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The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary

02/22/2011
The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda

Nintendo’s epic series The Legend of Zelda turned 25 this past Monday. Hard to believe that this series is this old. Everyone on the Internet is doing retrospectives and memories of the Zelda series, so I thought I’d throw my memories onto the Internet as well.

My first memory of The Legend of Zelda was at a Montgomery Wards store in Wisconsin. This particular store had a television display set up with an original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and a demo cartridge that had about a dozen games on it that would reset after what felt like 2 minutes of game playing; basically just enough time for someone playing Zelda to wander through two or three screens after loading up the game. Frustrating to no end. But that was my initial exposure to The Legend of Zelda: a frustrating game that ended too quickly while leaving me with a feeling that I have no idea what I’m doing. Which is largely true of the original game, a classic, but one in the vein of old school hard video games…you need a guide or graph paper to properly play the game.

A few years later, after I had bought my GameBoy, I bought a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening; bought or was given, I no longer remember, my memory just goes from not owning it to owning it and playing it every chance I got. And I’m not joking. I brought that game everywhere; when I think of that game, I remember two primary things: the backseat of my parents van, and the changing room at a basketball tournament I played in when I was around 14 years old. Link’s Awakening is still one of my favorite games of all time, a great compact adventure that was well crafted, had a memorable story (SPOILER – the island was a dream), and was easily replayable, as I’m sure I beat that game maybe 4-5 times.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

Link’s Awakening was also my first introduction to a recurring problem I’ve had with the Zelda games, namely that I’ve somehow managed to break the game, glitch it, thus rendering it unbeatable and being forced to start over from scratch. I’m not sure how I’ve managed to do this so many times, but I always seem to get stuck behind a door that there is no key for, or fall off a cliff into an area that can’t be transported out of, or, in the case of the Water Temple in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, screwed up the water levels so bad, saving the game in the middle of the dungeon, and then restarting at a point where you can’t access anything. Frustrating.

Somewhere between my love for Link’s Awakening and the release of Ocarina of Time, a friend of mine had a copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the Super Nintendo game, which I watched him play a couple of times but never played myself. Eventually I bought a copy of A Link to the Past when it was released on the GameBoy Advance, but I didn’t get very far in it. I know many consider A Link to the Past to be the very best Zelda game, but for some reason, I couldn’t get past the art style and just didn’t invest much time in it. I still have the cartridge though…maybe I’ll get around to it whenever I pick up that Nintendo DS Lite.

Somewhere I also own a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, the GameBoy color game that was the companion game to The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, and while it’s almost a carbon copy of Link’s Awakening, for some reason it didn’t grab me. Maybe one day I’ll be bored and want portable Zelda again.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

I don’t consider the GameBoy my first video game system because it was not a proper console attached to a television. That honor goes to the Nintendo 64, which I bought from some good friends. Why did I buy it? One reason – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (gold cartridge!). This game…was huge. I remember watching other friends playing it after it came out, and being blown away. The Nintendo 64 has gotten a bad rep in hindsight, but at the time it had all the great games: Goldeneye, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Kart 64, Perfect Dark, Turok 2, Mission: Impossible, Battle Tanx, Star Wars Rogue Squadron…and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

I’m sure I’ve beaten this game at least 6 different times. When I think Zelda, my mind goes to Ocarina of Time. Sadly, I think Nintendo has misunderstood what was so popular about that game: it featured a protagonist, Link, growing up from a child into an adult, and as an adult, he kicked ass and saved the world. The adult part is key. Nintendo’s greatest misfire with the follow-up game was that it didn’t focus on an adult Link; up to this point all Zelda games had been 2D, so the fact that Link was a child was lost on nearly everyone. Being forcefully reminded that Link was in fact a child hurt. We wanted the stoic grownup who kicked ass.

Ocarina of Time’s Nintendo 64 followup, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, is high on my list of games that I want to play and beat, but just haven’t forced myself to do so. I rented it when it first came out, and was upset I couldn’t be an adult, upset that the game had a stupid timer, kept repeating, and that you were collecting stupid masks. Take out everything I loved about Ocarina of Time and leave the parts I didn’t like and add some new crap: that was Majora’s Mask to me. Hated it. Yet my tastes have changed since then, and those who love Majora’s Mask REALLY love Majora’s Mask, so I’m willing to give it a second chance. And I still have both the cartridge and the Nintendo GameCube version released with Ocarina of Time, Zelda 1, and The Adventure of Link.

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

Gameplay videos of the GameCube Zelda, The Legend of Zelda: Wink Waker are part of what convinced me to buy a GameCube. Funny though that I didn’t get around to playing the game properly until 2009, although I spent maybe a weekend playing it back in 2004. Right now I’m maybe 2/3rds of the way done with Wind Waker and intend on finishing it. Many hated the art style, yet I think it’s pretty cool looking and works. “Celda” indeed.

When the Nintendo Wii came out, I was the first person at my local Costco to buy one, although I eventually sold it to make rent money (or so I was deceived into thinking I needed to do). It came with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which while looking amazing and had an interesting story, quickly grew old fast due to the rather crappy Wiimote. Many Wii games are spoiled for me because they try to shoehorn stupid waggle and tilting into games that don’t need them (cough Super Mario Galaxy cough). There is a GameCube version available which I plan on picking up eventually and playing through, I’m just now willing to spend $40 on it. Crazy.

So, in a large nutshell, that’s my Zelda experience. There are some games I didn’t mention because I’ve never played them, whether because of lack of interest or just haven’t gotten around to them, such as The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Minish Cap is on my radar, but frankly I have no interest in Spirit Tracks or Phantom Hourglass; don’t really dig the Playstation 1 type graphics, they seem to make dumb use of the DS touch screen, and, well, that’s about it. Meh. No interest.

Link has a thing for chickens...

Link has a thing for chickens...

A large part of my childhood is attached to the Legend of Zelda games. I’ve spent countless hours with Link’s Awakening and Ocarina of Time. They are pure nostalgia and the golden age of gaming to me. However, since roughly 2002, I’ve rarely played a Zelda game for any length of time. Maybe I’ve out grown them; I don’t know. I hope not. I miss the world of Hyrule, the young lad Link, and the princess Zelda.

Dibs on Link in Smash Brothers!

Some cool links:

The Legend of Zelda Gameography, 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Zelda games, the Legend of Zelda timeline (up to the release of Twilight Princess), and all the nostalgia you could want.

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