Review: "Well exccccccccuuuuuuuussssssssse me Princess."
How do you review a re-release of what is arguably the greatest game ever created? Do I talk about my feelings about The Legend of Zelda from the perspective of the eight year old boy that first played it? Is it even fair to compare it to contemporary games? Should I try to wipe the slate clean and review it as if I had never played it before? That would be quite the difficult task. I guess I'll just have to dive right in and find out.
The original Legend of Zelda laid the foundation for all action RPGs to come. It's influence can be seen in other NES classics like Crystalis and Startropics, the Super NES masterpiece Secret of Mana and countless other "next generation" games. The term Zelda-like is an accepted adjective in the video game reviewer's lexicon.
The Legend of Zelda utilizes the same top down overhead viewpoint that all of the other Game Boy Zeldas (and Super NES version of A Link to the Past) use. Your sword is always used with the A button and your secondary item is mapped to the B button. Now since this is the first Zelda, there are fewer options when it comes to secondary items. But there are still many of the standbys that have come to represent the series including bombs, the healing potion, the boomerang and the whistle.
The game is recreated exactly as it was all those years ago. Even the slowdown is there when it's supposed to be. This also leads to the other sole complaint of this game: the control feels very unrefined. All control was unrefined in the NES days, but compared to other Zeldas, the control here is a tad stiff. I'll be honest, I would have preferred it if Nintendo could have fixed these small things. Even if that does negate some of the purity Nintendo was going for by using more or less emulated versions of the NES original.
The only visible changes are a new copyright date on the tile screen, a "Wait... Saving" screen after you save and the ability to save anywhere and at anytime (this was included in the original NES version, but was considered more of a glitch than a feature). Of course there is also the added bonus that The Legend of Zelda is now portable.
The original Zelda includes tasks and items that make it unique in the series. To some people that would make it sound like these items didn't work or were unpopular, but personally I think they add to the game considerably. Like for some reason, the Ladder and the Raft have never made much of an impact on the series. Or burning bushes to find secret passageways with the Candle. Or the use of the Blue Ring and the Red Ring to make Link stronger. The Seocnd Quest, which is accessible only after you beat the game (or with a special code) that changes the location of almost everything, is also a great addition. It was like getting two games in one and the sheer difficulty of it made Zelda stand out then, and now.
If nothing else, the foundation that The Legend of Zelda has built for the series is interesting to behold. The first use of music with the powerful warp Whistle still has that tune ingrained in my head. The importance of fairies is also pointed out early and often in Zelda. And of course, the Underworld puzzles that have to be solved by using bombs to find secret passageways and moving blocks to open up hidden staircases has been carried over into every Zelda adventure.
While it looks ancient compared to subsequent Zelda outings, The Legend of Zelda was groundbreaking for an NES game of the time. For an NES Classic game on the Game Boy Advance, the game still looks as good as ever. Like I said, newer Zeldas may have eclipsed the original in graphical prowess, but the original still looks good as you traverse the fields, forests, deserts, mountains and cemeteries of Hyrule.
Music from The Legend of Zelda has also become a huge part of the video game world. Just listen to "The Legend of Zelda Theme" by System of a Down to see just how big. But as with the rest of the game, the three main musical themes (the Title Screen Theme, the Overworld Theme and the Underworld Theme) are all accounted for and they sound just as great now as they did then. Couple that with the Whistle, one of the most famous video game sound effects ever, and you've got a nice sounding Zelda package.
The true appeal in an exact port like this is proving to yourself that you've still got it. The Legend of Zelda built adventure gaming and getting to relive that this week with the NES Classics Series version has been great. Forsaking all the strategy guides and Internet FAQs and yellowed hand drawn maps from childhood, sitting down and seeing if you can conquer the evil Ganon going in fresh. This new port is also an opportunity to show one of the greatest games ever to the younger generation. It's almost frightening to think that people who played the original Zelda as children might now have rugrats of their own.