The Legend of Zelda

Many years ago Prince Darkness "Gannon" stole one of the Triforce with power. Princess Zelda had one of the Triforce with wisdom. She divided it into "8" units to hide it from "Gannon" before she was captured.

Go find the "8" units "Link" to save her.

The Legend of Zelda began in 1986 with that little piece of Engrish. This was the first huge adventure game created for the almost brand new Nintendo Entertainment System, and it is still considered one of the best games ever released for the system. Nintendo usually made most of their good in house games available in the arcade as well, either on their Nintendo Vs. Unisystem hardware, or on the Playchoice 10 multi-game system. But The Legend of Zelda was developed exclusively for the NES.

This game can in many ways be remembered as the game that did everything right. The graphics were beautiful for the time, and they still are for that matter. The sound was wonderful. The gameplay was challenging, and kept the player coming back for more. But the best part was long hidden from the player. After finishing the game they would discover that there was a second more challenging quest. It was almost as if there was a free sequel right on the cartridge. Later on lazy gamers would learn from the first issue of Nintendo Power that you could access the second quest without beating the game, just start a new game and name your character "Zelda". The only thing that was wrong with this game was the glaring holes in the story, and the complete lack of even internal logic in the game.

The Legend of Zelda is really the story of Link and his quest to gather together the Triforce of Wisdom so he could defeat the evil Ganon and rescue the Princess Zelda. All of this took place in the mythical land of Hyrule. The land of Hyrule seemed to be a fairly desolate place. It was filled with monsters, but there were no inhabitants except for a few cave dwelling shopkeepers, and tree dwelling casino employees. There didn't even seem to be remains of any towns, or any evidence at all that this land was ever actually inhabited by anyone other than the monsters. I never noticed that as a kid, but I certainly notice it now.

To defeat Ganon and rescue Zelda you must gather the "8" pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom from the eight dungeons scattered around the land. Now it already appears that the story is falling apart. The programmers spelled the villains name wrong throughout the game, in the game itself he is referred to as "Gannon" but the instruction manual and all future Zelda games will refer to him as "Ganon". Now if Princess Zelda wanted to hide the "8" pieces of the Triforce, then why did she choose to hide them in all of Ganon's dungeons? This little bit is never explained, or even alluded to. Finally, for some strange reason the game always puts the number 8 in quotes if it is used in reference to the "8" pieces of the Triforce.

As soon as you opened your "The Legend of Zelda" box, you knew you were in for something special. This game was gold, and this game was shiny. Not the flat gray of all other Nintendo cartridges, or even the semi-gloss black of those unlicensed Tengen games, but a deep reflective gold. The color wasn't the only thing non-standard about the cartridge. Most games either had no way to save and load games, or they used a clunky password system that required keying in absurdly long strings of letters using the NES game pad. But not Zelda, you see "The Legend of Zelda" has a battery inside it that saved your game. Of course these batteries had an estimated life of five years, and it has been over sixteen years now (as of this writing), so there are very few working Zelda cartridges left. There also appears to have been a version of this game that was not gold. I am not sure if that version was released earlier or later. Perhaps Nintendo ran out of gold cartridges and shipped a few Zeldas in plain gray ones? Either way, you may run into a gray Zelda every once in a while.

The game begins with our hero Link in the middle of a screen, there are a few rocks and a small cave above him. You have an overhead view of the action, and can move Link in any of the four primary directions. However, Link cannot normally move or attack diagonally, the only exception to this seems to be the boomerang which can be thrown in all eight directions. Link soon gets bored of you sitting around thinking about how he can move, so you decide to check out the cave that is right in front of you. Inside the cave you meet the old man who gives you the sword, and then promptly disappears. His disappearance probably deeply disturbed Link, but he obviously kept it under wraps. He had a greater mission to attend to, and couldn't spend too much time worrying about vanishing old men.

After receiving his sword, Link is finally ready to truly begin his great quest. He has 144 overworld screens to explore, along with 9 dungeons of various sizes. He has heart containers to find, dragons to vanquish, "8" pieces of the Triforce to locate, and thousands of little monsters to deal with before his final confrontation with Ganon. Then he gets to do it all over again in the second quest.

The treasures

One of the best parts about this game is the equipment. There are many different items for Link to find and use in his quest to defeat Ganon. Not all of them are required to finish the game, but most of them are. The biggest equipment tip I can give you is this, always choose the heart container when given the choice between a heart container and a life potion. You can buy life potions from the old woman, but heart containers cannot be purchased anywhere, and are finite in number.

  • Heart - The heart is the basic unit of energy in the game. Link begins the game with three of them, and can have as many as sixteen towards the end of the game. Whenever an enemy hits Link he will have his heart total reduced. Link can never have more hearts than he has heart containers. Hearts are often dropped by defeated enemies, and can also be purchased in a few of the hidden shops.

  • Heart Container - The heart container is what holds the little hearts that define Link's health. You begin the game with three of them. You also gain one from the guardian of each of the first eight dungeons. There are five more of them hidden in various places around the game. The opening section of the game refers to this item as the "CONTAINER HEART", but the manual calls it a "Heart Container".

  • Fairy - The Fairy is one of Link's allies. She will sometimes be released from a defeated enemy and if you can catch her you will be rewarded with three hearts. There are also a few fairies in the world that appear in certain places. Those fairies will refill all of your hearts each time you visit them.

  • Clock - The clock is sometimes dropped by defeated enemies. Grabbing this item will cause all the monsters on screen to freeze. They will stay frozen until you leave the screen, which means you can kill them all easily without a fight. Except it is actually wiser to leave one of them alive. If you kill all of the enemies on a screen then they will eventually come back. But if you leave one alive, then that screen will always just have one enemy, who should be fairly easy to dodge.

  • Rupy - The Rupy is the official unit of currency in Hyrule. You can receive them from dead enemies, get them from gambling, find them unattended underground, and even receive them from friendly monsters. You can never have more than 255 Rupies at once.

  • Life Potion - The life potion fills all your heart containers back up. The red ones can be used twice before the vanish, while the blue ones can only be used a single time. You can either purchase these from the old woman, or get them by making a bad decision.

  • Letter - You need to get the letter from the old man in order to be able to purchase life potions from the old woman.

  • Food - The food can only be purchased in some of the shops. This item has two uses. The most obvious one is that it can be tossed on the ground, which causes many monsters to pay attention to it rather than attacking Link. The other use is that there is a certain Moblin guard who must be bribed with this item, which causes it to vanish from your inventory. This item is referred to as bait in the game manual.

  • Sword - This is the basic sword that you get from the old man at the beginning of the game. It appears to be made out of wood.

  • White Sword - The white sword can be found at the top of the waterfall. You must have five heart containers to receive this item. "Master using it and you can have this!" This sword is twice as powerful as the first sword.

  • Magical Sword - The magical sword is four times as powerful as the original sword. You can get this weapon from the old man in the graveyard (be careful, he may be a vampire, he lives under a tombstone). You must have twelve heart containers to receive this item.

  • Magical Shield - The magic shield can be purchased in many shops. Carrying around this item causes some missile attacks to be deflected, provided that they actually hit the shield.

  • Boomerang - The boomerang is a very useful weapon. Throwing it stuns many enemies. The boomerang is left behind by a certain group of Goriyas in one of the dungeons. Later in the game a different group of Goriyas will leave you a magic boomerang, which has a longer range. The boomerang is the most useful item in the game, I tend to keep it equipped unless I know I will need a different item.

  • Bomb - The bomb is useful as a weapon, and for finding secret passages in the dungeons. Bombs can be either purchased or found.

  • Bow - The bow is a weapon of rather limited use. Firing it used up your Rupies (arrows aren't free you know). But there are a few enemies that this weapon is super effective against, which makes it worthwhile to use from time to time. The bow can be found in one of the dungeons.

  • Candle - There are two candles in the game. Both of them serve the same purposes. The candle can be used to light a dark room, as a rather ineffective attack, or to burn down trees to find secret shops and hidden areas. The blue candle can be used once on each screen, and can be purchased at the shop. The red candle can be used over and over again on the same screen and can be found in one of the dungeons.

  • Ring - There are two different rings, both serve to change Link's color, and to reduce the amount of damage he takes from attacks. The blue ring can pe purchased in one of the shops for 250 Rupies (it is the most expensive item in the game), and it makes all attacks against you do only half damage. The red ring can only be found in the final dungeon. It makes all attacks do one quarter damage.

  • Power Bracelet - The power bracelet gives Link great strength and allows him to push certain boulders and a few particular bricks in some of the dungeons. This item is underneath an Armos Knight in the western half of the world.

  • Recorder - Playing this magical flute can have several different effects, depending on the screen you are on. The most common effect is to summon a whirlwind that will carry you to another part of the world. But it can also open some secret passages and it can effect one of the unique monsters. The recorder can be found in one of the dungeons.

  • Raft - The raft allows you to reach two islands that are otherwise inaccessible. One of those islands contains a dungeon and the other one has a heart container. The raft can be found in one of the dungeons.

  • Stepladder - The stepladder allows Link to walk across short spans of water. This is useful in crossing rivers, obstacles, and it allows you to get that annoyingly obvious heart container that is off the eastern coast. The stepladder can only be found in one of the dungeons.

  • Magical Rod - The magic rod (which looks more like a wand than a rod), emulates the attack of the Wizrobes. This item is of rather limited use, as many monsters are immune to it. This item also produces fire when it is combined with the "Book of Magic". The rod and the book can be found in two separate dungeons.

  • Key - Keys are used to open locked doors. They can be purchased in shops, or found scattered around in the dungeons. You do not actually have to purchase any keys, as the number of keys in the dungeons outnumber the number of locked doors by a slight margin. Towards the end of the game you may discover a magic key which opens all locked doors.

Link will have to fight a wide variety of foes on his journey, all of which are strangely named (Moblin, Tektite, Leever, ecetera). Most of Link's enemies are the same size as he is, and are defeated easily. However enemies that use swords tend to be much more difficult to defeat, and will be responsible for the majority of the damage you take. Some enemies (like the large bats and blobs), will split into two smaller enemies when hit. The smaller versions always die with one hit from any weapon, even the boomerang.

Each dungeon has a guardian monster towards the end. Most of these guardians seem to have a vaguely aquatic theme. These boss monsters are usually no problem if you are aware of their weaknesses or movement patterns. Some of them do require a specific weapon to damage. Each of these guardians will leave you with another heart container, while the room beyond them will hold yet another piece of the Triforce. Once you find all "8" pieces of the Triforce, you will be able to enter Ganon's lair.

Ganon's lair is a lot like the other dungeons except that it is huge, and it stocked with many dangerous enemies. Ganon himself is more of an annoying enemy than a difficult one, as he spends most of the fight either invisible, or teleporting from place to place. You should go into this fight with a life potion, the magic sword, the bow and the silver arrows, and the red ring. You won't have too much trouble then. After defeating Ganon, you are treated to the closing credits, and then you may begin on the second quest. The second quest has largely the same overworld, but the underworld is entirely different and almost all the hidden items have been moved or shuffled between locations. Some of the enemies gain special abilities in the second quest as well, such as the skeletons who learn how to throw their swords.

I want to play!

This was one of the biggest selling games ever made for the Nintendo Entertainment System, so you should have no problem finding a copy. What you will have a problem with is finding a copy with a working battery. You may have to resort to emulation for this title. Nesticle and almost all other NES emulators support this title perfectly. So take your pick.

This game was later followed up with a sequel, "The Legend of Zelda II". Which was a decent game when viewed on it's own, but it couldn't compare to the original.