Zelda - A Retrospective

By The Link

    “Even after 10 years The Legend of Zelda never stops changing. And this game is not different” - States Shigeru Miyamoto after the wild roar of cheers and applauses that followed the new Zelda game trailer at the E3 last year; nothing but the truth. Ten years have passed and not a single Zelda game has been like its predecessor. That is the reason why The Legend of Zelda keeps fresh, young and strong. Even the first game was a change; let's take a look back in history:

    When The Legend of Zelda came out back in 1987, it was the first game to include a battery which could be used to save progress in a game and, generally, the gameplay was revolutionary compared to others at that time.

    Then The Adventure of Link came. This game stands out among the series: it had side-scroll action, unlike Zelda 1; it had an experience build-up system, unlike Zelda 1; you could cast spells, unlike Zelda 1; it was extremely difficult, unlike Zelda 1. This game was a complete change from the first one.

    A Link to the Past is, according to many, the best of the series. The awesome graphic display the SNES could add to the amazingly deep and catching story is enough to back this up. You could use a load of cool little gadgets that helped you get through. There were two vast worlds to explore, with tons of places to visit and dozens of people to speak to, each one had their own story to tell. Side quests were bigger, more interesting and even touching (don't tell me you didn't feel a lump in your throat when the boy with the flute turned into a tree!).

    Link's Awakening. Based on ALttP's graphics, style and approach. Not new? Well, this was the first time Hyrule wasn't the name of the land on which Link stood. Instead, the dream island of Koholint was the territory to explore, a place where you could find talking bunnies, bears and crocodiles. It also featured an interesting story, my favorite, in fact; every single bit of text was important for you to completely understand the whole story, the whole reason why Koholint Island inhabitants couldn't leave. But most importantly, it was the first handlheld Zelda, and despite being for a 'limited' portable console, it didn't have anything to ask for to his older brother A Link to the Past, except maybe colour, which was later offered in the Game Boy Color version Link's Awakening DX. One of the best Zeldas, in my humble opinon. Who said portable games were not good enough to be par with console games?

    What was the next step? The Nintendo 64 was on scene now and the obvious change was jumping into 3D. Ocarina of Time is regarded by many gamers and media as the best videogame ever made. This new Zelda introduced a full 3D world of Hyrule, featuring realistic (for that time anyway) Link and Zelda and introducing Ganondorf as we know it. This game was the first prequel of the series recognized as such and pretty much set standards for 3D adventure, just like Mario 64 did. The story took place during seven years, and you could actually see Link grow up from a young lad to an adult. Day and night system, a catching storyline, horseback riding, traveling through time, an epic, memorable soundtrack, spectacular bosses, lots of new and old items, plenty of side quests… And if it hadn't been enough, the difficulty was enhanced in Master Quest, only available by preordering The Wind Waker. No wonder why Ocarina of Time is where it is.

    Then, Majora's Mask took us all by surprise. Pushing the mask and time systems in OoT further. Controlling a young Link through all the game you had to get a vast array of masks to make your quest a little easier. There are three main points that stand out when you play this game, three main changes: the save system was not something everyone loved, but it was something else to care about. You couldn't just save and that's it, you had to be aware of other things in the process. Second, It was the first Zelda game to feature transformations. Depending on which mask you wore, your shape would shift, giving you different abilities each time. Last but not least, this game was pretty dark compared with other games in the series. The atmosphere you felt the night of the last day was really creepy and lonely. A great game indeed.

    Development of the Oracle games started very differently from how it ended. They were going to be three games, not two. In the end, we got Oracle of Ages and oracle of Seasons. The change? Interactivity. To get to know the complete story, you had to play both, using a password feature (also unique in the series) that enabled you to share and transfer data from one game to another. In addition, OoS featured 4 different overworlds, season themed, and OoA featured 3. Apart from places like Subrosia. That makes for 7 different worlds to explore.

    You think ideas for innovation are over? I have one word for you: Multiplayer. A multiplayer Zelda sounded really strange, but it worked really well. Now players could team up with up to three friends to live a unique adventure together. The result was a game as fun as any other multiplayer, enhancing both teamwork and competition to very high levels, keeping balance between a common goal and personal pursuits, like collecting rupees. Lots of rupees. Besides (I love this one), every time you enter a dungeon, it will be different than the last time you entered it, giving the game an overwhelming replay value. I don't remember this feature in any other game.

    Then, the cel-shaded graphics came into place. Graphics had never been an issue in Zelda games until this game arrived. As the first Zelda for Game Cube, no doubt people expected anything but this. Either if you loved or hated the visual style, The Wind Waker was an extremely popular topic in many message boards. The truth is that, as said in the trailer, The Wind Waker deployed a very vivid world of adventure unlike anything you've ever seen before. Period. Once again Nintendo tried something new and was the first to use cel-shaded visuals to create Link's new adventure, showing indeed, an incredibly shiny world. Many criticized them, but then other developers followed, like Capcom with Viewtiful Joe and the upcoming Killer 7. The use of the wind was the main feature here, you could control it so you could sail across a vas Great Sea from Southwest to Northeast. But not only the graphics were innovative, so was the game's use of loading. Unlike the 100% of other console's games, you could experience practically zero loading time through the whole game. A unique way of using technology. And there's more, using the Tingle Tuner you could connect the Game Cube to a Game Boy Advance and get Tingle's help and find secrets and information only available by this means.

    This January, Nintendo once again delivered a brand new adventure with The Minish Cap. Believe me when I say this game is beautiful. Using the WW design, TMC displays animations that look very fluid and truly awesome in the GBA screen. This time we're offered two worlds in one; using the Minish Cap you can shrink in size and discover a huge hidden world. You no longer just stomp on an innocent bug to kill it, now it's the same size as you. Before you know you're humming the music, classic Zelda feeling to it. And this game introduces us to the use of Kinstones. Pieces of medallion-like stones to uncover secrets or get hidden items. Action-packed boss fights, new puzzles to solve and enemies to fight, a princess turned into stone. A new adventure is waiting for you right now.

    The future holds promising things, very promising things. Last year, fans and press cheered and applauded the upcoming Legend of Zelda for Game Cube. If what Shigeru Miyamoto said is true, we can expect a serious change in the series. The horseback fighting we have seen in the trailer is but a single proof of that statement.

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 This page was created by Juliet A. Singleton © 2005. All rights reserved.