A Brief History of Legend of Zelda

After the successful international release of the Nintendo Entertainment System and its flagship title Super Mario Brothers, Mario creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, began brainstorming other ideas for games on this new system, Miyamoto thought back to his childhood and how he used to explore fields and caves in the countryside near his home, he then channeled his memories along with elements of Disney's Peter Pan and the mythology of King Arthur into a new title called The Legend of Zelda.


The Legend of Zelda was released on August 22nd, 1987 and it was a massive departure from other games of that era. Players were placed into the role of an adventurous boy named Linc and tasked with collecting eight shards of the sacred artifact known as the Triforce in order to defeat some evil pig dude named Ganon and rescued the princess Zelda, and all of this was done from a unique overhead perspective allowing the players to freely roam the expansive land that was Hyrule. This wasn't some 5 minutes a long game like Ataris adventure. This game was so freaking big that Nintendo actually had to implement one of the first ever save systems into the game just to give players a fair chance at beating it.

The game was a massive, critical and commercial success for Nintendo selling more than 6.5 million units and becoming one of the most influential early RPGs released on a home console and it's natural that Nintendo would want to capitalize on the success of their new game. So they quickly began work on a sequel. However, Miyamoto wanted this game to be completely different from the original Zelda and assembled a new team to begin work on what will become Zelda 2. The Adventure of Link released on December 1st, 1988. The Adventure of Link resembled more of a traditional RPG than its predecessor. The overworld map was back, but it was far more zoomed out and it was merely a means of getting from point A to point B. No, the real meat of the game actually took place from a more Mario, esque side-scrolling perspective, a change that didn't really sit well with a lot of fans, making Zelda sort of the black sheep of the series, despite selling one - and it seems Nintendo noticed this - for when it came time to follow up on Zelda, they decided returned the series to its roots while also revitalizing it a bit and clearly they wanted to make sure this third entry in the series was done just right as it didn't come out until April of 1992. Nearly four years and a whole generational shift after Zelda. But it was well worth the wait for The Legend of Zelda A link to the past was quite frankly a landmark game for its era at its core.

A Link to the Past featured the same basic gameplay formula as the original Zelda, but thanks to the improved processing power of Nintendo's 16-bit powerhouse, the Super Nintendo, they were able to make several tweaks and new additions such as swiping your sword instead of just stabbing forward. The introduction of diagonal movement, a slightly more streamlined approach to the exploration, new items, new weapons and much much more, a Link to the Past was yet another success in the string of hits. That was the Zelda franchise selling 4.1 million units on the SNES and garnering several perfect or near-perfect review scores. It's still commonly held as one of the best games ever released on the SNES and its multiple releases have sold millions of copies. Each Nintendo had struck gold with the Link to the Past and basically the only way they could have topped what they did on the Super Nintendo would have required them to completely revolutionize gaming, so they completely revolutionized gaming with the release of the Nintendo 64 and games like Super Mario 64.

Nintendo helped usher gaming into the third dimension and basically laid the groundwork for almost all 3d platformers to come, and after that they decided to do the exact same thing for the adventure game genre with The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. On November 23rd, 1998 yeah take that what else was out at that time quest 64. You got a stupid name now. Well, it might have been easy to mistake. Ocarina of Time is just a Link to the Past in a lot more thought and care went into this title than you might expect. Most notably the introduction of lock-on targeting solved a lot of the problems that developers of early 3d titles were facing, not to mention that the game's sheer scope and graphical prowess was pretty unprecedented at the time to call Ocarina of time a hit would not be doing the game justice. Well, over 7.6 million copies were sold during its lifetime. What is more impressive is that Ocarina is still consistently named as one of the best video games ever made for a while. It was considered the best game of all time by many fans and critics in the industry, and some would argue that it still holds that title.

Nintendo knew that following up Ocarina of time was going to be difficult. So, instead of trying to one-up themselves with an even bigger, better trendsetter game, they instead decided to go in a completely different and more experimental direction. On October 26, 2000, the company released the Legend of Zelda Majora's Mask for the Nintendo 64, a game that reused a lot of Ocarina's assets so that its development could be completed in just a year. The title also featured an untraditional story structure which saw the player reliving the same three-day loop over and over again until they were able to stop this constipated nightmare from crashing into the world and killing well everything. I kind of forgot to mention this game storyline was darker and more mature than pretty much every other Zelda game before or since.

While Majora's Mask wasn't as commercially successful as Ocarina of Time selling a little over 3 million copies during its lifetime. That wasn't Nintendo's goal with this ski. Their goal was to tell a different and more unique story within the Zelda universe, and they most definitely succeeded and the game has since gained a massive cult, following with some fans arguing that it's even better than Ocarina of Time later that same year, Nintendo showed off a tech demo for their next Zelda game on their brand-new sure to be financially successful in commercially competitive console the Gamecube. Don't hate me I love the Gamecube. I grew up on it, but it didn't do that well, PS2 kind of crushed it. The trailer featured a realistic-looking Link and Ganondorf facing off in a sword fighting duel, the more realistic art style resonated with many fans but as the project moved forward, several developers felt it was too derivative and wanted to move in a completely different direction and the result of this change was The Legend of Zelda, the Wind Waker released for the Nintendo GameCube on March 24th, 2002. The cartoony borderline Ghibli art style of Wind Waker was a far cry from the realism found in Majora's Mask, in Ocarina of Time, and the world found within. It was a lot wetter and while critics loved the game, the fanbase was split over the graphical direction taken by Nintendo and it was this split fan response mixed with Win Waker's slightly disappointing sales that greatly influenced the setting of the company's next sale.

The much darker The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess released November 19th, 2006. Twilight Princess released almost simultaneously for both the Gamecube and Nintendo's new Wii system, making it the first Zelda title to incorporate motion controllers. But perhaps the biggest change to the gameplay came in the form of wolf Link, a form the player could assume to move more quickly and access new paths forward. The game like pretty much all others in the franchise was released to near-universal critical acclaim and went on to sell 8.8 million copies across both the Wii and GameCube making it the best-selling game in the series to date.

Nintendo wishes to continue on this success well also further incorporating motion controls in the Pizzelle de Series, with their newly upgraded Wii Motion Plus controller setup. What resulted from these efforts was the Wii exclusive, The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword, a game with ambitions to rival Ocarina of time released on November 18th. 2011. The initial critical reception of the title was incredibly positive, with several outlets praising the game's attempts at humanizing its long-established characters, as well as its intricate plot and gorgeous art direction. However, as time has gone on, other critics and fans have pointed out several of the flaws present in Skyward Sword, including dated level design elements and controls that just didn't work quite right. Needless to say, this game has been divisive, to say the least, and there have been many videos picking it apart and offering all sorts of varying opinions.

In case, you've been keeping count, that's 8 main series Zelda titles, which is a ton of game. I mean this is one of Nintendo's most treasured franchises and you know what that means spin-offs. The Zelda series is chock-full of them from manga adaptations to symphonic orchestras and cartoons from the 80s. Well, excuse me, Princess, I'm not sure if I was supposed to record that or not, and there were even some games, can we call them games. There were a few electronic media things released for the Philips CDI that still haunt us to this day, but the series is also full of games released for Nintendo's handheld consoles, most of which actually followed the gameplay formula of a Link to the Past. The first of these games was the legend of Zelda links awakening released on the Game Boy in August 1993, which was then re-released for the Game Boy Color in 1998. It was followed up on May 14, 2001, by a pair of titles called the Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, games that focused on puzzle solving and combat respectively, and could be linked together to unlock special items and additional story.

On December 2nd, 2002, a new Multi focus LD game title for swords was released on the Game Boy Advance alongside a GBA port of a Link to the Past, and the four swords formula even went on to see a release on the Nintendo GameCube called Four Swords Adventures on June 7th 2004 and The last of the Zelda franchises GBA spin-offs would come in the form of 2005's The Minish Cap, in which Link got all tiny and his hat was also a duck or something whatever I don't know, but have no fear the Nintendo DS would pick that Zelda spin-off baton right back up with the release of The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass on October, 1st 2007 in Spirit Tracks on December 7th, 2009, both of which were continuation of the story and art style featured in Wind Waker.

And finally, the Nintendo 3ds would be given a slew of games as well, boasting enhanced remakes of both Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask as well as a spiritual successor to it, Link to the Past known as a link between worlds. This game released on November 22nd, 2013 was heavily praised for bringing the series back to its much simpler route, similar to how the original Link to the Past was praised way back in 1992. Nintendo later used the core of this game to put together yet another Handheld spin-off this time, a co-op adventure game known as Triforce heroes, a game that was nowhere near as acclaimed as a link between worlds but sold decently well and gave the world such gifts as cheerleader Link, cheetah Link and 80s hair metal links. So I don't know about you, but it's a perfect 10 out of 10 in my book now. For the longest time handhelds were the only place you could really find Zelda spin-offs.

With the exception of the aforementioned Four Swords Adventures, it's something like Link's crossbow training, but that all changed with the release of the Nintendo Wii U, which saw HD remasters of both Wind Waker and Twilight Princess in 2013 and 2016 respectively. However, it was in between those games in late 2014 that the world saw perhaps the weirdest Zelda spin-off yet, a crossover between the Zelda series and the Dynasty Warriors franchise known as Hyrule Warriors. This game basically threw off the shackles that kept the series grounded and just let it run wild, providing perhaps the most fast-paced and action-heavy game in the entire franchise. The game garnered some pretty positive reviews, sold decently well and even saw a 3ds port in 2016, but throughout all of this, all of these remakes and handheld spin-offs, any signs of a new main series console Zelda were faint.

At best, the most fans had to hold on to was a brief teaser trailer from E3 2014 that was until 2016 when Nintendo officially unveiled Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild slated for release on both the Wii U and the upcoming Nintendo's switch in 2017 Breath of the Wild looks to be yet another huge leap for the Zelda franchise more or less ditching the formula it had been following ever since 1998 in favor of a more open world experience reminiscent of both the original Zelda and games like The Witcher and Skyrim. And this new direction, while inspiring some skepticism has gotten most Zelda fans both intrigued and very excited to see what Nintendo's got cooking. I'm imagining you're going to use a gameplay clip of Link cooking in the pot right here.

The Legend of Zelda is, withouta doubt, one of the most celebrated and influential franchises in gaming history. Well, something like adventure may have come first, it was the original Legend of Zelda that truly put the adventure game genre on the map and only about a decade later the same series that popularized the genre then managed to completely revolutionize it, creating the standard that virtually every single 3d adventure game has followed since. While these days there are many games like it, there was still no mistaking that The Legend of Zelda is and seemingly always will be in a league of its own heck. Although, we still have a few months to go before we see what the future of the series has in store, that doesn't change the fact that the Legend of Zelda stamp on gaming history was made decades ago and has long since been made permanent. It has provided gamers with imaginative and gripping adventures for nearly three decades now, and even after all these years, the series is still willing to try new things, changing and evolving with the times. Even if that change is a little bit belated and while it may not be the mainstream frontrunner of its genre anymore, there will never be a game series as synonymous with fantasy and adventure than the granddaddy of them all The Legend of Zelda.


A Brief History of Legend of Zelda A Brief History of Legend of Zelda Reviewed by Debby Peters on May 07, 2018 Rating: 5
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