The Legend of Zelda
Way back in the late 1980s, my friend Marc introduced me to The Legend of Zelda. It was a different kind of game in a world of sports games and platformers. Instead of jumping like Mario, you were given a sword and shield in a top-down style gameplay. You could actually save your game and continue it later instead of having to start over from the beginning. It was different. It was cool. You fought your way through dungeons in your quest to save Princess Zelda, gathering additional tools and weapons as you went along. And when you finally found your way through the maze that was level nine, you faced Ganon, the pig-like evil wizard trying to use the Triforce for his power-mad, evil ways.
My brothers and I loved The Legend of Zelda from the first time we played it on the old NES. Back then, games didn’t have the stories like they do now. There wasn’t a lot of drama or in-depth characters, just a good guy trying to defeat a bad guy. Zelda II: The Adventures of Link didn’t follow the same gameplay mechanics, using a side-scrolling style instead, and while I enjoyed the game, it just wasn’t as good as the original. It just didn’t have the same magic the first one did.
Then came the SNES game: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which remains one of my favorites to this day. Nintendo returned to the top-down style and the overall gameplay resembled the first Zelda game. The story was given more depth, the graphics were amazing for the time, the soundtrack was awesome, and the game itself was fun. I remember traveling into the dark world for the first time—you knew it was going to be dangerous, but you just weren’t sure what to expect. And while it wasn’t as scary as you might have thought it would be, it was the same map, only different, which made you want to visit every area to see what was different in the dark world versus regular Hyrule.
Over the years there have been many Zelda games, each one with its own uniqueness that makes it the favorite of someone. For me, it is hard to pick just one:
- A Link to the Past offers simplicity compared to current games and nostalgia that no other game can touch.
- Ocarina of Time let us explore Hyrule in an open 3D world and provided some backstories and character depth compared to the old games. It also offered us some epic boss battles with excellent music to make us feel like we were in a fight for our lives—Twinrova with a good sound system is still memorable for me to this day.
- Majora’s Mask was so dark that it was downright enjoyable and was the first game to actually make me shed tears (that poor little girl and her cursed mummified father). While frustrating at times, I just enjoyed the game overall, from its sad tales to playing out the same days in a sort of heroic try-to-save-everyone before finally confronting Majora. Plus, I absolutely enjoyed stalking people to learn their daily routines—it made them feel alive in some way.
- Wind Waker was so colorful and let me live out the joys of sea adventures into the unknown, charting islands and encountering the legendary ghost ship. And, once again the music was absolutely awesome and includes some of my favorite musical pieces from the Zelda series. In fact, the title theme itself, especially the variation that plays during the end credits, is among my favorite musical pieces of all time.
Overall, I would say my favorite Zelda game is probably Twilight Princess. The game brought together the best aspects of the previous games and put them into a compelling story with enjoyable gameplay. It finally gave us decent horseback fighting abilities, and nothing is more satisfying than holding the Master Sword above your head at full speed into battle. Though the story wasn’t quite as dark as Majora’s Mask, it was more grown-up than previous Zelda games. Link was growing up, as were his fans. We had grown up with him, fighting Ganon and saving Zelda, and now we could see him as a warrior.
To me, it seems that Twilight Princess was the turning point in the Zelda series. The games were no longer as childish as they had been before, and it was a change they needed to make to stay fresh and appeal to fans, new and old. Us original Zelda fans were adults, and many were turned off by the cutesy graphics and childish characters. The old games will always be loved, just as all of the great classics, but it paved the way for the current direction of the Zelda universe. Breath of the Wild feels vaguely similar to Twilight Princess in some ways, and I have no doubt it wouldn’t have happened if Twilight Princess wouldn’t have taken the step it did to change the Zelda games.
Sadly, though I do own Breath of the Wild and have spent many hours playing it, Twilight Princess was the last Zelda game I played through to the end. Breath of the Wild just doesn’t hold my interest as well as the Zelda games of the past. This is why I say that Twilight Princess is probably my favorite of them all—it seems to have set a level that has yet to be topped. Perhaps my interest just moved on to other games as I got older. Perhaps my patience just isn’t what it was years ago. No matter what the reasons, I still consider myself a big fan of the Zelda universe and I hope Nintendo continues to add new titles, as well as remakes, to the Zelda library of games. I cannot imagine a world without Link and Zelda.