Considering that Nintendo have announced a new Zelda game for the 3DS. I thought I would write an article about the history of the Zelda series. I won’t go over all of the portable games because it will take me forever. So lets begin in the year 1986.
The Legend of Zelda (NES, 1986):
This game started off the series that we all know and love today. Shigeru Miyamoto was working on this game at
the same time as Super Mario Bros. He wanted to differentiate the two games. Miyamoto wanted Mario to focus on high scores, but Zelda was all about progress and completing the game.
Zelda was a revolutionary game for the time because there wasn’t really an abundance of open world RPG’s for home consoles (except Final Fantasy) and it really laid the foundations for open world games on future console generations too.
This game had a simple story; You play as Link and you have to save princess Zelda, collect the pieces of Triforce, and defeat Ganon. Miyamoto got his inspiration from his own childhood where he would go and explore various caves and forest in his home town. He wanted to replicate his experiences in the this game.
The Legend of Zelda did really well with 6.51 million units sold and it was the first NES game to break the million mark and I don’t think Nintendo themselves knew they had a hit game that will carry on for the next 20 years.
Zelda II: The Adventures of Link (NES, 1987):
Zelda II was released a year later after the first game in Japan followed by a North American and European release in 1988. This game is frequently bashed because it doesn’t play like the previous Zelda game. The reason for this is that it’s not in it’s traditional top down view; well, tell a lie, it is, but only in the over world. It traded the top down view in for a side scrolling style which I would guess that they took from Super Mario.
This game was super hard and if you died you have to start at the beginning and find the temple you were previously in. This was the first Zelda game to use an experience point system as it wanted take on that traditional RPG feel, but this was the first and only time that they used this system so who knows maybe we’ll see again in the future?
In my opinion it’s good to change up the formula in a gaming franchise then your fans can say what works and what doesn’t so you can implement these ideas in the next game, but again Miyamoto saw this game as a failure and said that Link to the Past was the true sequel to the series.
Zelda A Link to the Past (SNES, 1991):
This was the first and only Zelda game to be on the SNES, but it was also the biggest selling game on the console and also a technical break through with the amount storage they used to differentiate the two worlds. They needed more memory to make the light and dark worlds. This game is hailed to be one of the best games in the series, but in my opinion; It’s a good game but it’s not the best, don’t get me wrong it is really fun to play, I just don’t think it’s the best.
It had a tighter control system compared to original on the NES because instead of having a forward stab you have side slash attack which made battles faster and fluid. The games world was huge for the time it was released and was super fun to go and explore all these secrets and nooks and crannies.
If you haven’t played this game please do, you can pick it up on the Wii Virtual Console for 800 Wii points and you will be satisfied with amount of hours you will get out of this game.
Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening (GB 1993, GBC 1998):
This was the first Zelda game to reach the portable console in 1993, the coolest thing about this game was that it had Mario enemies like Shy Guys, Boos and Goombas and there is a part where you have a chainchomp that eats your enemies which is pretty awesome. It also received a colour remake in 1998 in the form of Links Awakening DX (Deluxe) it was the same game but it had colour, so there wasn’t any major changes to actual game. This game is known to be one of the best portable Zelda titles ever released in the opinion of the Zelda community.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64 1998):
As games transitioned into 3D so did Zelda and it was a good move. Zelda Ocarina of Time is considered to be the best game of all time and the best selling Nintendo game of all time. In this one you still played as Link but the story is split up into two sections. One chapter when you play as child Link and the other chapter when you play as adult Link. The difference between the two chapters is that Link as a child could get through small gaps, but adult link could wield bigger and stronger weapons. You also used a magical instrument called the Ocarina of Time which allowed you to warp, summon your trusty steed, control the weather and the day and night cycles that is if you have managed to learn the songs.
The gameplay again was finely tuned for example because it was a 3D game the combat had to be overhauled and change so you had “Z” targeting system which you could switch from enemy to enemy to make the combat fast paced and smooth. Considering the restrictions for the cartridge based system the graphics and detail in game were fantastic for time and even the size of the world you could explore was huge. This was the first game that started chronology of the series because up until this game the order was a complete and utter mystery. It was split up into three time lines the child and adult era where Ganondorf is defeated and the other time when Link is defeated. I won’t go into complete detail about it because I’ll be here until Christmas – maybe I’ll do it in a separate article.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64, 2000):
Using the same 3D engine as The Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask was considered to be the darkest Zelda game in the series. You had all your weird characters, but they were all going to die because of the moon that was over shadowing the land of Termina, which is a land parrelle to Hyrule. The gameplay with the combat was the same as Ocarina, but the combat and gameplay was mixed up a little because you could use different masks that have different effects. For example at the start of the game you get turned into a Deku Scrub and you reversed the spell by getting your Ocarina back and you could use the mask any time you wanted to. The game ran on a three day cycle which was roughly about an hour in real time, but if you play the song of time backwards you could slow the clock down. If you want to save you play the song of time, but it will send you back to clock town on day one unless you find an owl statue which will save your current progress.
In my opinion this is my favourite Zelda game of all time because it had a really good and dark story to it, which you don’t get too often these days and I wish they would release a HD version for the Wii U.
Legend of Zelda Oracle of Ages and Seasons (2001, GBC):
Nintendo went handheld again before releasing the Gamecube, they released The Oracle games which had a unique feature for the time which was if you completed one of them you would get a code to use for the other game and you could play as a sequel and it would carry on where you left off. I know this feature is not exactly new these days because games such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age do this, but for the time and the restricted portable hardware, it was a revolution. They were going to release a third game in this series but it proved too difficult to system link three games at this time.
Lengend of Zelda Wind Waker (2003 GC):
When Nintendo released the Gamecube it wasn’t long until Zelda joined the party in the form of Wind Waker. The first thing that stood out to me was the cell shaded graphics which added more beautiful scenes to an already colourful world. A lot of people criticise this game because of the graphics and the sailing, but I liked this unique art style and if you didn’t play this game the first time round and own a Wii U Nintendo are releasing a revamped HD version of it soon.
This game was very different to the other Zelda games because Hyrule this time round was not one big land mass it was divided up into islands and you get around by using a boat or using a baton called the Wind Waker. I love this game for the pirate aspect and exploring the high seas and finding secrets all around Hyrule.
The Four Swords Trilogy (2003-2004 GBA, GC):
The four swords trilogy began in 2003 (Europe release) as an muliplayer add-on for a re-release of A Link to the Past on Game Boy Advance, where you need other players in order to play the game. The games story is about an evil sorcerer called Vaati (a game without Ganon) who kidnaps princess Zelda and link finds a sword called the “Four sword”. What does it do to Link? It splits him in to four. There were three games in total, they released Four Swords Adventures on the Gamecube which you could play on your own or with friends. But the problem was when you played with friends you all needed a Gameboy Advance each and a system link cable which proved to be annoying. The Minish Cap was a prequel to the four swords game where you learn the origin of the sorcerer Vaati. It was a weird game because you had a talking hat that could shrink you to microscopic proportions, but still a fun and amazing game.
Twilight Princes (2006 GC, 2007 Wii):
Although this game was released on the Gamecube originally, it’s known to be the must have launch title for the Wii. This game controlled similar to it’s 3D counterparts, but the main problem that I had with this game is that it tried way too hard to be dark, and not in a unique way, but in a very low lighting way. But besides that this game is still good and has equally creepy, filled withsketchy moments like Majoras Mask. The motion control was simple and not bad for the Wii but I do prefer a controller. The basic story of this game is that the twilight realm has leaked into Hyrule and you must also help save it from Ganondorf because he has taken control of it. The cool thing about this game is that you solve various puzzles by swapping from a human and wolf form. I used to get stuck all the time because I didn’t realise that I had to turn into a wolf to solve this puzzle. This isn’t the best game but it still holds out to be a decent Zelda title.
The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword (2011 Wii):
This is the latest instalment in the series, takes place before all the other Zelda games before Hyrule was founded. The games story is a prequel to the entire series, it tells an origin story of the master and Ganon. This game, considering it was for the Wii is beautiful with it’s vibrant colour scheme. This game also uses the Wii Motion Plus feature which fine tuned the swords play. Don’t get me wrong it works rather well, but give me a normal controller any day.
So there you are, almost 30 years of Zelda. Nintendo have recently announced Zelda a Link to the Past 2, it’s the first time to my knowledge that they have returned to an existing world, also the remastered version of Wind Waker for the Wii U. I know some people think that they are making the same game, but it has a theme that never gets boring – adventure. What do you think, do you think that they shouldn’t return to an existing world or do you think they should focus on a new main title for the Wii U? Let me know in the comments below.