A Worthy Virtual Console Download - The Legend of Zelda Review

A Worthy Virtual Console Download - The Legend of Zelda Review
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The Legend Begins - The Legend of Zelda Review

The Legend of Zelda series is easily one of the most popular, iconic, and respected franchises in gaming. With each installment, gamers are thrust into a fantasy world full of myth, monsters, and magic, and a true sense of exploration and heroism is exuded within each Zelda game. The series has come a long way since its inception in 1986, but gamers who download The Legend of Zelda on the Virtual Console will discover that things haven’t changed too much, as this first entry in the long-running franchise is just as grand as its sequels.

The Legend of Zelda Storyline (4 out of 5)

Link must set out to retrieve the Triforce of Wisdom, rescue Princess Zelda, and save Hyrule from the evil Ganon.

One thing that separates The Legend of Zelda from most other save-a-princess games is its deeper story. Yes, there is a damsel in distress, but the overall reasoning behind it is much bigger than in, say, Super Mario Bros. An evil pig-like thief named Ganon sets out to obtain the Triforce, an artifact that can grant its bearer unimaginable power. In an attempt to deter the evil thief’s plans, Princess Zelda of Hyrule splits up the Triforce of Wisdom into eight pieces, only to be kidnapped by Ganon. This is where the game’s protagonist, Link, comes in. Instructed by Zelda’s nursemaid, Impa, Link heads out for adventure, to collect the pieces of the Triforce and to rescue Princess Zelda.

The Legend of Zelda Gameplay (4 out of 5)

Link traverses a large world and explores various dungeons, a gameplay design that has stayed constant in every single Zelda game to date.

The Legend of Zelda features a huge open-ended overworld with nine dungeons scattered throughout it. It’s up to you to traverse the vast land of Hyrule, find weapons and upgrades, and seek out the game’s dungeons. Because the world is so big, and because a lot of areas are hidden, The Legend of Zelda is a game of exploration. In essence, you can spend a very long time looking for the next Triforce-housing dungeon.

Once you do get to the dungeons, it’s all business. You must enter a myriad of rooms full of traps and monsters, and you definitely must not be ill equipped, as lacking certain items, weapons, or medicine can often lead to Link’s demise. And this is where the exploration factor really kicks in. If, for example, you didn’t purchase a blue candle from one of Hyrule’s many merchants, you’ll find yourself entering dark rooms in dungeons without any way of lighting them. Low on bombs? That could cost you, as certain rooms require you to blow up holes in their walls to get to the next area. There are a number of key items scattered throughout Hyrule and its dungeons, and missing them can really be a detriment to your quest.

Graphics and Sound (3 out of 5)

Aquamentus is one of the many bosses in The Legend of Zelda.

By today’s standards, The Legend of Zelda is a very simple-looking game. Having said that, it’s hard to deny that the game is grand in spirit. Yes, the color palette may be limited, and everything looks blocky and pixilated, but The Legend of Zelda still looks like a true fantasy. The graphics may be simple, but this Hyrule still manages to feel like the Hyrule found in Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and other games in the series.

The sound is equally simple, consisting of two main themes (one for the overworld and one for the dungeons) and a handful of jingles here there when you collect an important item or retrieve a piece of the Triforce. Given how conceptual the Zelda series has become in terms of its soundtrack, this first entry feels a bit barren. Still, the sound design is pretty good, and when you hear that eerie dungeon theme, it’s hard not to get captured in the world of Zelda. Something neat worth noting is the sound the game’s bosses make. As you reach the room where the boss awaits, you can hear a savage sound coming from nearby. Not only does this add to the dungeons’ dark feel, but it makes you think about just how evil and beastly the game’s bosses are, and it really preps you for that big boss battle that you’re about to engage in once you step through the door.

Lasting Value (4 out of 5)

Ganon, as he appears in The Legend of Zelda.

Depending on how you go about it, The Legend of Zelda can last you a very long time. This is due to the placement of items as well as the design of the game’s dungeons. In 1986, gamers would call Nintendo and get tips on how to get through the game. These days, you can just find an online strategy guide to aid you in your quest. If you’re playing this game without any sort of walkthrough, you’re bound to spend a good deal of time with The Legend of Zelda. If, however, you do choose to download and print out a detailed walkthrough to guide you through the game, you’ll still spend a fair amount of time playing. This is a Zelda game after all, and this franchise is known for its lengthy adventures. And after you beat the game the first time, you can play through the legendary Second Quest, where dungeons feature more difficult level designs.

The Legend of Zelda Review - Overall Score (4 out of 5)

The promotional gold cartridge for the NES.

Although the game has aged a bit, this first entry in the Zelda franchise was revolutionary at the time of its release. But even though it’s over two decades old, The Legend of Zelda still holds up well as both a great Zelda history lesson and an excellent action-adventure title. If for some reason you’ve missed out on playing this game and you fancy yourself a Zelda or action-adventure fan, then you should definitely download The Legend of Zelda on the Virtual Console.