Phony. Heretic. Clueless. Idiot and all manner of swear words are what you’re all likely to call me once I write the following line. I’ve never completed a Legend of Zelda game.
I’m sorry. That doesn’t mean I haven’t both owned and played games in the series. In fact, in one form or another, (and sometimes more than once) across various collections and consoles, I have owned the following:
- The Legend of Zelda
- The Adventure of Link
- Link’s Awakening
- Ocarina of Time
- Oracle of Seasons
- The Wind Waker
- Phantom Hourglass
- Breath of the Wild
That’s 8 mainline games and as I said, these have been owned various times across differing systems. I’ve owned them on the Game Boy, The N64, Game Cube, 3DS, DS, Game Boy Colour and the Switch. I never got round to buying a Wii U and I can’t remember if I owned any on the Wii, it’s likely that I did. It’s safe to say that I’ve had plenty of opportunities to finish at least one of these highly revered games. Part of the problem was other games came out and I moved on. I put many an hour into the Wind Waker, was enjoying it, but had an extended break and found it impossible to get back into after such a prolonged period of time. My fault.
So, I thought that after almost 35 years of life it was about time I had another go at finishing one. About time I gave it the good old college try. And where better a place to start than with the original game, albeit on the Switch.
The Legend of Zelda originally came out in 1986 for the Famicom disk system in Japan, with a 1987 western release following on the NES. I’m sure at this point there’s not much I can tell you guys about it, I’m willing to bet you all know much more about the series than I do. After all, I am a complete Zelda failure. I can’t say I went into this completed unawakened, I have played the series before just never finished. Anyway, here’s my two cents.
Starting The Legend of Zelda for the first time is such a daunting experience. As the green tunicked Link I’m chucked in the middle of Hyrule and expected just to do my own thing. Tasked with rescuing Princess Zelda I wander around aimlessly for ages. Armed with a rubbish wooden sword and shield combo I explore the top down world (read wander around aimlessly some more) and manage to find some things that will help me along my quest.
Once I had stumbled across the first dungeon I had gotten used to killing certain enemies and had picked up some money and bombs from them. The bombs proved useful and helped me to find some random caves by blowing holes out of chunks of rock and cliff. I’d managed to upgrade my sword and found a couple of extra heart containers for improving my health. I was ready.
For me, here lies the beauty of the game, the dungeons. I prefer these much more than the random exploration. Many of you will love the exploring, I myself probably will do in the more modern titles. Here I just felt like I was wandering around too much with little clue about what to do. When I did accidentally find something I didn’t feel a huge sense of joy or achievement. It was more, thank god for that. I guess I’m just the typically western gamer that Nintendo had worried about when they released this in the ’80s. The western release came with a full map of Hyrule as well as some hints and tips.
I’m not ashamed to say that after the first couple of dungeons I used a guide to find the remaining ones. I was determined to finish this time and didn’t want to give up. So, I used a guide to find the dungeons and then worked my own way through them. I’m not sorry.
As I said though, the dungeons are great fun. Sure there’s much exploring needed and there are hidden doors to find (by blowing holes in things) but being in one place it feels a lot more focussed. I really enjoyed working my way through to the final boss, finding things on the way. In each dungeon, there’s a map and compass to find, which show the layout of the whole place as well as where the final boss is. There are also upgrades to be had. By the end of the game, I had obtained boomerangs, step ladders, candles to light the way and set fire to some shrubs in the overworld for more secrets and plenty more besides.
Death in the dungeons also isn’t as bad as in the overworld. Sure, going back to the start of a dungeon sucks, but going back to the start point of the game whilst being miles away from it is much worse. Getting through the dungeons, killing the boss and obtaining a piece of the legendary triforce felt like a great achievement. Some of my favorite moments from this year of gaming.
By the last dungeon, I’m feeling pretty badass. I have a much better shield, sword and plenty of trinkets that help me along the way. The feeling of power didn’t last too long. These upgrades had pretty much made me feel invincible in the last couple of dungeons. In the final one, I felt just about as weak as I did many hours prior, right at the start of the game. On the way to the final boss Ganon I have to face countless strong enemies in rooms that feel teeming with death. Finding it quite difficult to navigate the labyrinth I’m killed a few times and forced back to the beginning.
By the time I make it to Ganon I’m extremely happy I had picked up some potions from the old lady as I force my way back to maximum health. Scared at just how difficult he will be to defeat, especially after the dungeon I’ve just had to force my way through. So being completely tooled up and at maximum health, I reverted into a chicken, (Not a good phrase here as the chickens in Zelda games are tough, brave and great at attacking. I was not) I create a manual save.
The manually save feature on the Switch version is extremely handy and reduces the difficulty of the game tenfold. Being able to continue from a fixed point is very helpful and meant a lot less backtracking. Should I fail something I could simply reload and continue from there. This was not a luxury afforded to players on the original release and I take my hat off to players who have finished it that way. I’m loathed to say finished it properly, it’s not my fault it wasn’t in the original release. I’m just utilizing the tools that are given to me. I’m not cheating so shhhh.
Anyway, I needn’t have been scared. The fight with Ganon was one of the easiest in the game, he was down in no time. I had finally done it. A Zelda game has been finished, by me. I won’t lie, it was a great feeling. Relief and joy, as well as regret for having waited so long. There were plenty of great and enjoyable moments, I’ve only really touched on the game in the briefest of forms here. I could carry on writing so much more about it, but, I’d be up to about 5000 words, and you guys are probably already beyond bored, or annoyed at my ineptness, by this point.
I won’t be waiting so long for the next one. It’s just a question of which one should I do? I have the NG+ to try on this one, there’s Zelda 2, or I could move on to one of the more modern releases. This is a problem, I’m just not sure which one to do next. What do you guys think? What should I play? And how do you feel about the series? Have you finished them all or have you been useless like I have (had) until now?