempt at establishing a story in-game. This was a true sequel to the first game, and remains playable over two and a half decades after it was released. It perfectly builds on the foundation of the first game. There really is not much more I can say without gushing about how great this game was.

Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64) – I was very worried about this game. I saw where the move to 3D worked, and I saw where it failed. Much to my surprise, a game in a 3D world managed to capture the spirit of the earlier game. With significantly different game play mechanics, this game still felt like a Zelda game. There is an incredible amount of stuff to see and do beyond completing the main game, and spending time chasing side-quests makes the game easier by providing extra weapons, durability, bottles, health and magic.

Majora’s Mask (Nintendo 64) – In many ways, this was an improvement on Ocarina of Time with the ability to play as other characters by donning different masks, and as always there is a ton to see and do. But ths game had one major flaw: A timer. Zelda games have always been built on exploring every nook and cranny of the over-world and dungeons. Bomb everything, use every item, and explore as much as possible. Having an artificial time limit (which could be reset) to finish everything was an annoying artificial limitation on what could be done.

Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo DS) – While I understand what Nintendo was trying to do here, and I appreciate the attempt at innovation, using the stylus to play the game was not user-friendly. Zelda should be played with the buttons, not with a stylus. Plus, some of the other things that had to be done – such as yelling loudly into the microphone to activate a switch – were just too gimmicky. I made it to the final boss and never got around to finishing the game. I never played Spirit Tracks because I had enough of the gimmicky game play after the first one. Nonetheless, the graphics and sound were great and there was a lot to do and a lot of things to discover.

A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo 3DS) – A true sequel to A Link to the Past, this game takes the parallel worlds concept and expands on it. It is a more expanded “mirror universe” than in LTTP and there are plenty of nods to other games. For example, you see Majora’s mask right away. My only complaint us that the game is a little too easy. I never really felt like the bosses were much of a challenge until I fought Ganon.

This has been a great series and it is astounding that it has been thirty years since the original was released in Japan. Realizing this series began thirty years ago makes me feel very, very old.

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