25 Years of the Legend of Zelda
On February 21, 1986 the first ever Legend of Zelda game was released in Japan. Back then, hardly anyone knew about Link and his green tunic. Now he is one of the most iconic video game characters of all time. The Zelda series has enjoyed a long, rich history of pushing the boundaries of gaming. With such critical acclaim, it’s not wonder that fans from around the globe are celebrating the 25th Zelda anniversary.
Right from the start with the original Legend of Zelda for the NES, Nintendo was way ahead of their time. Unlike most NES games, the original Legend of Zelda had attractive graphics, a variety of gameplay styles, and radically for the time, had a free-roaming world. The player was not confined by linear boundaries in a level-based game such as Super Mario Bros. Instead, the player had instant access to a large overworld which they could freely explore from a birds-eye view. The fantasy setting of the Legend of Zelda was also adopted by fantasy RPG games and still remains highly influential in that regard. Finally, the original Legend of Zelda was the first ever game to use battery backup saving – at the time it was revolutionary for gaming. No longer did players have to finish a game in one sitting (such as with Sonic the Hedgehog) nor did they have to memorize passwords.
Nintendo achieved another benchmark, this time for handheld gaming, when they released The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. The transition from console to handheld was near-flawless. Somehow, Nintendo managed to apply the principles of their previous console games and shrank them down to fit into a Gameboy cartridge. Nothing was lost in the process – the dungeon trawling, the side-quests, and even the jingle you hear when you find a hidden item. The subsequent handheld games, the Oracles series, took handheld gaming to another level. By the use of passwords and a link cable, one could link the two games together and unlock hidden secrets and swap items by doing so.
Meanwhile, Ocarina of Time, the first 3D Zelda adventure, is considered to be one of the greatest games of all time and the game that pioneered the action-adventure genre. It has held the number one spot on GameRankings for many years. Subsequent games after Ocarina of Time did not achieve revolutionary zeal for gaming, but that didn’t matter because Nintendo produced quality game after quality. The upcoming Skyward Sword looks extremely promising, though. It will be the first Zelda game to make full use of the Wii Motion plus system. No longer will players just press A to slash their sword or press B to throw a bomb. The Wii Motion Plus system allows you to take full control in the direction and power of your actions, as if you were fighting a real sword battle (just remember to keep that strap attached to your wrist all all times).
The Legend of Zelda has had a surprisingly strong influence in popular culture. Cody Runnels, the professional wrestler, is a self-confessed Zelda fan. Robin Williams named his daughter, Zelda, after Princess Zelda. Someone even took the time to write an entire book on ‘Legend of Zelda and Philosophy.’ And with the imminent release of Skyward Sword, it looks like the Zelda series is going to remain strong for many years to come. Here’s for another 25 years!