I must confess that though I am an avid fan of the Legend of Zelda franchise, I have not yet completed every game in the franchise. Among my closest friends, this may come as a bit of a shock since I have studied the pages of the Hyrule Historia to obsession, I have imbibed that maddening flood of fan theories, speculations, rumination, music appreciation, and all other various aspects of that rich Zelda culture. A thought occurred to me, however, that in this wonderful era of gaming, the entirety of this beloved franchise can be experienced, in their optimal forms, on two systems: the 3DS and Wii U. There is a sad notable exception: Four Swords Adventures. I have completed all of the 3D Zelda games to 100%, with the exception of Skyward Sword, that have been released at the time of this introduction. It is my intention to play the entirety of the Legend of Zelda franchise to 100% completion in order of release. What you are now reading are rudimentary efforts to log that journey and in this I will provide commentary to, criticism of, and analysis of that beloved franchise. I wrestled with whether or not I would do this in chronological order as laid out by the Hyrule Historia or in release order. Owing to the fact that newer titles have not been placed on that official timeline, and my someone divisive belief that the franchise has mechanically improved as a general rule during it’s nearly 30 year progression, I opted for release order. That being said, one could easily read my analysis of each in chronological order if one feels so inclined. I will be employing the use of guides to expedite this process (for your sake and mine) and also because the older titles were ridiculously vague.
The Legend of Zelda
Every now and then, a game comes along that changes everything and while the original Legend of Zelda title was not that for me, I can see where it was for it’s time. This title set a lot of series conventions, and conventions for all of gaming. Open world gaming was arguably born in this very title. It makes no effort to coddle the player either, as it doesn’t even tell you to pop in that first cave and get you a sword. Many of the games of today are so advanced and powerful that we often forget their humble roots and undervalue the ambitious efforts of their pixelated pioneers. With its then expansive overworld, surprisingly complex dungeons, and wide variety of enemies, the gaming industry owes an unpayable debt to The Legend of Zelda. Even though things have come a long way, these roots were pleasing, if a little humorous, to revisit.
The Legend of Zelda began many of the tropes and standards of the franchise (duh). The series is now approaching 30 years old now though, and the lines between what franchise entry added what. Unless one takes the time to revisit that first entry, you can scarcely imagine its impact- even outside the obvious. The open world that hubs to dungeons, the item and upgrade systems, and even a host of enemies from Kese to the dreaded Like-Like. I can’t express how much I absolutely hate Like-Likes and how they forced me to rebuy that stupid Magic Shield too many times.God Bless the internet because without at least a strategy guide that would have been pure hell. The combat is as hard as anything from that era of gaming but the save data system is forgiving enough for it to be inconsequential. I found myself willingly dying just for travel-sake. The combat was nothing compared to the puzzles though. It’s obvious that the approaches to puzzles in games, including in this series, has changed from “how can we make people pull their hair out and throw their controllers across the room”? to “how can we make this thoughtful without being impossible”? I must say that we have come a long way from what must have amounted to systematically returning from screen to screen with that blue candle to burn bushes at the random hope of finding a cheaper shop.
Speaking of shops under burnt bushes, I feel compelled to talk about the inconsequential amount of story here. The first title takes place in the much maligned Decline Timeline in which the Hero of Time in Ocarina of Time is defeated. Hyrule suffered through civil wars and fell into decay and given the area of Hyrule we are in, it shows. The Adventure of Link shows us that the NES was at least capable of showing civilization in Hyrule and since that is a direct sequel with the same Link, we know that parts of Hyrule are habitable- not this part though. Nah, Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda is populated by nothing but old folks, monsters, and shop owners taking advantage of the desolate place to price gouge us.
In short, this desolation, while not then part of a grand scheme, was deliberate. This is a Hyrule that needs a hero.
To close out, I want to mention the fact that I had a very distinct feeling playing this title and for a while I couldn’t quite place the familiarity. Right near the end, however, it hit me: Breath of the Wild. The trailers and gameplay footage of Breath of the Wild encapsulates the feeling of its origin perfectly. After all, in the original, Link may be the protagonist but it Hyrule that has all the character. It is exciting to feel that coming to life again.