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Why The Legend of Zelda Remains the Greatest RPGs Ever Made

Why The Legend of Zelda Remains the Greatest RPGs Ever Made

The Legend of Zelda is the first game in the Zelda series, and it has spawned multiple titles across multiple systems over the past four decades. Nintendo famously refers to its masterpiece as an action/adventure game rather than a role-playing game (RPG). For the millions of avid players who have spent hours on end thinking like Link since 1986, it is both.

The Mission

The overarching goal of The Legend of Zelda is for the protagonist, Link, to rescue Princess Zelda, who has been taken prisoner by an evil antagonist named Gannon. However, Link has to endure a ton of battles and access loads of information before he is able to take on his arch-nemesis. In fact, he isn’t even allowed to enter the final dungeon – Gannon’s realm – without getting all of his virtual ducks in a row.

While in the overworld, Link gathers money, weapons, and hearts to prepare himself to battle in the dungeons. Every time he defeats a dungeon, he earns a piece of the Triforce of Power. Once he has earned all of the pieces, he may enter the final dungeon, where he confronts Gannon. This final dungeon is massive, rife with dead-ends and circular passages that lead back to the entrance. If Link is able to make it into Gannon’s lair, the door locks behind him. He either achieves total victory or dies trying.

The Mysteries

The idea that a player could learn all of the game’s mysteries in a sitting or two is as laughable as an Alaska cruise that winds up south of the equator. There are hundreds, at least. Some speculate that there are mysteries that were embedded in the game that still hasn’t been accessed. The original Zelda is made up of 128 screens. Hidden in various screens are weapons, money, gambling dens, life-givers, medicines, shops, and other delights. Sometimes, you have to bomb a rock wall to find the door, while other times, you have to push a gravestone.

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The pure joy of Zelda can be encapsulated in the notion that there are dozens of gravestones in the cemeteries of Zelda, but only one can be pushed open to reveal a door. Pushing on others will unleash a ghost, who will attack Link. nOne of the greatest aspects of Zelda is that once you solve every mystery and vanquish Gannon, you get a whole new mission. The overworld looks the same, but everything is hidden in different places. There is a sense of bliss when players realize that they get to do it all over again.

The Music

Even the music is dynamic; when Link is in the overworld, a jaunty little tune plays that will stick in your head for eons. When Link enters one of the dungeons, a much more sinister song is played, designed to raise the player’s heart rate. Another dimension is applied by this music, especially in the dungeons.

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As a player, you’re going into a realm that is full of threats and traps designed to take your life force. While you’re trying to understand what’s happening around you, the music reminds you that you are in a perilous situation. Then, when you bound back into the overworld and to relative safety, the jaunty tune comes back to sit right on your shoulder.

Zelda is the ultimate game because it is chock-full of mysteries, missions, and hard-earned victories. It is as much about learning every inch of every screen, finding secret passages, and earning money for supplies as it is about attacking bad guys. It is a game that takes many hours to master, through tons of trial and error, and it is a one-man military campaign, replete with the static normalcy of the overworld giving way to the acute stresses of the dungeons.

For those who’ve solved the mysteries of both worlds of Zelda, the game simply becomes a speed run. However, if you’ve never played the original Zelda, you’re in for a treat because it is a game of learning and joy. You’ll have a better understanding of this phenomenon when you’re on a screen that you’re pretty sure has a secret door somewhere, but when you only have one bomb left.