Ok, hopefully that is sufficiently stuck in your head for the remainder of this read. Today is the 30th birthday of one of the greatest video game franchises in history. As of this writing Nintendo has yet to come out with any sort of celebration, kind of like how the Dursley’s never celebrate Harry Potter’s birthday, so we at GameGravy decided to throw the series a dirty thirtieth birthday extravaganza. In the article we’ll look back a few of the greats and turning points in the series, thoughts from some of the members of the team, and we will also be recording a special podcast with Zelda as the topic.
“My favorite memory was not having Zelda as a kid… So I’d trade Oreos with the boy on the other side of our duplex to let me play Ocarina of Time haha.” (Lexie)
If you were unaware Miyamoto was inspired to create The Legend of Zelda based on his memories of exploring the rural hillsides of Sonobe, Japan. He would go on excursions into forests, lakes, and caves as a child and instilled in him the memories that he would use to design a timeless classic. Zelda was the first adventure game most of us would play. The first game that gave the player a distinct explorative style that rewarded you for taking the time in finding its many secrets. The three pillars of gameplay have remained the same for 30 years, exploring an overworld, interacting with NPCs in towns, and solving dungeons. Releasing on February 21st, 1986 The Legend of Zelda would go on to sell 6.5 million copies worldwide and set up a legacy that would cross generational lines of people and consoles like few other games in history. Plus we were graced with this absolutely ridiculous commercial.
Jumping ahead to the Super Nintendo, Miyamoto would release the first game to truly capture the potential evil that lies within chickens and lets players scour a 16-bit Hyrule to end their tyrannical reign before it could begin. Is it just me that thought Ganon was a front, and the chickens were really the puppet masters pulling the strings with “fowl” motives? Yes? Fine. Moving on, but don’t say you weren’t warned. Many of us on the GameGravy staff have poured dozens of hours into A Link to the Past and to this day remains one of my favorite games of all time. Below, one of our resident Nintendo nerds shares his appreciation for this rupee. (Rupee! Get it? Cause it’s a gem! No more puns I promise.)
“There are some games that are released each generation that when you look back, not only are they timeless, but they define the console that they were released on. While I’ve always been a Nintendo fan and I put countless hours into the original Legend of Zelda and Link’s Adventure on the NES, I really feel that A Link to the Past was the first masterpiece in the Zelda franchise. Not only was it a masterpiece but as I mentioned before it was a generation defining game along with Super Metroid and Donkey Kong Country. I remember A Link to the Past meaning so much to me because it really felt like the first time you had a sense of adventure.
I get that all of the precursors were there on early titles but this Super Nintendo classic just felt magical. From early on when you are questing for the pendants and then collecting them leads you to the Master Sword in the forest, all the scenes just get embedded in your head. Then the midgame boss battle that sends you through to the dark world, a carbon copy of the overworld only the Detroit version (editor’s note: HEY!). Another reason I will always cherish this title, is that my parents never really got into video games with me, but this title grabbed the interest of my Mom. We would stay up over Christmas break and summer vacations and I would explore Hyrule as she would tell me go here and go there, try to use this weapon on the boss. These are really my only memories of a parent joining with me in my passion of video games and that is why I will always have fond memories of A Link to the Past.” (Anthony)
Fast forwarding another generation to the N64, and we have arrived at the moment when Zelda transformed into a fully realized 3D world complete with horseback travel on Epona, and a magical instrument known as an Ocarina. For many gamers this would be their first time entering the world of Hyrule and it delivered. Considered by many to be the game of the decade, Ocarina of Time had everything that a Zelda fan could want and in glorious 3D. Transitioning from a young boy Link to the frozen in carbonite 7 years older version was a fantastic way to jump between past and future to show varying stages of the Hyrule timeline. Even the combat was balanced in different ways since the younger Link was quicker but was not strong enough to wield the Master Sword. Fun fact! During early development Miyamoto tinkered with the idea of making the game playable in the first person perspective. Music played a large role and the buttons of the N64 controllers matched up to the virtual ocarina Link plays in the game.
“You asked for one, but I give you more because I heart Zelda. I think Ocarina Of Time was one of my favorite Zelda games or the one I have the most memory of because I thought it was an epic adventure. The main memory of seeing the Temple Of Time and being excited to time travel is a big memory. Also learning that Sheik was Zelda in disguise, and that she was a sage, rocked me a bit. I feel that it had the coolest ending too of Link being sent back in time by Zelda to complete the circle. This is a game I played more than once and stands out for me in my replayable Zelda favorite list.” (Mike)
Not all is sunshine and daisies when it comes to the history of Zelda. At Spaceworld 2000, Nintendo released a now infamous video showing the capabilities of it’s soon to be Gamecube console. Adult Link and Ganondorf dueling one on one in 128-bit graphics with at the time stunning detail. Soon there after Nintendo would announce it’s sequel to Majora’s Mask and unlike the gritty version we had seen previously, it was the “toon-shaded” Wind Waker. Reaction was mixed from many gamers at the time, but it was a critical darling and sold very well. Wind Waker also included the best damn pre-order bonus ever seen, an emulated copy of Ocarina of Time and The Master Quest of Ocarina. Unfortunately this precedent was not followed by the gaming industry, but that is a mudslinging for another day. This world was later revisited in the well reviewed DS games, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.
“Wind Waker, though graphically unorthodox, has aged very well and is still my personal favorite Zelda experience. The opening title music alone still brings back all the memories of that game and how lovingly rendered it was. Koji Kondo is an absolute genius and really got to expand his range musically. Aesthetically it is simply a beautiful game that balanced the cel-shaded childlike look with a dark story. A report came out eventually that the incredibly long and drawn out end quest of finding 8 (8!) shards of the triforce of courage was implemented due to failing to complete another large dungeon in time for release.
I had played A Link to the Past as well as Ocarina of Time extensively and loved both games but never finished them at the time due to not owning either a Super Nintendo or an N64. Wind Waker was the first Zelda game I completed since the original release on the NES. Thankfully Nintendo loves rereleasing their classics so I was able to finish the Master Quest of Ocarina of Time when I preordered the game and A Link to the Past on the GBA. Even after playing the previous classics there was something that just felt intrinsically unique to Wind Waker and that particular world of Hyrule. There isn’t a series I hold nearer or dearer to my heart than I do The Legend of Zelda. The timeline is absolutely ridiculous but the quality of these games is beyond reproach.” (Dante)
Recently on the site I wrote a feature on the greatest videogame trailers ever. In it I included one of the most important trailers ever released and certainly the one with the biggest reaction. That is of course, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It was originally supposed to release back in 2005 but was heartbreakingly delayed a full year to 2006 and released on the brand new Wii console FIRST! Those lowly Gamecube faithful had to wait another 2 full weeks for Twilight Princess to be unleashed on their preferred console. Twilight Princess sports probably the darkest story to date for a Zelda game and the best secondary character in the series, Midna. Link’s transformation into a wolf left a lot of jaws dropped but the mechanic worked tremendously. Below I including the initial unveiling of Twilight Princess complete with Conan The Barbarian music, bombastic crowd reaction, and the quintessential Miyamoto moment. People literally cried because of this trailer. The HD remake of Twilight Princess will be released on the Wii U March 4th, 2016.
“I remember being pants-poopingly excited when I turned A Link to the Past on in my SNES for the first time and watched that dope as hell mode 7 Triforce form on the screen.” (Eddie)
These games mean so much to fans around the globe and have combined to sell over 75,000,000 copies. There seems to be no end in sight for The Hero of Time to don his green tunic, Master Sword and shield. We wait patiently for more information on the brand new Wii U Zelda and if the hints are true we will see a fully open world Hyrule to explore to our heart’s content. Happy 30th Anniversary to Hyrule, Miyamoto, and the thousands of artists and developers that have brought this world to life across 18 games, 10 consoles, and 3 decades. It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this, an absolutely beautiful orchestral recording of the overarching theme from The Legend of Zelda, why the conductor isn’t using a Wind Waker replica is beyond me.