“It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this!”

Coming into existence in 1986, the Legend of Zelda was an action-adventure game that led to being one of Nintendo’s largest franchises. Although I didn’t get to play this classic game until late 2018 due to the purchase of the NES Classic Mini, it was just as much a thrill to play as many people have told me about.

Winning the Twitter poll and beating Kirby by a small margin, I whipped out my mini NES and immediately remembered how it felt playing it for the first time the moment I saw the intro screen phase in.

I’m sure a lot of you know the general plot of any Zelda game; you play as the glorified elf– I mean, Hylian character Link with the goal to defeat the main enemy Ganon in order to save the princess Zelda and all of Hyrule from impending doom.

I had never played this game in its entirety and I was hellbent on completing it as if I were younger and didn’t have access to YouTube or Reddit forums explaining to me where I should go and what dungeon I should save for last. But eventually my interest started to dwindle so I had to do something! I decided to take to the internet, but instead of looking for walkthroughs I looked for tips on how to play this game on my own. The first thing I came across was Nintendo Life’s video that was conveniently titled How to Play NES Zelda in the 21st Century. Although the overall video was a bit of a sales-pitch to support a freelance creator, the big takeaway I got from the video was to simply draw my own map. And to my surprise, countless other people did the same, even if they had the original map included with the game, much like the posts below explains.

I know what you’re probably thinking, “dude why would you draw a map, just play and review the game!” My goal isn’t only to review these classic games, but to talk about what makes them special, especially in a world where video games are now so advanced and almost cinematic. Taking the time to draw out the map while I was playing added to the experience that was the Legend of Zelda. It made me feel like I was actually on this big adventure exploring dungeons, fighting monsters, and trading with merchants all with the intent to save the day and be the hero of Hyrule.

Exploring the overworld, collecting items, and fighting various enemies was a thrill all around. As exciting as it was I couldn’t help but to be immersed with the music that was playing in the background, too. From the little jingle that played when I found a fragment of the Tri-Force to the daunting sound that played when I died, the tunes were enjoyable for a game that’s older than I am.

Screenshots from my playthrough

Now I do have some small complaints, the game does hold up well in the 21st century in my opinion, but why is it so damn hard to rack up some money in this game? Seems a little too realistic to me. It was as though I had a slim chance to gain some in-game currency called rupees by killing enemies, and it didn’t help that I was a bit of a wuss to go and attack each enemy that was in my way. Along with feeling broke the whole journey, as no adventurer should be, the placement of some enemies were more than a little irritating. Once I loaded into a new section of an area an enemy would spawn in and take a good hit at my life-meter. Maybe that’s just me being a bit of a reckless player, but when it kept happening I knew I couldn’t actually be that bad! Right? And last of all, what was up with the weird commercials advertising the game?

At first glance the game may not seem like much, at the beginning it seemed like it was just a bunch of pixels and lightly-detailed settings to me, and although the dungeons were similar in style and technique, there was a charm to it. And that charm was immersive, I felt like I really was on this big adventure that nobody seemed to want to do themselves. Most games today tell you what to do and where to go in great-lengths, some even providing a detailed map with routes and enemy tags right on the screen, but the Legend of Zelda was a game packed with mystery and hidden gems that were achievable only by exploration and sheer curiosity. From hidden dungeons to little old men who gave unwarranted advice, playing as Link and trying to save the world of Hyrule was a thrill to play. Can’t say I’m not jealous of the people out there who have the gold cartridge too!

After finishing the game I felt like I had actually finished this lengthy adventure and explored a new world. It was a feeling of joy and content, something I haven’t felt playing a video game in a long time. Once my time of reminiscing was over I decided to see what thoughts other people had about this game, and snooping around Twitter led me to one tweet that pretty much sums up the overall feeling that the Legend of Zelda had been for so many people. 

A series that will “transcend generations,” and it’s a series that’s done exactly that. With new stories that came after and new titles in development, the Legend of Zelda was the blueprint for so many RPG adventure games. Its elements and story are truly what makes a Zelda game a genuine Zelda game. Playing it for the first time was exciting and something I wish I could have experienced sooner. But nonetheless, I’m glad to have picked it up when I did, and its even more heartwarming hearing about other people picking the game up either for the first time or to just look-back on something memorable to them. It’s the small things like this that make these classic games so memorable for people, and I’m genuinely glad to have been able to finally be part of that.

As always, be sure to check out my twitter for future updates and polls of what game I should cover next or if you have any recommendations.