All this week, Destructoid will be posting Zelda-themed features to celebrate this weekend's release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. It's Zelda week!
Your stomach is full of butterflies. You can’t get the smile off of your face. The memories of your childhood start rushing through your body. The anticipation is almost unbearable.
For many people, these are the common feelings experienced before playing a brand new Zelda game for the first time. It is an event. New console Zelda games don’t come around very often, so when they do, playing them is a momentous occasion.
But why is this? What makes playing a new Zelda game so special? What makes it so exciting? What makes it so beautiful?
With my excitement for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword nearing unheard of levels, I think I have finally figured it out. I think I finally now understand what makes playing a Zelda game so magical.
A brand new world
No series in the history of videogames has created a more inviting, wonderful, fantastical world than the Legend of Zelda series.
Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Zelda, has always said he was inspired to create the now legendary series after wandering through the woods as a child and discovering a hidden cave.
This sense of exploration and discovery comes through in every Zelda game ever released. Whether the game takes place in the lush kingdom of Hyrule, the mysterious, haunting island of Koholint, or the doomed land of Termina, each world in every Zelda game is full of amazing characters, stunning environments, and numerous secrets.
Every world is thriving with life. Every place has a history. Every character has a story. When playing a Zelda game, the world feels like it exists even when the game is turned off.
From humble beginnings
Nowadays, many videogames like to start with a bang. Whether the train crash of Uncharted 2 or the battle with the hydra in God of War, most modern videogames like to open with a loud, over-the-top set piece to get the action started.
With Zelda, there is no rush to overwhelm the player’s senses with any kind of visual fireworks.
The games just quietly start, most of the time with Link waking up in a small village, going about his normal day. Instead of forcing anything on the player, Zelda games awaken and let the player awaken with them.
The worlds in Zelda games slowly start to expand as the player explores more and more. There is no need to reveal everything right away. If the player wants to explore a new, hidden village, the game goes along with them. If the player wants to stop and take some time to fish in a beautiful, serene lake, the game stops and waits with them.
Instead of the game dictating what to do and where to go, the player makes all the decisions. Or, at least, the game makes them believe they are.
And that is something quite special.
The holiday factor
For me, there is nothing better than holiday gaming. Nothing. The feeling of playing a videogame, wrapped in a blanket, as the rain, snow, and general chill of the late fall season whirls around outside. It is pretty much perfect.
Every single console Zelda game since A Link to the Past (excluding Wind Waker) has been released in November. So that means that every single console Zelda game can be played when the weather is just right.
I have such incredible memories of playing A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess over the long Thanksgiving weekend, the fireplace crackling and covering the room in a warm, nostalgic glow.
Four long, lazy days of nothing but Zelda.
And this amazing feeling lasts throughout the rest of the holiday season, as I dive deeper into my magnificent Zelda adventure. As the turkey leftovers disappear, they are replaced with the soft twinkling of Christmas lights reflecting off my controller.
The perfect combination of all these factors makes playing a Zelda game such a unique, unequaled experience. In fact, I have tried to play other videogames during the holidays and never got the same feeling. No game has come close.
Playing Zelda is truly something special.
Image credit: Stuart Conner
That little gold cartridge
Sadly, Nintendo hasn’t released a Zelda cartridge in years with that same golden shine like they did on the original NES.
But the disappointment people feel from not having this same gold cartridge says something.
Fans were so moved and impressed by the original gold cartridge, that they want that same feeling of wonder again. Even the cartridge of a Zelda game means something to people. That is pretty incredible.
To be fair, Nintendo has at least released more recent Zelda games in gold boxes or with gold-colored labels, but nothing will ever top the feeling of opening the original Legend of Zelda for the first time and seeing that sparkling gold beauty shining up at you.
That memory will stick with me for the rest of my life.
The adventure of a lifetime
When I was young, I used to go on tons of adventures with my friends. We used to fight dragons in the woods behind my house. We used to climb massive trees to retrieve golden treasure from the nests of massive snow eagles. We used to fear for our lives as we climbed from precarious ledge to precarious ledge, trying our best not to fall into the lava right below us.
Of course, all of this happened in the confines of our own backyards. And there were obviously no dragons. No treasures. No snow eagles. No lava.
But in our imaginations, it all existed.
With Zelda, this same sense of glorious adventure returns every time I play it. I don't care how old I am, I know for a fact that I will always play a Zelda game and be able to lose myself in Link's fantastic, epic adventure.
I am Link as he finds the Master Sword. I am Link as he scales the sides of Death Mountain. I am Link as he triumphantly holds the Triforce above his head.
Every time I play a new Zelda game, I embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
When Miyamoto was a child, he discovered a cave in the woods. The moment was so special for him, that he remembered it for the rest of his life, transforming his memories into The Legend of Zelda.
Every time I play a new Zelda game, I discover that cave.
A cave full of magic beyond my wildest dreams.