Released in the Stone Age of Video Games, this game stands as one of the most influential games ever released. Nintendo players quickly sent the message to Nintendo by making this one of the most played games released on the old NES, with this release staying in the top ten games as voted by Nintendo Power readers for several years. It would become the blueprint for RPG games, and its influence can be felt even now in the current game scene. Others would take this and see what they could do with it, and because of this game the RPG became an established genre, although this will always be the game that started it and stands at the beginning, casting a very long shadow over its descendants. But don't be mistaken, this RPG has some things that are very unlike its genre. Levels are not built up (this would be the next installment), and magic and that were not big concerns. Hearts were used instead of experience. But these would be incorporated in the other release, so even then Zelda has its hands on that as well.
So what is it about this game that so captured the imagination and the dollar of the average gamer? Well, one was the incredible depth of adventure that just permeated the entire thing. Released during a time when most games were side-scrollers, this set you in a world where you could explore and find items. There is the now standard item list, where you obtain items and use them to interact with the world about you. There are hidden dungeons that you must find, and you can burn bushes and push rocks, etc. It radically opened the power of the NES console up, and the gaming world would never be the same after this game.
To give a personal history, my brother and I got a Nintendo when it came out, playing all the standard games but somehow missing this one. Although I played it, it was only in 1999 that I sat down and, for the first time in my life, played through the entire game. It was amazing. We had got the Super NES counterpart when it came out in 1991, so I knew that by heart. This was just as great, although I still think the Super NES instatement, THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST, is the best overall though I have not yet played the two new Gameboy releases. I'm sure they'll be great.
By today's standards, the graphics are absolutely terrible, and by the standards of the day, they were only average. But this proves only one thing: playability comes over a sleek looking graphical interface. And this game has that. Indeed, even now people call in asking Nintendo tips on this game. Considering the NES has been dead for several years that is something indeed. Of all things, this game desperately needs to be released on the Gameboy, packaged with the sequel ZELDA II: THE ADVENTURES OF LINK.
As far as story goes, it is nowhere near as complicated as the games that came after it. Essentially, Princess Zelda has been kidnapped and Link must regain the 8 pieces of Triforce to gain entrance to the ninth dungeon for the final showdown. Musically, there are only three tracks, one for the Overworld (the now famous Overworld Theme, commonly called the Legend of Zelda Theme, which this game's N64's counterpart has been criticized for ostracizing, the dungeon theme, and the ninth dungeon theme.) After he beats Gannon the first time, a second quest opens up, meaning yet a whole other adventure. The difficulty rating is greatly increased. I personally think they should have down this with SUPER MARIO BROTHERS II, the Japanese version, now known in the States as THE LOST LEVELS. It corresponds in difficulty to a second quest. But that is neither here or there. The great disappointment is that no one else took this to heart, and this is one feature that has not been a major influence on the RPG genre. The second quest so enriched the game, giving the gamer more for his/her dollar, and I wish they'd do second quests more.
As far as games go, THE LEGEND OF ZELDA's influence cannot be overestimated. Truly one of the giants of the Gaming Universe. This and SMB 3 are the best NES games by far. Lets hope they re-release it soon!