The Legend of Zelda (1986)

About a month ago I discovered the Wii U shop and how many classic titles they had available to be played on the virtual console. I was excited for the new Legend of Zelda game coming out in 2017, granted at this point I had only played through Windwaker and Phantom Hourglass. I probably plan on replaying them later during my series playthrough because I haven’t played them in so long (and I’m curious as how the HD remake can improve upon one of my favorite games of all time: Windwaker). So where do I begin on this huge nineteen game series? The beginning of course, I wanted to see the roots of this storied franchise and how it all began. So I started up the NES virtual console and away I go.

Right away you are thrown into a vast world with no direction at all, I had no idea what I was doing, where I was going, or what my goal even was. And that was a good thing, it gave me a break from all these modern day games which hold your hand through every little step. It felt like a sincere adventure, discovering different areas, figuring out what different enemies do, effective ways of combating them, and looking for what to do without the constant nagging from a companion that many games suffer from. Something else I noticed was that the game aged very well compared to other games in its era, Link handled well and the art style of the game and top down view actually look decent for being thirty years old. As a testament to the complete lack of direction this game has, it took me about an hour  until I actually stumbled upon the first dungeon, and the entire game only took me about six to seven hours to complete. I plan on writing a paragraph or two for each dungeon in future Zelda game write-ups but for the most part these dungeons were short and uneventful except for a select few. The third, sixth, and ninth dungeons in particular were memorable.

The third dungeon was not that difficult in the overall scope of the game, but it was a sharp spike in difficulty after how easy the first two dungeons were. This dungeon introduced two of the more annoying enemies in the game: the Darknut, and the Bubble. The Darknut was a swordsman enemy who carried a shield and could not be hit from the front. This was tough to deal with because of how random their movement was and how they could turn in any direction at the drop of a dime, by the time I could swing my sword, they would turn and block my attack and hit me for a heart of damage. The Bubble is an invincible enemy that moved erratically and instead of doing damage, they would disable your attacks, which was pretty frustrating when trying to fight Darknuts. Overall, it was not that bad but it was a taste of what was to come.

The sixth dungeon was by far and away the toughest in the game except for the last one. At least a third of my total deaths in this game come from this dungeon. This is where I first encountered the Wizzrobe, possibly my most hated enemy in any video game ever. These guys teleport around the room and shoot magic attacks at you which your Wooden Shield cannot block, so you need to spend 130 Rupees to get a Magical Shield to even stand a chance. They do a hefty amount of damage and you have to try to get to them and hit them before they teleport away, all the while dodging their magical attacks. Usually there is a ton of them in a room so it almost feels like a Bullet Hell game trying to weave in and out of the magic beams. Wizzrobes are the core reason why this dungeon is so tough, but there is another reason: the combo of the Bubbles and Like Likes. Like Likes are not a new enemy in this dungeon but become a real threat when paired with Bubbles. The reason being that Like Likes are typically slow moving and easy to defeat, however if they do manage to get on you, these god-forsaken stacks of pancakes will eat your Magical Shield. So the erratic and fast moving Bubbles disable your attacks and open you up to be swarmed by Like Likes which suck your 130 Rupee investment down the drain. And since you basically need the Magical Shield to deal with the Wizzrobes, it makes for a particularly tough dungeon.

The ninth and final dungeon of the game was extremely challenging. The Wizzrobe/Bubble/Like Like combo makes a return but is coupled with an extremely lengthy labyrinth. It’s not just a regular labyrinth either, it’s got plenty of hidden rooms and stairways the lead across the dungeon to make it even more complicated. On top of that, the only way to find your way around this dungeon is to bomb every single wall in hopes of finding the next room. Another difficult enemy joins the fray in this dungeon, the mini-boss known as Patra. It is a floating eyeball surrounded by seven smaller floating eyeballs that spin quickly around him. I just swung my sword wildly until all the little eyes were dead but it is a very narrow window whether or not you will hit them. Only after you defeat the little eyes can you defeat the big eye, trust me I tried to go past the little eyes to save some time, it did not work. When I got to Ganon I was pretty relieved that I found my way through that maze, but my hopes were dashed pretty quickly when Ganon turned invisible and started teleporting around the room. Essentially to defeat him I just ran around swinging my sword hoping it would connect. Even though I did hit him eventually I didn’t find the Silver Arrow which is needed to finish Ganon off so I needed to do it all over again, at least time I knew where I was going. Ganon was not the tough of a fight, but it did feel really random and I was just praying whenever I swung my sword it would connect, but hey, at least there were no Wizzrobes involved.

Overall the most enjoyable part of the game was the pure sense of adventure and discovery in the overworld. The game rewarded you for figuring out its extremely cryptic and poorly translated text puzzles there was plenty of secrets to be found like Heart Containers, Potions, and the Blue and Red Rings. On the flip side there was also a ton of secrets that there is no way to find without either playing the game for hours or just looking it up (the entrance to dungeon seven comes to mind). While I did just write three paragraphs about why three specific dungeons irritated me at times, I still really enjoyed the challenge they provided. I said it before and I will say it again, this game aged extremely well. I spun up the game expecting to just be playing it as a homage to the rest of the series, but I was proven wrong and I was glued the screen for the six or seven hours that I played it. I only beat the first quest and there is a another quest to beat set in the same world, but I think I will come back to that at a later date. If you ever have a hankering for adventure, I highly recommend The Legend of Zelda (1986).

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