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The original ZeldaNESs

Alexis Ibarra-Ibarra

OK… I have to admit that I was a terrible Zelda Fan because I called myself one without actually playing the original The Legend of Zelda (1986) nor Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987) […nor Skyward Sword (2011) for that matter…].

Nonetheless, I am happy to announce that I am no longer such an undevoted Zelda fan, thanks to the mini NES. I finally got to play these classics with the NES controller, which helps with immersion despite the difficulty and frustrating aspects of these 8-bit games. Please read “Mini AwesomeNESs | Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition” if you want to know why I think it is better to play NES games on NES hardware.

Here, I will focus on the original The Legend of Zelda since I have a lot to say about it. Still, I will be baking another cake about Zelda II as soon as I finish it, which could take a while.

Miyamoto Shigeru had already been developing some groundbreaking videogames before Zelda. From new mechanics to the introduction of storytelling and graphic design as basic components of the Videogame, Shigeru made substantial contributions to the configuration of the contemporary Videogame. In The Legend of Zelda, Miyamoto Shigeru and Tezuka Takashi combined most of Miyamoto’s revolutionary and abstract ideas of what a Videogame should be in order to deliver the first episode of a fabulous saga that, hopefully, will never end.

We know that The Legend of Zelda does not include the name of the protagonist in the title, which leads non-gamers to confuse Link, the “green elf”, with Zelda. According to the Japanese genius, the title of a videogame should have the name of the most robust, solid, and charismatic character. That is why the game Donkey Kong was named after the antagonist instead of Jumpman, even if Jumpman, later Mario, was the protagonist and character controlled by the player.

However, SPOILER ALERT, Princess Zelda (named in honor of Zelda Fitzgerald) just gets an incredibly minor appearance at the end of the game. Yeah, she is mentioned in the beginning and in the story presented in the instruction manual. However, inside the game, Zelda is the stereotype of the damsel in distress despite her efforts to protect Hyrule. That is not necessarily bad, and obviously, the format and technology limited the development of the characters. Besides, I am glad to see how Zelda has evolved since then.

Still, I do not know why Zelda was considered the most solid character in this specific episode. Sure, Link could be regarded as “just an avatar”, but, in this game, Zelda was not as memorable as Donkey Kong for example. I think that, in the end, it was named The Legend of Zelda just because Miyamoto really loved Zelda Fitzgerald, and it was a catchy name after all. So, there is probably not a lot to analyze behind the title even if I did just do exactly that.

About the game: I may have played it the hard way because I unpacked my mini NES a long time ago and must have left the instruction manual in the box, which meant that I did not use it. Consequently, I had to explore A LOT. I got lost all the time and entered infinite loops without knowing how to escape nor where to go.

Since I did not have the map from the instruction manual, I had to look it up online, and I only did it after I ran into a lot of dead ends. All of this because I thought the game was self-contained and because my gamer pride did not let me look for a map or a guide. Again, this is another example of how the analogue aspects of the NES games was particularly important for the NES videogames.

Without the map, you have to put bombs everywhere and burn everything down to find some of the most basic stuff.

I went into dungeons I was not prepared for without knowing. I did not know where to go since almost no one tells you anything, and I did not know which objects I could and should find.

I guess that I played the game on Explorer Mode, which is probably Hardcore Mode. Yet, that is why I can say that the digital navigation system SUCKS. You just have a frigging gray rectangle that kind of shows where you are unless you are inside one of those terribly annoying loops… in that case, you are on your own. Granted, there was a lot of freedom, but damn, it was confusing.

The last dungeon where you fight Ganon was particularly hideous; I lost a lot of energy and time trying to keep up with the stairs that connected rooms messily and randomly. Since that happened to me, I had to literally draw a map to get to Ganon. You can look at it below in case you need help finding the best and shortest path from the start of the dungeon:

Map to get to Ganon | Final Dungeon of The Legend of Zelda (1986) by Alexis Ibarra-Ibarra.

I KNOW IT WAS MY BAD; however, I needed to complain about it. I am aware that the available technology was probably not good enough to make a useful digital navigation system, but again… I needed to let all my frustration go.

In the end, even if I got lost and became frustrated, the game was addicting and fun. In consequence, I could not do anything else but to finish it and play the version you obtain after completing the first run. More importantly, the visual design and color palette, the general structure of the world and the dungeons, the epic music, basic symbols (i.e. Triforce), items, characters and enemies, as well as the foundations of the story that configure the ZeldaNESs of Zelda, are all present in the game.

This is remarkable because, since its conception, The Legend of Zelda established traditional and very distinctive aspects that separates it from other videogame series. In this sense, all the abstract features that constitute the identity of the Saga are present in this 8-bit game, so, without a doubt, if you are a Zelda fan, you have to play it!

ADVICE: It is a must-play videogame, but do not forget that the instruction manual has incredibly-valuable information! If I only knew that, the game would have been way easier and way less frustrating.

BONUS: The Japanese title is ザハイラルファンタジー ゼルダの伝説 (Za Hairaru Fantajī: Zeruda no Densetsu), which translates to The Hyrule Fantasy: The Legend of Zelda.

Do you have the NES or the mini NES? Please share with us a slice of your opinion in the comment section below! The Cake is always thrilled to read about your thoughts!

If you liked this piece of cake, share it with your friends!

Feature image taken from UsGamer.

Map made by Alexis Ibarra-Ibarra.

5 replies on “The original ZeldaNESs”

Wow, that map is beautiful, I specially loved the fact that you marked “+ kill all enemies” and “:) ignore all enemies”.

Also, the bonus fact you added is really interesting, because the series’ original name was going to be “The Hyrule Fantasy” with “The Legend of Zelda” just being the subtitle for that specific game. But once Nintendo of America f****d the name up, Nintendo of Japan just went with it. You can still see the original idea to this day in the Zelda Timeline, with it being not about one Zelda, but about the history of one Hyrule.

Liked by 1 person

I completely agree with you, the Saga tells the story of Hyrule, not Zelda, so the name “The Hyrule Fantasy” is more appropiate. However, the case of “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” is even worse: the Japanese name is リンクの冒険 Rinku no Bōken, that means: “The Adventure of Link”. I’m guessing they added the name of Zelda because of marketing (?), but they didn’t even try to do it in a cool way. I think “Zelda II” is the biggest title fail in the entire Saga. Nintendo of America just kept picking random titles and transforming the actual titles into subtitles. ¬¬
So, I have to admit that, in the end, I am relieved that they continued with “The Legend of Zelda” instead of “Zelda n” (n=2 → infinity).

P.S. I’m glad you liked the map!!! I’ll keep drawing maps for confusing dungeons in Zelda and other videogames! ❤

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