It's the first Zelda game. If it wasn't made, I wouldn't be writing this, and you wouldn't have even searched the name and stumbled upon this article. Basically, all you need to know is that Ganon kidnapped Zelda and is wreaking havoc in Hyrule, and Link has to go through a bunch of dungeons to get pieces of the triforce in order to stop him. So come on, les' do dis thang.
Dungeons (when done right)
The dungeons are all incredibly similar, but each has something just a tad unique to it that sets it apart. Sometimes it's the type of enemies that inhabit it, and sometimes its in the layout of the rooms. Each dungeon, while playing almost exactly the same, feels just different enough from the last one to make you want to explore the whole thing.
I have a little dispute over what my favorite dungeon was. Dungeon 8 is massive, holds 2 items, and bosses from previous dungeons are thrown in like regular enemies. The map of dungeon 5, however, looks just like E.T. You decide which is better.
The controls are tight, both the enemies' and your hitboxes are nice and clear, and you almost never feel the need to say “there's no way that hit me!” In most cases, combat scenarios are fair and well paced. You start out fighting easier monsters on the earlier dungeons, and the difficulty ramps up as you learn. There are a few exceptions to this, but they are usually fairly manageable. The sword laser is completely overpowered, but you only have it at full health, and only one beam can be on screen at a time, so you probably won't have it long. The items, other than the boomerang, leave a little to be desired, but nonetheless combat is simple and satisfying.
At first I was a little off-put by the complete lack of direction in the game. I understand that exploration is a big part of any Zelda game, but no direction at all? Not even a hint to start off with? That just seemed a bit annoying. In each dungeon however, you can find an old man who will give you a hint as to where the next dungeon is, but sometimes it just isn't enough. I often found myself looking up a map online to find out where to go next.
On the other hand, you can enter any dungeon you want in any order, as long as you can reach the entrance (which is usually the case, save dungeons 4, 7, and 8). I found this particularly useful when I had to go through dungeon 6. I ended up saving that one for last because... Well, more on that later. The overworld is also full of secrets: caves with old men that give you swords and hearts, moblins who take and give rupees, money making games, and tons of shops. The only problem is that most of the best secrets are hidden behind indiscernible bomb walls. I never would have found half of these secrets if I hadn’t used a map found online.
The bosses in this game are very hit and miss. On one hand you have the dungeon 1 dragon, the multi-headed dragon in dungeons 4 (2 heads) and 8 (4 heads), the spider boss, “Gohma,” and the aptly named plant boss of dungeon 3, “Manhandla.”
On the other hand though, the dungeon 1 boss appears again as the boss of dungeon 7, Dodongo falls to 2 bombs and appears as a somewhat common enemy later, Digdogger dies after only a few hits after the flute is played, and another boss is so disappointing that I've saved it for the bad column.
Nothing about the items really makes them stand out. The stepladder and boomerang are useful, bombs are necessary, and the bow is kinda okay, but they just don't seem all that important. The bow uses precious rupees as ammunition, so it's really not worth it, the raft is only used twice in the entire game, and the magic rod just doesn't seem necessary. Almost every situation in the game can be overcome with a bomb, sword, or key, so the other items just kind of fade into obscurity.
Dungeons (when done wrong... AKA dungeon 6)
I have a Beef with this dungeon in particular, as it caused half of my deaths. The cause? Wizdrobes.
These little guys are really a pain in the ass, and are basically the only enemy worth shaking a stick at in this dungeon. The red ones aren't too big of a problem. When they teleport they face the way they are going to shoot their magic laser beam, charge up for a second, fire, then teleport again. They are fairly easy to take on and can only withstand one hit. The blue ones however, are the bane of all existence. You never know when they are going to shoot their magic beams of death at you, they phase through obstacles, take several hits, and are immune to everything but your sword. Also, their magic beam has little to no cooldown, meaning that while you're busy fighting off the like-likes and red wizdrobes, they can rapid fire three or four shots in your direction. If you try to focus the blue wizdrobes, they can just hit you a few times in a second when you're right next to them, as they take no knock-back at all, but still get those few moments of invulnerability. And what's worse, each beam does 2-3 hearts worth of damage, depending on your armor. That's a lot when the maximum is 16.
Why this dungeon specifically, you ask? There are wizdrobes in later dungeons too, aren't there? Well, yes and no. No other dungeon has nearly as many wizdrobes, and in most cases you can just sprint through the room, bypassing all of them. The problem here is that you have to clear some of the rooms to advance. This is particularly maddening when said room holds something like 3 blue wizdrobes, 5 or 6 reds, and a few like-likes. I was only able to beat the dungeon with 15 hearts, 2 potions, and entering with full health. Even then I died several times because of these stupid things. I have never raged so hard at a Zelda game. Not even at Majora's Mask's water temple.
Sorry about the huge block of text, but the English language holds no words that accurately describe my hatred for dungeon 6.
Final Boss: Ganon
This... Just this... Link has fought his way past multi-headed dragons, moblins with spears and boomerangs, several “THE MANHANDLA”s (they will only acknowledge their name if the “the” is included), and armies of bloodthirsty, teleporting wizards. The final dungeon is a massive labyrinth, full of more deadly enemies, underground passages, old men, and hidden passages behind bombable walls. Ganon is the evil mastermind behind all of the turmoil in Hyrule, the kidnapper of princess Zelda, and directly causing his demise is the sole purpose of your quest. Must be a lengthy and difficult duel ahead, right? Wrong. Basically, all Link has to do is stand still and swing his sword, wait for the now-invisible Ganon to literally walk into it a few times, then deliver a single silver arrow to the groin. That's it. Link just spent 2 hours wandering around the final dungeon, and Ganon goes down in less than a minute. I have no words. Just a facepalm.
This game was as full of enjoyment for me as it was with memes. Sure, there are a few areas that you just want to say “that's absolutely pathetic,” and a few times you want to say “fuck you, wizdrobe,” but the game is incredibly enjoyable the whole way through, despite the wizdro... I mean shortcomings.
The Legend of Zelda is the first in a long series of beloved games, and serves as a sort of template for those to come after it. The game established a lot of genre norms we today take for granted, and this game puts those basics on a pedestal proudly. This game shows us where the medium started and how far it has come. We see those “really? Come on!” moments here because this game is imperfect. Every time we notice these imperfections, it's a testament to developers today who smoothed out those rough patches in later games.
I found that this game is full of awesome imagery; the old man acting as a mentor, guiding the hero, a little guy with a wooden sword having the courage to best a dragon, and an evil overlord sitting on his throne atop a mountain. My favorite, though, by far, comes just after the unfortunately disappointing final boss battle. As Ganon is defeated, he crumbles into dust, leaving his segment of the triforce where he stood. Anyone who has completed this game would not at all doubt the significance of this image. The development team obviously realized this too, as they included it again at the end of the credits.
This game easily takes the first place spot on my list of one game. The competition was practically nonexistent.
1. The Legend of Zelda read