On a list of video games that defined my childhood, the Legend of Zelda games lose out only to Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy series. One of the most-played games of my Super Nintendo days was ‘A Link to the Past’, which is widely debated amongst gamers of my generation to be the best Legend of Zelda game.
The first ‘Legend of Zelda’ game was a fantasy-world action-adventure with puzzle-solving elements, created by Shigeru Miyamoto and published by Nintendo in February of 1986. The game centered on a green-clad 8-bit hero named Link, in his quest to save the princess, Zelda, and her kingdom of Hyrule. The game spawned a series of 17 official games, as well as several spin-offs.
The Legend of Zelda is a bit unique in that, while the games usually feature the same characters (Link, Zelda, and the antagonist, Ganon), they are not all parts of the same story. Each game plays out as a stand-alone story that more or less pretends that the other games never existed. For instance, Link may rescue Princess Zelda in one game, but in the next they meet and don’t know each other. Or, in one game Ganon may enslave Hyrule, and in the beginning of the next he’s the king’s sinister right hand.
For my part, my Legend of Zelda love is split between two of the most popular versions of the game: ‘A Link to the Past’ on the Super Nintendo, and ‘Ocarina of Time’ on the Nintendo 64.
‘A Link to the Past’ was the first Legend of Zelda game I ever played, and boy did I pay it a lot. In this 16-bit installment Link is handed the family sword, and with it the responsibility to protect Princess Zelda and the King. When Link goes to visit the royal family he is informed that the evil wizard, Agahnim, is using his magic to whisk people away, and that Link must find a way to stop him. First, the young hero must explore Hyrule and locate the three pendants of virtue – the pendants of Courage, Power, and Wisdom – so that he can venture into the Lost woods to retrieve the Master Sword, which is the only weapon that can defeat Agahnim. Unfortunately, just as Link retrieves the sword he receives a distress call from Zelda and shows up just in time to witness Agahnim make her vanish into midair. Link then follows Agahnim to his Dark World, where he must save seven maidens and retrieve the ‘Golden Power’, the Triforce, in order to save Hyrule from the evil creature that Agahnim has become: Ganon. The adventure in this game was very fantastic and wondrous for its time, with lots of little side-quests, hidden treasures, and a fun cast of characters and creatures. For its time there was a lot involved in completing 100% of the game, but I happily went through the entire thing at least a dozen times in my childhood because it was just that enjoyable.
‘Ocarina of Time’ was the long-awaited game that finally brought Link and Zelda into a three-dimensional Hyrule. What was interesting about the storyline of this one was that it involved game-play in two different eras of time. A child Link sets out on a journey to help a child Zelda to save her kingdom from the bandit, Ganondorf, and in the course of that journey he is propelled through time. Link finds himself quite suddenly a teenager, and Hyrule has fallen into ruin. Our hero must travel to all corners of the land and hop back and forth between past and future in order to gain the tools necessary to defeat the evil Ganondorf. I loved this game for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that the world was so huge, with dozen of places to travel. It was also one of my first experiences with the kind of huge, screen-filling bosses that have become the norm, and that seemed terrifyingly exciting at the time.
But speaking of “terrifying”, I was never a big fan of the second N64 Legend of Zelda game, ‘Majora’s Mask’. That insanely creepy face on the moon that got closer and closer to Hyrule, eventually filling the majority of the sky with glaring eyes and bared teeth… Yeah, that pretty much game me panic attacks of an asthmatic nature.
Were you a Legend of Zelda kid? What was your first Legend of Zelda game? Your favorite? How about your favorite item/weapon? Did that damn moon give you nightmares too? Please share!
Enjoying the A to Z Challenge? Why not check out some of these other participating blogs: