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Retro The Legend of Zelda made its debut on the Famicom Disk System, and 35 years later, the game is still a classic

VysePSU

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The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo's cornerstone franchises, but back in 1986, it was anything but a sure thing. To think there was a time when Mario and Zelda were new IPs that could have been total flops is almost unimaginable. In the case of The Legend of Zelda, there was the added caveat that the game would release on the Famicom Disk System in Japan, a new $80 peripheral for the Famicom. Despite this, The Legend of Zelda marked its place in history on February 21, 1986, quickly establishing itself as one of Nintendo's most influential titles.

The first entry in the franchise was developed side-by-side with Super Mario Bros., with Shigeru Miyamoto famously splitting concepts into two categories: "Mario ideas" and "Zelda ideas." According to interviews with Miyamoto, the majority of the ideas that would make their way into The Legend of Zelda came from Miyamoto's own adventures as a child, exploring his rural hometown of Sonobe, near Kyoto. That element of exploration hasn't been lost, with that sense of adventure alive and well in Breath of the Wild, proving the roots of the series haven't been forgotten.

A Whole New World



The most striking part of The Legend of Zelda is how open the world is for an early NES title. While a number of early video games were light on narrative, they still had a linear nature to them, so while a player might not know why they were doing something, they went where the game told them. Dropping the player into Hyrule with no set destination was a bold choice. The introductory text in the game gives the player the ultimate goal: collect the 8 pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom and defeat Ganon who has stolen the Triforce of Power" and kidnapped Princess Zelda.

Moving through Hyrule, Link encounters a number of enemies that would become staples of the Zelda franchise, including Moblins, Lynels, and the Zora, among many others. In fact, almost every enemy seen in The Legend of Zelda has made an appearance in a future installment of the franchise. The same also applies to the tools at Link's disposal. While Link's arsenal has grown since his days on the NES/Famicom, so many of the pieces that are still here today were around back then. Classics like the boomerang, the bow, or bombs can be found, as well as the flute, establishing Link's love of woodwind instruments early on.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same



While Hyrule itself feels quite open in The Legend of Zelda, its dungeons feel claustrophobic by comparison. Miyamoto has said that the labyrinth-like dungeons of the game were inspired by his own house growing up. The sliding doors between rooms, and complicated floorplan (at least, in a child's mind) gave Miyamoto the feeling of being in a maze. He wanted that to translate to the dungeon design of The Legend of Zelda. That players come up against difficult puzzles in Legend of Zelda games to this day show that this bit of design philosophy has not changed since 1986.

On that note, it is worth pointing out that so much of what is on display in The Legend of Zelda is still prevalent in the newer entries in the franchise. The dynamic between Link and Ganon is one of the greatest protagonist-antagonist relationships in the medium, even when players might feel like the series needs to move on. It is such a core dynamic to the franchise, and the way in which it continues to be successfully reimagined shows that the original game put in place a mythos that could endure. There are so many beats to a Zelda game that feel familiar at this point, and so many of them have their origins in the very first game in the franchise.

With this being Zelda's 35th anniversary, many fans wonder if there are some big plans for the franchise this year. While no new Breath of the Wild 2 information was announced at the recent Nintendo Direct, a Skyward Sword HD Switch port is on the way. Mario received quite a grand year of celebration for his 35th, so it stands to reason that Link and the Legend of Zelda franchise would receive a similarly festive 35th anniversary celebration. Fans will have to wait and see if Nintendo has any big plans to announce for the coming year.

The Legend of Zelda is available now as part of the Nintendo Switch Online NES Library.


What are your memories of having played the original The Legend of Zelda, GAF?
 

Guilty_AI

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Seems like a good series, but i've never managed to finish any of its games.
I still have hopes i'll beat one, any day now.
 
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billyxci

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i only got into Zelda in 2013 when I bought Ocarina for 3DS. have to admit I have no desire to play all the Zelda games. only played Links Awakening + A Link To The Past + Breath of the Wild
 

DeepSpace5D

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I absolutely love this game. It is a classic that still holds up today in the gameplay department in my opinion. The combat is quick and satisfying, and some of the later dungeons get pretty intense.

I could be forgetting some earlier games, but I feel like many new gaming concepts were established from The Legend of Zelda like the open world freedom to explore and dungeon maps. It was also the first game that let you save your progress on console.

Some of the design in the overworld feels a bit dated by today’s standards with the holes in the walls you can blow up with bombs, or a random bush you have to burn to find a dungeon entrance. But most of the main secrets in the game are hinted at by NPCs if you explore enough.

Great game and started one of the best series of all time.
 

Isa

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I absolutely adore it, one of the best games ever imho. People would do well not to forget the influence of Hydlide though. Zelda did it all better though. I'll never forget my best friend back then, she was a single daughter and her dad spoiled her. She let me borrow the game and that Gold cart was amazing. My whole family played it, my Mom Dad and each had our saves and had a blast. Discovering secrets and the playground talk at school learning new stuff to try at home after school was great. I only managed to beat it that once, only my Dad managed the second world. I do wish that I had the chance to play the others in the series growing up but I went Sega, which I loved, and only started collecting other consoles during when the Gamecube launched. But that open-ended game design is one of the reasons I love BotW so much. I could play TLoZ any time, its a desert island game for me. I wish Nintendo would do more for the 35th anniversary.
 

Rival

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I still have my original copy. I wish I’d had the foresight way back then to keep the box and manuals in good condition. But I was like 7-8 when I got it.
 
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kunonabi

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Didnt really care for it when it came out, I was more of a Zelda 2 kid, but revisiting it a few years ago was actually pretty enjoyable and comparing it to BotW actually made that game's flaws even more pronounced.
 
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Naked Lunch

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Zelda 1 is a true masterwork. It spawned so many game mechanics and ideas. Even played today it is a fantastic game. The dungeon music never gets old. I still prefer it over the SNES' LTTP.

The Zelda series died for me after N64's Ocarina. The entire rest of the series is perfectly skippable.
 
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Amazing Zelda game, although flawed in some ways but that's quite normal for the first one in the series.

ALTTP stays the definitive Zelda game and GOAT.
 
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Cutty Flam

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First time playing the original was on The Legend of Zelda Collectors Edition for the Nintendo Gamecube. The secrets hidden in this classic are 10/10
 
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Goro Majima

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Sep 2, 2007
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This game is probably in my top 5 games of all time and that's saying quite a bit.

When I was a young and dumb kid in the 80s and constantly trading in games for other games at the local mom and pop rental/video game store, I think I bought Zelda like 3 times and always regretted selling it.

It's also one of the few games where I really remember the instruction booklet and the map because you had to reference them to get through the game.
 
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DGrayson

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I can hear that music so clearly. Such a fun game. Was tough when I was a kid the dungeons full of darknuts always got me. Eventually beat it later when it was "retro" and beat the second quest too.

I also had the tips and tactics guid which has awesome art. Was some of my first exposure to anime style art

 
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Andyliini

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I think I first played this in probably in the early 2000's when my cousin showed me some PC port called Zelda Classic. After playing it, I wanted to try Zelda II as well, because I played that as a kid. This was before I knew emulation.
 
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VysePSU

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I absolutely adore it, one of the best games ever imho. People would do well not to forget the influence of Hydlide though. Zelda did it all better though. I'll never forget my best friend back then, she was a single daughter and her dad spoiled her. She let me borrow the game and that Gold cart was amazing. My whole family played it, my Mom Dad and each had our saves and had a blast. Discovering secrets and the playground talk at school learning new stuff to try at home after school was great. I only managed to beat it that once, only my Dad managed the second world. I do wish that I had the chance to play the others in the series growing up but I went Sega, which I loved, and only started collecting other consoles during when the Gamecube launched. But that open-ended game design is one of the reasons I love BotW so much. I could play TLoZ any time, its a desert island game for me. I wish Nintendo would do more for the 35th anniversary.
That's pretty cool that your whole family played it. My first Zelda game was A Link to the Past on the SNES. We didn't own a NES but I did still play the original years later (same with the original Metroid).
 
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ssringo

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Still my favorite Zelda game. Predates the excessive talking, slow loot animations and game stopping jingles that grate on me in later entries.
 

Sophist

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The game has an algorithm to subtlety recenter Link on the tiles grid when you change direction to avoid being stuck into a tile's edges by a few pixels all the time. They changed that in LTTP where Link now automatically change direction when hitting an edge that has empty space next to it. It is because of small details like this that Nintendo was unparalleled when it come to controls in video games.
 
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Belmonte

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I feel so lucky to have played and finished it for the first time in 2019. There are many Zeldas I love, almost all of them actually, but if I had experienced Zelda in the NES days, I would be very let down by how more linear the franchise got.

Not that I would change anything in ALTTP or the others, they are great, but I would miss the freedom of the original. So good to play Zelda 1 and know I have its spiritual (and actual) sequel, BOTW to play.

Zelda 1 felt like an adventure like no other Zelda. Which is very impressive since this is a strong point in the franchise. The cryptic aspect made every item, NPC and location feels like a discovery and the higher difficulty (for a Zelda game at least) made the temples engaging even without the puzzles.
 
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AJUMP23

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I was the guide for my friends, I had all the dungeons memorized and I would tell them which way to go. It is one of the greatest games ever made.