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The day that the Legend of Zelda walked into my household in the hands of my older brother, I was enraptured before the game even went into our NES. The packaging alone was amazing. Unlike the pixelated black boxes we had been receiving, the Legend of Zelda was packaged in a beautiful gold box, the logo lovingly crafted. When we pulled the cartridge out of the box, we were greeted with a shiny, gold slab. Before the game was ever inserted into our system, it was special to us already, and through repeated playthroughs proved to us that the game itself was worthy of such epic packaging. Over twenty years and a dozen Zelda games later, I remain a steadfast fan of this series.
The Legend of Zelda was quite a precedent setter, back in the early days of video gaming. Instead of giving us a linear game, where players progressed from point A to point B, Nintendo’s master game creator, a young Shigeru Miyamoto, wanted to create a game where the player decided what to do next, and not the character. The result was a game released that had you starting without any weapons, and only a shield for defense. Players could complete quests in any order conceivable, and to this day players share information about the Zelda games online, especially the original.
How does Legend of Zelda stand up to the others today? When you take into consideration that it is the grandfather of most modern gaming concepts, surprisingly well. While the graphics don’t even hold a candle to the most recent Zelda titles, piloting Link across the “overworld”, discovering new locations, and finding new items and weapons is just as exciting as it was when I was seven. The thrill of diving into a dungeon to battle new, fiercer enemies is made twice as enjoyable as the fact that these dungeons double as giant puzzles. That’s right, you’ve not only got to be quick defeating your enemies, but you’ve got to solve complicated puzzles along the way.
While some of these puzzles seem obtuse, maybe even impossible, there’s nothing quite like getting that light bulb over your head when you find a new item, or notice a key element of the solution to a given riddle. This provides more satisfaction to me than slaughtering an entire battalion of digital soldiers, the reward of having outsmarted the game and it’s creators, and I believe that this is the reason that the Legend of Zelda NES ROM file is among the most downloaded NES game on the internet. This unique sense of accomplishment is rare in many modern games, which tend to rely more on your reflexes than your ability to think your way out of trouble.
Miyamoto’s other masterpiece has since become a legend among gamers. When the advent of ROMs gave gamers a new lease on their retro titles, millions of users flocked to the internet to play Zelda online. The anticipation for the release of every Nintendo console in the last twenty years has only been topped by the anticipation of the next Zelda game on that system. Recent advances in technology have even made steps to take the Zelda games online. However, for gamers who were there for it, nothing will ever compare to opening that first Zelda game and seeing that golden cartridge. With a legacy like that, it won’t be surprising to see the Zelda games make it another two decades.
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