The Legend of Zelda (??????, Zeruda no Densetsu?) is an action-adventure video game series created by game designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka and developed and published by Nintendo. The gameplay consists of a mixture of action, adventure, puzzle solving, and role-playing. The series centers on Link, the main playable character and protagonist. Link is often given the task of rescuing Princess Zelda and the most common setting of the series, Hyrule, from Ganon who is the primary antagonist of the series. However, other settings and antagonists have appeared throughout the games, with Vaati having recently become the series’ secondary antagonist. The story commonly involves a relic known as the Triforce, a set of three golden triangles of omnipotence. The protagonist in each game is not always the same iteration of Link, although the same character sometimes appears across multiple games.
The Legend of Zelda series has sold over 52 million copies since the release of the first game, The Legend of Zelda, and continues to be successful worldwide. The series consists of fourteen official games on all of Nintendo’s major consoles, as well as several spin-offs. An animated series based on the games aired in 1989, and individual manga adaptions which are officially endorsed and commissioned by Nintendo have been produced in Japan since 1997.
The Legend of Zelda games feature a mixture of puzzles, strategic action, adventure/battle gameplay, and exploration. These elements have remained constant throughout the series, but with refinements and additions featured in each new game. The player is frequently rewarded for solving puzzles or exploring areas. Most Zelda games involve locating and exploring dungeons, in which puzzles are solved and enemies fought, then defeating the dungeon’s boss. Each dungeon usually has one major item inside, which is usually essential for solving many of the puzzles in that dungeon and often plays a crucial role in defeating that dungeon’s boss. Some items are consistent and appear many times throughout the series, while others are unique to a single game. The series also consists of stealth gameplay, where the player must avoid enemies while proceeding through a level, as well as racing elements.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is a prequel to The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, the first two games released in the series. The back of its packaging states it takes place before The Legend of Zelda. Ocarina of Time is also a prequel, going even further back and implicitly retelling the backstory of A Link to the Past. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has been cited by Nintendo as the direct sequel to Ocarina of Time. The Wind Waker takes place hundreds of years after the events of Ocarina of Time. The game explicitly references the “Hero of Time” from that game, and states that, due to the hero’s absence, it was necessary to flood Hyrule to stop Ganon. The Minish Cap, Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures include references to other titles and are known to be a part of the timeline, but their exact relationships with other games have not officially been made clear.
In an interview conducted by Nintendo Dream with Eiji Aonuma in December 2006, it was revealed that there are two parallel universes in the Zelda chronology. The timeline is split at the end of Ocarina of Time, when Link is sent back in time by Princess Zelda to live through his childhood, while the original events of Ocarina of Time continue on a different path. Once returned to his original time, Link leaves the Master Sword in its place, preventing Ganondorf’s plan from coming to fruition, and goes to see Zelda again, resulting in the “Child Timeline” in which the villain Ganondorf is arrested and tried by the ancient sages. They attempt to execute him, but he overpowers them, and the sages are instead forced to banish him to the Twilight Realm. Twilight Princess then occurs over one hundred years later, after Link’s role as a child in the events of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Meanwhile, The Wind Waker occurs in the “Adult Timeline”, after the Hero of Time saved Hyrule in Ocarina of Time, and it is directly followed by Phantom Hourglass.
The Legend of Zelda was principally inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto’s explorations as a young boy in the hillsides surrounding his childhood home in Kyoto, where he ventured into forests with secluded lakes, caves, and rural villages. According to Miyamoto, one of his most memorable experiences was the discovery of a cave entrance in the middle of the woods. After some hesitation, he apprehensively entered the cave, and explored its depths with the aid of a lantern. This memory has clearly influenced Miyamoto’s work, as cave exploration is a major component of most Zelda games (often by the light of a lantern). Miyamoto has referred to the creation of the Zelda games as an attempt to bring to life a “miniature garden” for players to play with in each game of the series.
Hearing of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda, Miyamoto thought the name sounded “pleasant and significant”. Paying tribute, he chose to name the Princess after her, and titled his creation The Legend of Zelda.
The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System console
The Legend of Zelda, the first game of the series, was first released in Japan on February 21, 1986 on the Famicom Disk System. A cartridge version, using battery-backed memory, was released in the United States on August 22, 1987 and Europe in 1987. The game features a “Second Quest”, accessible on completing the game, in which dungeons and item placement are different, and enemies are more difficult for the player to defeat. In 1994, near the end of the Famicom’s lifespan, the game was rereleased in cartridge format. A modified version, BS Zelda no Densetsu, was released for the Super Famicom’s satellite-based expansion, Satellaview, in the mid-1990s in Japan. BS Zelda was rereleased for the Satellaview a year later, with rearranged dungeons and an altered overworld.
The second game, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, was released for the Famicom Disk System in Japan in January 1987, and for the Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe in November 1988 and North America in December 1988. The game exchanged the top-down perspective for side-scrolling (though the top-down point of view was retained for overworld areas), and introduced RPG elements (such as experience points) not used in The Legend of Zelda. The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II were released in gold-colored game cartridges instead of the console’s regular gray cartridges. Both were rereleased in the final years of the Nintendo Entertainment System with gray cartridges.
Four years later, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past returned to the top-down view (under a 3/4 perspective), and added the concept of an alternate dimension, the Dark World. The game was released for the SNES in 1991. It was later rereleased for the Game Boy Advance on December 9, 2002 in North America, on a cartridge with Four Swords, the first multiplayer Zelda, and then through Nintendo’s Virtual Console service on January 22, 2007. In addition, both this game (unchanged, except for being converted into a downloadable format) and an exclusive “loosely-based” sequel (which used the same game engine) called BS Zelda no Densetsu Kodai no Sekiban were released on the Satellaview in Japan.
Link in the opening cut scene of Link’s Awakening DX
The next game, Link’s Awakening, is the first Zelda for Nintendo’s Game Boy handheld, and the first set outside Hyrule and to exclude Princess Zelda. It was rereleased, in full colour, as a launch title for the Game Boy Color in 1998 as Link’s Awakening DX with some additional features, including an extra color-based dungeon and a photo shop that allows interaction with the Game Boy Printer.
After another hiatus, the series made the transition to 3D with Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64, which was released in November 1998. This game, initially known as Zelda 64, retains the core gameplay of the previous 2D games, and was very successful commercially and critically. It ranks highly on IGN and EGM’s “greatest games of all time” lists, and scored perfect scores in several video game publications. In February 2006, it was ranked by Nintendo Power as the best game released for a Nintendo console. The game was originally developed for the poorly-selling, Japanese-only Nintendo 64DD, but was ported to cartridge format when the 64DD hardware was delayed. A new gameplay mechanic, lock-on targeting, is used in the game, which focuses the camera on a nearby target and alters the player’s actions relative to that target. Such mechanics allow precise sword fighting in a 3D space. Those who preordered the game received a gold-colored cartridge in a limited edition box with a golden plastic card affixed, reading “Collector’s Edition”.
Ocarina of Time, the first 3D-styled game of the franchise
Ocarina of Time was rereleased on the Nintendo GameCube in 2002, when it was offered as a pre-order incentive for The Wind Waker in the U.S., Canada and Japan. Europe continues to receive it free in every copy of The Wind Waker, except for the discounted Player’s Choice version. It includes a previously unreleased 64DD expansion known as Ura Zelda in Japan and Ocarina of Time Master Quest in North America. Ocarina of Time was included as part of Collector’s Edition for the GameCube in 2003. It is now available through the Wii’s Virtual Console service.
Ocarina of Time’s follow-up, Majora’s Mask, was released in November 2000. It uses the same 3D game engine as the previous game, and added a time-based concept, in which Link, the protagonist, relives the events of three days as many times as needed to complete the game’s objectives. It was originally called Zelda Gaiden, a Japanese title that translates as Zelda Side story. Gameplay changed significantly; in addition to the time-limit, Link can use masks to transform into creatures with unique abilities. While Majora’s Mask retains the graphical style of Ocarina of Time, it is also a departure, particularly in its atmosphere. It also features motion-blur, unlike its predecessor. The game is darker, dealing with death and tragedy in a manner not previously seen in the series, and has a sense of impending doom, as a large moon slowly descends upon the land of Termina. All copies of Majora’s Mask are gold cartridges. A “Limited Collector’s Edition” lenticular cartridge label was offered as the pre-order incentive. Copies of the game that were not collector’s editions featured a regular sticker cartridge label. Majora’s Mask is now available on the Virtual Console.
The next two games, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, were released simultaneously for the Game Boy Color, and interact using passwords or a Game Link Cable. After one game has been completed, the player is given a password that allows the other game to be played as a sequel. They were developed by Flagship in conjunction with Nintendo, with supervision from Miyamoto. After the team experimented with porting the original The Legend of Zelda to the Game Boy Color, they decided to make an original trilogy to be called the “Triforce Series”. When the password system linking the three games proved too troublesome, the concept was reduced to two games at Miyamoto’s suggestion. These two games became Oracle of Ages, which is more puzzle-based, and Oracle of Seasons, which is more action-oriented. ?
The cel-shaded art-style of The Wind Waker
When Nintendo revealed the Nintendo GameCube on August 24, 2000, the day before Nintendo’s SpaceWorld 2000 exposition, a software demonstration showed a realistically-styled real-time duel between Ganondorf and Link. Fans and the media speculated that the battle might be from a Zelda game in development. At Spaceworld 2001 Nintendo showed a cel-shaded Zelda title, later released as The Wind Waker, which Miyamoto felt would “extend Zelda’s reach to all ages”. The media reported that Zelda was shifting to a younger audience, to Miyamoto’s surprise. Nothing further was shown until a playable demonstration was ready, which was well-received. The gameplay centers on controlling wind with a baton called the “Wind Waker” and sailing a small boat around an island-filled ocean, retaining similar gameplay mechanics as the previous 3D games in the series.
The next game released in the series was Four Swords Adventures for the GameCube, which was released in early 2004 in Japan and America, and January 2005 in Europe. Based on the handheld Four Swords, Four Swords Adventures was another deviation from previous Zelda gameplay, focusing on level-based and multiplayer gameplay. The game contains 24 levels and a map screen; there is no connecting overworld. For multiplayer features, each player must use a Game Boy Advance system linked to the Nintendo GameCube via a Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance cable. The game also features a single-player campaign, in which using a Game Boy Advance is optional.
Four Swords Adventures includes two gameplay modes: “Hyrulean Adventure”, with a plot and gameplay similar to other Zelda games, and “Shadow Battle”, in which multiple Links, played by multiple players, battle each other. The Japanese version includes an exclusive third segment, “Navi Trackers” (originally designed as the stand-alone game “Tetra’s Trackers”), which contains spoken dialog for most of the characters, unlike other games in The Legend of Zelda series.
An official Twilight Princess illustration
In November 2004 in Japan and Europe, and January 2005 in America, Nintendo released The Minish Cap for the Game Boy Advance. In The Minish Cap Link can shrink in size using a mystical, sentient hat named Ezlo. While shrunk, he can see previously-explored parts of a dungeon from a different perspective, and enter areas through otherwise-impassable openings.
In November 2006, Twilight Princess was released as the first Zelda game on the Wii, and later, in December 2006, on the Nintendo GameCube, the console for which it was originally developed. The Wii version features a reversed world; everything that is in the west on the GameCube is in the east on the Wii, and vice versa (The game was mirrored in order to make Link right-handed to make use of the Wii remote feel more natural). The game chronicles the struggle of an older Link to rid Hyrule of the “Twilight Realm”, a mysterious force consuming the land. When he enters this realm, he is transformed into a wolf, changing the gameplay. Twilight Princess also features horseback transportation and mounted battle scenarios, including boss battles.
At the 2006 Game Developers Conference, a trailer for Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS was shown. It revealed traditional top-down Zelda gameplay optimized for the DS’ features, with a cel-shaded graphical style similar to The Wind Waker. At E3 2006, Nintendo confirmed the game’s status as a direct sequel to The Wind Waker, and released an extensive playable demo, including a multiplayer mode with “capture the flag” elements. Phantom Hourglass was released on June 23, 2007 in Japan, October 1, 2007 in North America and October 19, 2007 in Europe.
The next Legend of Zelda for the DS, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (tentative title), was confirmed to be in development at GDC ’09 by Satoru Iwata. It is slated for release later in 2009.
Shigeru Miyamoto officially confirmed that a new Zelda game is in development for the Wii during E3 2008. He reiterated his announcement during E3 2009, noting that game will include Wii MotionPlus support (perhaps mandatorily, depending on how Wii Sports Resort fares in sales), and stated that the game will be released sometime after 2009. Leaked concept art for said game shows Link appearing much how he does in Twilight Princess, but noticeably without a sword. In the same image, a ghostly girl that resembles the Queen of Fairies from The Wind Waker is standing beside him. Fans have noticed that the girl wears a dress that resembles the hilt of the Master Sword, along with several other features that come close to the Master Sword’s design.
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