Imagine waking up in a world that you know nothing of, with only a sword in your hand and a vast kingdom to explore at your own leisure. The freedom to go where you want, when you want and do whatever you want whether that be continue to the quest, delve into the darkest abyss or simple fight monsters. No, I am not talking about Skyrim…I am talking about the 25 year old classic that changed the world. That’s right i’m talking about The Legend of Zelda.
The Legend of Zelda is easily one of the most inspirational games of all time. It is easy to see how the Elder Scrolls Series was inspired, but the entire notion of free roaming was none existent up until this point. Never before could you just do what you wanted without any real purpose. Few games have touched me as much as this one, and that is simply down to the pure, raw enjoyment I get from playing it. You can see so many elements in modern games that derive from the simplicity on display, and yet you don’t care. You are engrossed in the Kingdom of Hyrule, you want to explore everything and you want to uncover all its many secrets. You could simply go from dungeon to dungeon without a care in the world, and that is great, but anyone with even a hint of adventure in their souls will play this game for hours just exploring the open plains, dense forests, murky swamps and rugged highlands.
Graphically the game has not stood the test of time…but at the same time, it is quite amazing to behold when you consider the limitations of the NES. The environments are pretty similar and some are even just copied and pasted, but the variety in the landscape is astonishing. The sheer number of enemy types is equally staggering ranging from giant spiders, to undead soldiers, to strange crab things that shoot acorns and even Dragons. Whilst they most behave pretty much the same, you can appreciate the care put into making each area feel unique and each combat as varied as possible.
The core gameplay is remarkably good as well. Just about everything you would do in later Zelda titles, whether it be 2D or 3D, can be found in this game to some degree. Exploring dungeons for keys, weapons, maps and compasses are all intact. 25 years later, these very same core mechanics are still being used and to make it even more awesome, it is backed by the same soundtrack and uses the same tunes.
All is not brilliant of course, The Legend of Zelda is hard as nails to complete and that is partially down to the complete lack of map and lack of direction. Whilst freedom is one of its strong points, not being able to properly navigate the environment is a bit of a pain. To further dull the experience is the limited controls. In later games Link will be able to move and attack diagonally, in this game…no such luck. You are restricted to up, down, left and right.
Overall, The Legend of Zelda is a brilliant game and even after 25 years it is massively enjoyable to play. Whilst it has some niggling issues, the core experience is rock solid. If you have any interest in retro games, or even just seeing where it all began, you owe it to yourself to pick this up.