ROG Retro Thoughts – The Legend of Zelda 1: A Humble Beginning

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The Legend of Zelda is one of the more iconic series in all of gaming and the first game in the series started it off right. This is not a review of the game but simply my thoughts on the game. I have a close connection with this game because this is one of the first games I ever played. In fact, I am not sure whether or not The Legend of Zelda or the original Super Mario Bros was the first game I ever played, that’s how early my memories of this game are.

When I was a little kid, the starting screen became such a familiar sight to me, that going back and playing the game again recently made me instantly flash back to my childhood and playing or watching my brothers play. This was not like any other game at the time it was released, and established so many traditions in gaming. All open world games take something from Legend of Zelda on NES, from The Witcher 3 and Elder Scrolls series, to games like Grand Theft Auto 5, and it clearly shows in the DNA of many others. This was a game that, while having an intended order, could be played in almost any order you wanted and that ended up inspiring many other such games.

The Legend of Zelda was able to tell its story so simply as well, with no towns and minimal NPCs. It was an isolated experience, but somehow that made it seem more grand. This was you setting off on an adventure in a mythical land, it was strange and unfamiliar but nonetheless yours to explore. And the more you explored, the more you learned and became fascinated and wanted even more. It was no surprise that sequels were made, but even today players find new ways to experience the original game. New challenges are established for ways to complete the game, either without getting the sword or only using a certain item. Speedruns are common as well, but the real joy is finding out just what you can do and how you can do it. In this way, Breath of the Wild succeeded in going back to the series roots with a game that allowed you to truly play in the way you wanted. It isn’t possible to recapture an exact experience, but studying the past allows one to learn from it, and thus the magic of the original game could be better understood.

I cannot go without mention of the save feature of course, as that was a game changer ( no pun intended) for the industry. Games had allowed you to save using passwords or were simply short experiences before this. The Legend of Zelda 1 showed that a game could be a truly epic experience to be played over the course of days and that games could simply record the progress. In that respect, all modern games except some arcade style indie games owe themselves to The Legend of Zelda 1 for paving the way for lengthy experiences. The game opened doors not only for Nintendo but for gaming as a whole and for that I tip my hat to The Legend of Zelda on NES.

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