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I guess I just like liking things

The Hyrule Historia came out this year in the US, celebrating the entire run of the Legend of Zelda series. If you haven’t read it yet, jump over to Amazon and have it sent to you posthaste. In addition to a wonderful collection of concept art for the entire series, you finally get to see the official timeline of the series. Which is pretty much as complicated as mapping pre-World War I European alliances. Regardless the book fills me with a ton of nostalgia for a series that I have been devoted to since childhood. I hadn’t played most of the games in a long enough time that I thought they warranted another look. So after some internet fu, I had the correct set up to replay these games from the beginning.


The second screen of The Legend of Zelda is likely one of the most enduring images in gaming next to Mario jumping on a Goomba. “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this.” With that Link is armed and ready to save the princess. With no map and little to go on, you’re likely going to spend a lot of time just wandering around.

I think that’s what drives this game to endure as a classic. It is the antecedent to the large open worlds of Skyrim or even Liberty City. Other than the numbers in the corner, or the equipment needed to reach them, the dungeons aren’t in any clear order. Even after playing through this game several times over, trying to find some items requires me to dig up a map online. There are more than enough secrets in this game that finding them all was practically impossible in the pre-Internet days. Only kids with Nintendo Power or a ton of patience would ever bomb every possible square.

Though everyone associates pixel art with the 8-bit era, the most enduring sprite images don’t come along until the 16-bit era. Zelda however does a lot with it’s limited pallet. Link himself isn’t all that visually striking, but that isn’t surprising considering that he was designed to be a vessel to contain the player’s imagination. However, for a NES game there is am array of well-designed enemies:


Like so many games on the NES/Famicom, The Legend of Zelda creates many of the tropes that we take for granted. For another generation Ocarina of Time is the touchstone of the series, likely because that game found them at the same age that my generation of gamers found the original. You can discount nostalgia though, not only does this start one of the most famous genres in gaming, it influenced and shaped the action-RPG genre. However that importance, like many great pieces of art, may often overshadow the enjoyment. Taking this game on it’s own terms, it’s still fantastic.

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