The Legend of Zelda

Graphics: 5
Sound: 5
Control: 5
Depth: 5
Overall: 5

The Legend of Zelda

By: Nintendo
Released: 1986

During the Nintendo heyday of the late 80s, I happily played Commodore and Atari systems. I would play NES games when visiting my friends, enjoying Super Mario Bros, Excitebike, R.C. Pro-Am and the like, but then I would return home and happily go back to Space Taxi or River Raid. Yet there was one NES game I was obsessed with—The Legend of Zelda.

Zelda had great graphics and catchy music, but what grabbed me was the exploration. The "save the princess" plot was paper thin even back then, but you could go almost anywhere on the world map and explore the dungeons out of order…if you didn't die first.

But let's back up a sec. As Link, your quest is to save Princess Zelda from the evil pig-wizard, Ganon. You must gather the eight pieces of the Triforce—each located in a separate dungeon and guarded by a large monster. Finding the dungeons concealed on the world map is half the fun. You'll vanquish beasts, collect Rupees and buy (or find) better weapons and armor along the way—some of which are well hidden. From unearthing secret shops with rare items, to solving the puzzle of the Lost Woods, to receiving the last Heart Container, discovering all the secrets in Zelda is just as much fun as the main quest. When looking for secrets, bombs and fire are your friends. And once you've defeated Ganon, there is a second quest with a remixed overworld and all new dungeons.

After playing through The Legend of Zelda again recently (this time on the Wii Virtual Console), I noticed just how open-ended the game is, compared to its sequels. It always bothered me that the later Zelda games became much more structured—particularly how certain areas outside were gated off until you found particular items. I missed the exploration and freedom. However, I also noticed that the first Zelda game is relatively small. When playing, I was tempted to look up a hint or two on GameFAQs more than once, even though I'd beaten the game many, many times over the years. So as the sequels got larger and more complex, maybe a little structure wasn't so bad.

To sum up, The Legend of Zelda is a childhood favorite of mine. Like many childhood memories, it's a little smaller and simpler than I remember. However, for me, it's just as fun to replay now as the first time I experienced it at my friend’s apartment. If for some reason you haven't played The Legend of Zelda, I highly recommend tracking it down. It's a textbook example of a great game.

- Ben Langberg