Time Linked To The Past: Two hours or so
Sponsored By: The NES Classic
Welcome, TL;DP Fans! As longtime readers may well recall, I like to do a theme for the month of December. Usually it’s alliterative, or some kind of gregorian pun. This December will be no exception. I’ve decided to go back to gaming’s roots and play some important games that I missed when they first came out. I hope you enjoyed De-Seminal-Ber!
In this final week I discover a new love of an old series and play The Legend of Zelda.
Going it Alone Review
So I hear Nintendo is good at this whole Video Game thing.
I didn’t have the patience for the open world when I was a kid. Video games were something that doled out quick dopamine hits by the quarter. I didn’t need to remember anything about where I’ve been, except that it now consists of smoking craters and wreckage. My first foray into the open-world genre was Grand Theft Auto 2, which allowed for plenty of smoking craters and wreckage but also allowed me to do it as much as I wanted, wherever I wanted.
It was kind of like moving out on my own for the first time. Yep, it’s pizza night. Because every night is pizza night! And I can get any topping I want!
I came to love the open-world genre, but I still couldn’t get into Zelda games. My wife tried to hook me on A Link to the Past, but to no avail. It was at once too open and not open enough, with a very particular order for tackling the open-world elements but not enough reward for exploring. I could see why people liked it, but it wasn’t my kind of open world.
Later I played Breath of the Wild, and it was darn close to being a perfect game. Naturally, I assumed that the natural iteration that all long-running series went through had brought Zelda to the point where I could like it. It wouldn’t be the first time (cough Metal Gear Solid 5 cough).
In seemingly unrelated news, I got an NES Classic through my company’s wellness program. (ten thousand jumping jacks and that baby was all mine!) One of the games on it was the original The Legend of Zelda. This being De-seminal-ber, I thought: “Wouldn’t it be entertaining to read about me bouncing off of the original Zelda?” After all, it took 31 years for Nintendo to make a Zelda game that I thought was interesting enough to try, and I already knew I didn’t like A Link to the Past. The original game can only be worse, right?
Oh, my, no.
The first thing that struck me about The Legend of Zelda is how little explanation it gives you for anything. You’re dropped into the world with a shield and no weapon, and you have to figure out what to do and why to do it. The closest you get to exposition is the little old man who gives you your first sword, and he only does that if you think to find him.
From there it was all exploration and combat. Everywhere I looked there was something going on, whether it was jumping bug things or sea monsters throwing rocks. Sometimes I found side quests where I had to deliver things to characters with no names that I hadn’t met yet. I even found the source of Shoptroll’s tag!
How did this come out in 1986?
Will I Keep Tri(force)ing?
I think I can safely say my eyes are opened to The Legend of Zelda now. I knew it was an important series, but I never understood, entirely, why. It was, after all, just Nintendo’s core “do a thing three times to win” mechanic put into a nested loop. But the original Legend of Zelda was groundbreaking, and it has aged incredibly well.
Never for one moment did I think that I’d be swept up in the original The Legend of Zelda, but I want to go back to it. I want to play more. I want to see where everything is, and what happens when I find out.
Yes, I’ll keep playing. I may never finish it, but I want to try. That’s not something that happens in a lot of open world games for me. Only the great ones.
Is it the Dark Souls of Zelda games?
Let’s go through the list: You begin with no weapon, and if you make the wrong decisions you might not get one. It’s possible to kill most of the things in the game with the starter sword, if you’re good enough. The game gives you virtually no direction on where to go or what to do; you have to want to figure it out. Finally, you carry health powerups in a bottle that you may or may not find early on.
So no, The Legend of Zelda isn’t the Dark Souls of its genre. Dark Souls is The Legend of Zelda for modern sensibilities.