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The Legend of Zelda (video game)

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The Legend of Zelda
TLOZ box art.jpg
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Release date Family Computer Disk System:
Japan February 21, 1986
Nintendo Entertainment System:
USA July 1987[1] / August 22, 1987[2]
Europe 1987
Japan February 19, 1994 (Famicom)
Game Boy Advance:
Japan February 14, 2004
USA June 2, 2004
Europe July 9, 2004
Virtual Console (Wii):
USA November 19, 2006
Japan December 2, 2006
Australia December 7, 2006
Europe December 8, 2006
South Korea March 31, 2009
Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program:
Japan August 31, 2011
USA August 31, 2011
Europe September 1, 2011
Australia September 1, 2011
Virtual Console (Nintendo 3DS):
Japan December 22, 2011
Europe April 12, 2012
Australia April 12, 2012
USA July 5, 2012
South Korea February 3, 2016
Virtual Console (Wii U):
Japan August 28, 2013
USA August 29, 2013
Europe August 29, 2013
Australia August 29, 2013
Nintendo Switch Online:
Japan September 19, 2018
USA September 19, 2018
Europe September 19, 2018
Australia September 19, 2018
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Console(s) Family Computer Disk System
Nintendo Entertainment System
Game Boy Advance
Virtual Console (Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U), Nintendo Switch Online

The Legend of Zelda is the first video game of The Legend of Zelda series. It was first released in Japan, as a launch title of the Family Computer Disk System peripheral in 1986. A year later, in 1987, the game saw an overseas release on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and is played from a gold cartridge. The Legend of Zelda is the first home console title with an internal battery for saving game data.[3]

At its time of release, The Legend of Zelda was noted for its expansive, nonlinear open world gameplay. It would eventually be regarded as one of the greatest and most influential video games of all time, laying the groundwork for the nonlinear RPG genre. A vastly different sequel for the same system, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, was first released in Japan less than a year later. The Legend of Zelda would eventually spawn more successive titles and spin-offs and become one of Nintendo's most popular franchises.

Plot[edit]

The story, as told from the opening intro

The story of The Legend of Zelda is described in the instruction booklet and in the short prologue after the title screen.

During an age of chaos, a small kingdom of Hyrule is invaded by an army led by Ganon, who steal the Triforce of Power. Ganon (initially spelled as "Gannon" in-game, which is changed in later revisions), nicknamed the "Prince of Darkness", sought parts of the Triforce to rule over the world with fear and darkness. Fearing his rule, Princess Zelda split the Triforce of Wisdom into eight fragments and hid them around the kingdom. She then commanded her trustworthy nursemaid, Impa, to find someone with the courage to fight Ganon and his forces. Ganon finds out about her plan, so he angrily imprisons Zelda and sends his minions to search for Impa.

Impa fled from Ganon's troops, through forests and mountains. Sometime during her escape, Impa loses all of her energy and gets cornered by Ganon's troops. She is saved by a young hero named Link, whom she retells the whole story of Zelda and Ganon to. Link decides to go on a journey to rescue Zelda and recover each fragment of the Triforce of Wisdom, which he can use to confront Ganon.

During the course of the tale, Link locates and braves the eight underworld labyrinths, each containing a guardian monster, and retrieves a fragment from each one. With the completed Triforce of Wisdom, Link is able to infiltrate Ganon's hideout in Death Mountain, where he confronts Ganon and destroys him with the Silver Arrow. Link recovers the Triforce of Power from Ganon's ashes, and he returns both the Triforce of Power and the Triforce of Wisdom to the rescued Princess Zelda, allowing peace to return into Hyrule.

If the Second Quest is completed, the ending screen concludes with End of "The Legend of Zelda 1", hinting at a sequel.

Gameplay[edit]

Link exploring the Overworld (left) and the Level-3 dungeon (right).
Link exploring the Overworld (left) and the Level-3 dungeon (right).
Link exploring the Overworld (left) and the Level-3 dungeon (right).

The Legend of Zelda is notable for incorporating elements from the action, adventure, and role-playing genres. From a top-down perspective, the player can move Link around the Overworld, a large outdoor map with various environments. Link starts his adventure only equipped with a small shield, but he can enter a nearby cave and obtain a sword from the old man. Throughout his adventure, Link is aided by several characters who give or sell equipment and clues to him; these characters are found in caves scattered throughout the land. Some are easily accessible, and others are hidden beneath obstacles such as rocks, trees, and waterfalls. The Overworld is divided into sections, and a few enemies spawn in nearly every part of the map. Link must either battle or avoid them as he searches for entrances to large dungeons.

There are nine dungeons, each consisting of a maze which is individually separated into rooms, which are connected by doors and secret passages. The paths are usually closed off, and can only be opened if Link defeats every enemy in the room, or by moving blocks around. There are some unique items that Link can obtain within the dungeon, such as a boomerang. A boss often appears inside a dungeon, and must be defeated by Link to recover a fragment of the Triforce of Wisdom.

The Legend of Zelda is also noted for its flexibility, so the player can decide on the order that they complete the dungeons. However, the dungeons steadily increase in difficulty by number, and a few dungeon entrances from the Overworld can only be entered by using items that are obtained in previous locations.

After completing the game a first time, the player unlocks a harder mode known as the Second Quest. It is essentially a harder version of the first mode, featuring entirely different dungeons, relocated items, and stronger enemies. The Overworld remains largely unchanged except for the relocation of the dungeon entrances.

Characters[edit]

Playable character[edit]

Sprite Name Description
Link TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ Link green pale.png Link (Blue Ring) TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ Link blue pale.png Link (Red Ring) TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ Link red pale.png Link The main protagonist and playable character of the game. He embarks on a journey to stop Ganon and his forces.

Supporting characters[edit]

Sprite Name Description
Fairy TLoZ sprite.png Fairy A helpful magical creature that can restore Link's health by contact if dropped from an enemy, or through a heart-giving spell at fountains.
Goriya red TLoZ sprite.png Hungry Goriya A guard in some dungeons that can be bribed with food.
Impa Although she does not appear in the game herself, Impa is mentioned in the instruction booklet, as Zelda's most trustworthy nursemaid, of whom Zelda sends out to find someone to take on Ganon and his forces, later found to be Link.
Merchant TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ merchant blue.png TLoZ merchant red.png Merchant Various sellers of items found in various locations throughout the game, some hidden.
Old Man TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ old man dungeon.png Old man Old men also have various roles. One in the beginning gives Link his sword. In dungeons, they look slightly different and give Link advice, and will have their torches shoot fireballs at Link if he attacks them. In the overworld, one gives Link a letter to give to an old woman. Other ones can be found operating gambling games. Certain hidden ones will demand Link pay them for destroying the door to their hiding spot, which is done automatically, except for two in a dungeon in the second quest, which will give Link the option to either pay with Rupies or permanent loss of a Container Heart.
Old Woman TLoZ sprite.png Old woman Old women have various roles. One, if given a letter, will sell Link Water of Life. Other ones give advice if given a certain amount of money.
Princess Zelda green TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ Zelda blue.png TLoZ Zelda red.png Princess Zelda Zelda is the princess of Hyrule, and has been kidnapped by Ganon prior to the game's events. She has also scattered the eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom around the map. She is rescued by Link at the end of the game.
Moblin TLoZ sprite.png Secret Molblin Hidden Molblins that give Link Rupies if he discovers their hiding places, telling him to keep it a secret.

Enemies[edit]

Overworld enemies[edit]

Sprite Name Description
Armos TLoZ sprite.png Armos Statues that come to life and run around when touched.
Ghini TLoZ sprite.png Ghini Ghosts that come out of gravestones when they are touched.
Leever red TLoZ sprite.png Leever blue TLoZ sprite.png Leever Spinning, burrowing plants found in sandy areas. They come in red and blue.
Lynel red TLoZ sprite.png Lynel blue TLoZ sprite.png Lynel Tough lion-like centaurs that can shoot sword beams. They are found in mountainous areas and come in red and blue.
Moblin TLoZ sprite.png Moblin blue TLoZ sprite.png Molblin Spear-throwing bulldog-like enemies found in forests. They come in orange and teal.
Octorok red TLoZ sprite.png Octorok blue TLoZ sprite.png Octorok Simple octopus enemies that spit rocks, found throughout the overworld. They come in red and blue.
Peahat TLoZ sprite.png Peahat Flying flower enemies that can only be attacked when landing.
Tektite red TLoZ sprite.png Tektite blue TLoZ sprite.png Tektite Hopping spiders that come in orange and blue.
Zola TLoZ JP front.png Zora TLoZ sprite.png Zola Territorial fish-people that spit fireballs before hiding back under the water.

Small underworld enemies[edit]

Sprite Name Description
Bubble red TLoZ sprite.png Bubble blue TLoZ sprite.png Bubble Floating, burning skulls that flash various colors. Touching them causes Link to be cursed into not being able to us his sword for a time. In the second quest, there are solid red ones that curse Link indefinitely, until he touches a solid blue one.
Darknut red TLoZ sprite.png Darknut blue TLoZ sprite.png Darknut Knight enemies with blocking shields that must be attacked from the side. They come in orange and blue.
Gel TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ Gel blue.png TLoZ Gel green.png TLoZ Gel dark yellow.png TLoZ Gel bright green.png TLoZ Gel yellow.png TLoZ Gel gray.png TLoZ Gel dark gray.png Gel Small slimes that move one tile at a time, and typically share their colors with the dungeon wall, though some are black to blend in in dark rooms.
Gibdo TLoZ sprite.png Gibdo Mummies that can visibly carry items such as bombs and keys.
Goriya red TLoZ sprite.png Goriya blue TLoZ sprite.png Goriya Boomerang-throwing canines that come in red and blue.
TLoZ Head of Gleeok.png Head of Gleeok Gleeok's floating severed heads which can still breath fire.
Keese TLoZ sprite.png Keese red TLoZ sprite.png Keese TLoZ Second Quest L-5 sprite.png Keese TLoZ Second Quest L-9 sprite.png Keese Bats that fly around the screen erratically. They are typically blue, though they appear black in some darker dungeons to blend in with unlit rooms. When a Vire is defeated, it splits into two red-colored ones which act the same.
Like Like TLoZ sprite.png Like Like A tube-shaped enemy that will eat Link if touched, irrevocably stealing his Magical Shield if he is carrying one.
TLoZ Mini Digdogger.png Mini-Digdogger The result of Digdogger hearing the recorder, they are fast and hard-hitting, but not durable.
Pols Voice TLoZ sprite.png Pols Voice TLoZ sprite 4.png Pols Voice TLoZ sprite 2.png TLoZ Pols Voice blue pale.png Pols Voice TLoZ sprite 3.png TLoZ Pols Voice red pale.png Pols Voice Durable rabbit ghosts that are weak to the Family Computer Disk System's microphone, and arrows in Western releases. They share Link's palette.
Rope enemy TLoZ sprite.png Rope Snakes that will charge at Link if they see him and are on the same x- or y-coordinate. There are also stronger ones flashing various colors in the second quest.
Stalfos TLoZ sprite.png Stalfos Skeletons that walk slowly around dungeon rooms. In the second quest, they can shoot powerful sword beams.
Vire TLoZ sprite.png Vire Hopping demons that split into two red Keeses upon defeat.
Wallmaster TLoZ sprite.png Wall Master Hands that emerge from walls, sending Link back to the dungeon's entrance room if they grab him.
Wizzrobe red TLoZ sprite.png Wizzrobe blue TLoZ sprite.png Wizzrobe Powerful wizards that shoot magic. The orange ones slowly warp around the room between magic blasts, and the blue ones move forward constantly and can warp across the room rapidly to surprise or evade Link.
Zol green TLoZ sprite.png Zol black TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ Zol bright green.png TLoZ Zol yellow.png TLoZ Zol gray.png TLoZ Zol dark gray.png Zol Large slimes that split into two Gels upon defeat. Like Gels, their color is typically shared with the dungeon's own walls, but black in some darker ones.

Large underworld enemies[edit]

These are usually signified with a roaring sound effect in their rooms and may be encountered as bosses or as enemies. Bosses are always found in the room directly before the goal and drop a Container Heart (or in Ganon's case, the Triforce of Power).

Sprite Name Description Level boss (1st quest) Level enemy (1st quest) Level boss (2nd quest) Level enemy (2nd quest)
Aquamentus TLoZ sprite.png Aquamentus A dragon-unicorn that can spit three fireballs at a time. The horn is the weak spot. 1, 7 none 1 4, 8
Moldorm TLoZ sprite.png Moldorm TLoZ sprite.png Moldorms Segmented worms that snake around the rooms in pairs. Their segments must be destroyed to defeat them. none 2, 7 none 1, 8
Dodongo TLoZ sprite.png Dodongo A tough-skinned creature resembling a Triceratops or a rhinoceros that can be defeated by either feeding it two bombs directly, or stunning it with a bomb and then hitting it with a sword. 2 none none 1, 4
Dodongo TLoZ sprite.png Dodongo TLoZ sprite.png Dodongo TLoZ sprite.png Dodongo trio Dodongos often appear with three at once. none 5, 7 3, 8 4, 8
Manhandla TLoZ sprite.png Manhandla A four-headed Piranha Plant that can move and shoot fireballs from each head. Each must be defeated individually to destroy the whole plant. 3 4, 8 none 2, 5, 6, 7
Gleeok two-headed TLoZ sprite.png Gleeok (two heads) A double-headed dragon, both of which can shoot fireballs. After a head is defeated, it will turn red and start flying around, still able to shoot fire. Once all heads are detached, the creature will be defeated. 4 none 2 6
Gleeok three-headed TLoZ sprite.png Gleeok (three heads) A stronger form of Gleeok. none 6 5 none
Gleeok four-headed TLoZ sprite.png Gleeok (four heads) The strongest form of Gleeok. 8 none 7 none
Digdogger TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ Mini Digdogger.png Digdogger (one Mini-Digdogger) A large sea urchin that shrivels up into a small, defeatable state when Link plays the recorder near it. 5 none none none
Digdogger TLoZ sprite.png
TLoZ Mini Digdogger.png TLoZ Mini Digdogger.png TLoZ Mini Digdogger.png
Digdogger (three Mini-Digdoggers) A Digdogger than splits into multiple smaller versions when Link plays the recorder. none 7 4 4, 8
Gohma red TLoZ sprite.png Gohma (red) A large, cycloptic, fire-shooting arthropod. Its eye is weak to arrows when it opens. 6 none none none
Gohma blue TLoZ sprite.png Gohma (blue) A stronger form of Gohma. none 8 6 5, 7
Lanmola red TLoZ sprite.png Lanmola blue TLoZ sprite.png
Lanmola red TLoZ sprite.png Lanmola blue TLoZ sprite.png
Lanmolas Segmented centipedes that move erratically around the room in pairs. To defeat them, the various segments must be destroyed. They come in orange and blue, with both in a pair being the same color. none 9 none 9
Patra TLoZ sprite.png Patra A durable blue flying eye surrounded by circling smaller orange flying eyes it can manipulate in various ways. none 9 none 9
Ganon TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ Ganon petrified.png Ganon The main antagonist, he warps around the room while invisible and shooting fire. After damaging him enough, he becomes visible to Silver Arrows, which will defeat him by turning him into dust. 9 none 9 none

Obstacles[edit]

Sprite Name Description
Rock TLoZ sprite.png Rock Simple boulders that fall from mountains to their bases.
TLoZ Stone Statue teal left.png TLoZ Stone Statue teal right.png TLoZ Stone Statue blue-on-teal left.png TLoZ Stone Statue blue-on-teal right.png Stone Statue TLoZ L-2 sprite.png Stone Statue TLoZ L-2 sprite 2.png
TLoZ Stone Statue red-on-blue left.png TLoZ Stone Statue red-on-blue right.png TLoZ Stone Statue soft green left.png TLoZ Stone Statue soft green right.png TLoZ Stone Statue red-on-soft green left.png TLoZ Stone Statue red-on-soft green right.png
TLoZ Stone Statue yellow left.png TLoZ Stone Statue yellow right.png TLoZ Stone Statue blue-on-yellow left.png TLoZ Stone Statue blue-on-yellow right.png TLoZ Stone Statue bright green left.png TLoZ Stone Statue bright green right.png
TLoZ Stone Statue red-on-bright green left.png TLoZ Stone Statue red-on-bright green right.png TLoZ Stone Statue red-on-yellow left.png TLoZ Stone Statue red-on-yellow right.png TLoZ Stone Statue blue-on-bright green left.png TLoZ Stone Statue blue-on-bright green right.png
TLoZ Stone Statue gray left.png TLoZ Stone Statue gray right.png TLoZ Stone Statue blue-on-gray left.png TLoZ Stone Statue blue-on-gray right.png TLoZ Stone Statue red-on-gray left.png TLoZ Stone Statue red-on-gray right.png
Stone Statue Gargoyles that typically act as decoration, but in some cases shoot fireballs in Link's direction.
Trap TLoZ sprite.png Trap Invincible spined mechanisms that slide quickly at Link when he crosses their x- or y-coordinates.

Items[edit]

These are items that cannot be used from the sub screen:

Sprite Name Description
Clock TLoZ sprite.png Clock Permanently freezes every enemy that is currently on screen. The effect wears off when Link moves to the next screen or room.
Heart Container TLoZ sprite.png Container Heart Permanently boost Link's health. In the second quest, there are two instances in which they can be taken away, however.
Heart TLoZ sprite.png Heart These items restore missing portions of Link's health.
Rupee TLoZ sprite.png Rupee TLoZ 5-count sprite.png Rupy Rupies are the currency used in game. Most Rupies flash between orange and blue. A solid blue Rupy, named 5 Rupies (or 5 Rupees), is at the value of five Rupies. They are called "Rupies" in-game, "rubies" in the manual, and "rupees" in the Tips & Tricks guide and the 2003 version.
Triforce shard TLoZ sprite.png Triforce fragment The eight units of the Triforce of Wisdom, needed to access Death Mountain.
TLoZ Triforce of Power.png Triforce with Power The part of the Triforce Ganon has, obtained from his ashes after defeating him.

These are items that can be used from the sub screen:

Sprite Name Description
Food TLoZ sprite.png Food Can be used to bait monsters, including the hungry Goriyas.
Letter TLoZ sprite.png Letter Can be given to a little old lady, who will then sell Link both types of potions.
Recorder TLoZ sprite.png Recorder Can be used to warp using tornadoes, weaken Digdogger, and drain certain lakes.
Life Potion TLoZ sprite.png 2nd Potion TLoZ sprite.png Water of Life The Water of Life replenishes Link's health if used, but must be refilled to be used again. The blue variant, named Life Potion, has one use, and the red variant, named 2nd Potion, becomes a Life Potion when used.

These are items and objects that help or allow Link to access different locations. They cannot be assigned from the sub screen:

Sprite Name Description
Compass TLoZ sprite.png Compass Shows the location of the labyrinth's boss on the map.
Key TLoZ sprite.png Key Unlocks a single door, and can be used between dungeons.
Magical Key TLoZ sprite.png Magical Key Unlocks an infinite amount of doors.
Map TLoZ sprite.png Map Shows the room layout of the dungeon it is in.
Raft TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ raft green pale.png TLoZ raft blue.png TLoZ raft blue pale.png TLoZ raft red.png TLoZ raft red pale.png Raft Can be used to travel between docks across bodies of water.
Stepladder TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ stepladder pale.png Stepladder Can be used to cross holes or rivers in Link-sized spaces.

Weapons[edit]

Weapons can be assigned to the B button from the sub screen.

Sprite Name Description
Arrow TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ arrow green pale.png TLoZ arrow blue.png TLoZ arrow blue pale.png TLoZ arrow red.png TLoZ arrow red pale.png Arrow Can be shot at enemies at the cost of a single Rupy per shot. They are the weakness of Pols Voices in the Western releases.
Blue Candle TLoZ sprite.png Blue Candle Can create a slow-moving fire that can be used to light up dark rooms, burn bushes, or attack certain enemies, but can only be used once at a time per map section/room visit.
Bomb TLoZ sprite.png Bomb Can be used to defeat enemies or find hidden doorways, which can be marked by a crack or indistinguishable from the wall. Link can hold eight at a time.
Boomerang TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ boomerang green pale.png TLoZ boomerang blue.png TLoZ boomerang blue pale.png TLoZ boomerang red.png TLoZ boomerang red pale.png Boomerang Can be thrown to stun enemies.
Bow TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ bow blue.png TLoZ bow red.png Bow Can be used to shoot arrows.
Magical Boomerang TLoZ sprite.png Magical Boomerang Like the boomerang, but with a wider reach.
Magical Rod TLoZ sprite.png Magical Rod Can be used to shoot powerful magic blasts.
Red Candle TLoZ sprite.png Red Candle It has the same function as the Blue Candle but can produce unlimited flames.
Silver Arrow TLoZ sprite.png Silver Arrow Used to deal the final blow to Ganon.

Equipment[edit]

Unlike weapons or items, these are automatically assigned to Link; some are later replaced:

Sprite Name Description
Blue Ring TLoZ sprite.png Blue Ring Boosts Link's defense and makes his clothing blue.
Book of Magic TLoZ sprite.png Book of Magic A book that can be used to boost the Magical Rod into creating fire.
Magical Shield TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ magical shield pale.png Magical Shield Defends against strong projectiles like fireballs, but can be eaten by Like Likes.
Magical Sword TLoZ sprite.png Magical Sword The strongest sword.
Power Bracelet TLoZ sprite.png Power Bracelet Allows Link to move rocks to find secrets.
Red Ring TLoZ sprite.png Red Ring Boosts Link's defense and makes his clothing red.
Wooden Shield TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ shield pale.png Shield Link's small shield that can block weak projectiles, like Octorok's rocks and Molblin's spears.
Sword TLoZ sprite.png TLoZ sword green pale.png TLoZ sword blue.png TLoZ sword blue pale.png TLoZ sword red.png TLoZ sword red pale.png Sword The weakest sword.
White Sword TLoZ sprite.png White Sword The medium sword.

Locations[edit]

Overworld[edit]

The Overworld is the hub location of the game. Aside from labyrinths, some other locations appear from the overworld itself:

While technically not a location, Link can play the Money Making Game from a few of the caves.

Levels[edit]

Every level takes place in a labyrinth:

Development[edit]

Concept art showing how sprites would be stored in the game's CHR.

The Legend of Zelda was developed and directed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. Miyamoto produced the game and Tezuka produced the script. The manual's backstory was written by Keiji Terui, whose writing was inspired by conflicts in medieval Europe and resulted in the legend of the Triforce. During development, the game was known as 「デス・マウンテン」 (Desu Maunten, Death Mountain).[4]

The Legend of Zelda began development in 1984, at the same time as Super Mario Bros., which had a largely similar development team. The ideas were separated between both games, for instance, how Super Mario Bros. had linear gameplay contrasting with The Legend of Zelda's open world exploration. According to Miyamoto, those in Japan were confused and had trouble finding their way through the multi-path dungeons, and in initial game designs, the player would start with the sword already in their inventory. Rather than merely simplifying matters for players, Miyamoto forced the player to listen to the old man who gives them the sword, and he encouraged interaction among people to share ideas on finding various hidden secrets, a new form of gaming communication. Many years later, this concept was used as the root of the Animal Crossing series.[5]

With The Legend of Zelda, Miyamoto wanted to flesh out the idea of a game "world" even further, giving players a "miniature garden that they can put inside their drawer." He drew his inspiration from his experiences as a boy around Kyoto, where he explored nearby fields, woods, and caves, always trying through Zelda titles to impart players some sense of that limitless wonder he felt through unknown exploration.[6]

Early concepts of the game involved technological elements, with microchips for the Triforce made of electronic circuits and a time-travelling protagonist. While the final game follows a traditional heroic fantasy setting, subsequent games in the series have incorporated some technology based concepts.[7]

The five music tracks were composed by Koji Kondo. The orchestral piece Boléro was originally planned as the title theme, but Kondo was forced to change it late in the development cycle after learning that the song's copyright had not yet expired. As a result, Kondo wrote a new arrangement of the overworld theme within one day, which has become an iconic motive echoing throughout continued entries of the series.[8]

Release[edit]

In February 1986, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda as a launch title on the Family Computer add-on, the Family Computer Disk System peripheral. It made full use of the Disk Card media's advantages over traditional ROM cartridges, with an increased size of 128 kilobytes which would be expensive to produce on cartridge format.[6]

However, due to the disk space's limitations, all of the text was only sourced from the katakana alphabet. Players could save their progress by using rewritable disks rather than using a password system that many other games had. The Family Computer Disk System utilized an additional sound channel for certain sound effects, such as Link's sword beam at full health, the roars and growls of dungeon bosses, and those of defeated enemies. The sound effects had to be altered for the eventual cartridge release, which used the Family Computer's PCM channel.

When Nintendo published the game in North America, the packaging design featured a small portion of the box cut away to reveal the unique gold-colored cartridge. The cartridge made use of the Memory Management Controller chip (specifically the MMC1 model), which could use bank-switching to allow for larger games than had previously been possible.[9] This release was notable for being the first cartridge-based game to utilize battery-powered RAM that allowed players to save their progress.

From the success of magazines in Japan, Nintendo knew that game tips were a valued asset. Players enjoyed the bimonthly Nintendo Fun Club newsletter's crossword puzzles and jokes, but game secrets were most valued. The Fun Club drew kids in by offering tips for the more complicated games, especially Zelda, with its hidden rooms, secret keys and passageways.[10] The mailing list grew. By early 1988, there were over a million Fun Club members, which led Minoru Arakawa to start the Nintendo Power magazine.[10]

Reception and legacy[edit]

The Legend of Zelda was a bestseller for Nintendo, selling over 6.5 million copies.[11] The game placed first in the player's poll "Top 30" in Nintendo Power's first issue and continued to dominate the list into the early 1990s. The Legend of Zelda was also voted by Nintendo Power readers as the "Best Challenge" in the Nintendo Power Awards '88. In 2016 GamesRadar ranked it the third best NES game ever made. The staff praised its "mix of complexity, open world design, and timeless graphics".[12]

The Legend of Zelda is often featured in lists of games considered the greatest or most influential. It placed first in Game Informer's list of the "Top 100 Games of All Time" and "The Top 200 Games of All Time" (in 2001 and 2009 respectively), fifth in Electronic Gaming Monthly's 200th issue listing "The Greatest 200 Videogames of Their Time", seventh in Nintendo Power's list of the 200 Best Nintendo Games Ever and 77th in Official Nintendo Magazine's 100 greatest Nintendo games of all time. In 1997 the 32nd issue of Next Generation listed the North American release under their "Five Greatest Game Packages of All Time" list, citing the die-cut hole which revealed the gold cartridge, full color manual, and fold-out map.

In a review of the Wii Virtual Console rerelease Lucas M. Thomas from IGN praised the game's graphics, music, gameplay, and lasting appeal, while criticizing that the game can be too cryptic for new players. He stated that "The Legend of Zelda is a timeless adventure, worth playing through again and again.", while giving the game a nine out of ten.[13] Damien McFerran from Nintendo Life gave the NES version of the game an eight out of ten, stating that the game is "one of the finest 8-bit RPGs available".[14] In a negative review David Fisher from Game Shinny gave the game a six out of ten, praising the game's exploration, difficulty balance, and graphical presentation, while criticizing the game's boss variety, the map not telling the player where items are, the game's controls, stating that "In my own run I died about 5 times between the start of the game and the end of the first boss. This might suggest highlighting The Legend of Zelda (NES) as a game geared toward "hardcore" players, however, the deaths are not because of the game's inherent difficulty. Instead, the difficulty is a result of the faulty controls.", and the game's reliance on the manual.[15]

The Classic NES series port of The Legend of Zelda received a score of eighty-four on Metacritic.[16]

Reviews
Release Reviewer, Publication Score Comment
Nintendo Entertainment System, Wii, Nintendo 3DS Lucas M. Thomas,
IGN
9/10 "The Legend of Zelda's sequel, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, will benefit even more from be played through the VC but that's a tale for another time. For now, experience the original. Revisit Link's first journey through the land of Hyrule, and see where the franchise first was formed. The Legend of Zelda is absolutely worth your 500 Wii Points, even if you already own it in other forms. For me, I think it's time to take another shot at the Second Quest - I wonder what Drew is up to these days?"
Nintendo Entertainment System Damien McFerran,
Nintendo Life
8/10 "This ranks as one of the finest 8-bit RPGs available. If you don't already own a copy of this (and you might do if you got the GBA version or you own the GameCube Zelda disc) you should download it right away!"
Nintendo Entertainment System David Fisher,
Game Skinny
6/10 "The Legend of Zelda despite having a number of failings is still a rather enjoyable game. It has a certain charm to it that time itself cannot take away. However, new players should certainly be aware of its failings. The controls have not aged well at all, and without a guide newcomers should be ready to wander the Kingdom of Hyrule aimlessly for a long time before stumbling upon their first dungeon. That said, the game is certainly playable, and is a worthwhile game to pick up if you are willing to invest the time.

As such, I give The Legend of Zelda (NES) a 6 out of 10 for being a game that only a dedicated fan of the series - or of adventure games - can truly bring themselves to play anymore."

Aggregators
Compiler Platform / Score
Metacritic 84

Alternate versions and re-releases[edit]

Gameplay from the 2004 Game Boy Advance port

Version differences[edit]

A comparison of the title screens between the original Family Computer Disk System and Family Computer cartridge versions. Changes with the Family Computer release include: the number 1 being added into the game's logo, the "Push Start Button" text being recycled from the NES release, and the inclusion of 1992 as a copyright year.
A comparison of the title screens between the original Family Computer Disk System and Family Computer cartridge versions. Changes with the Family Computer release include: the number 1 being added into the game's logo, the "Push Start Button" text being recycled from the NES release, and the inclusion of 1992 as a copyright year.
A comparison of the title screens between the original Family Computer Disk System and Family Computer cartridge versions. Changes with the Family Computer release include: the number 1 being added into the game's logo, the "Push Start Button" text being recycled from the NES release, and the inclusion of 1992 as a copyright year.

There are four versions of The Legend of Zelda's original release: the Family Computer Disk System, the PRG0 and PRG1 revisions, and the Family Computer re-release. The PRG1 revision is the Classic Series re-release[17], and the PRG0 and PRG1 respectively have a product ID of NES-ZL-USA and NES-ZL-USA-1. The Nintendo Entertainment System release features many audio differences from the Family Computer Disk System version, to accommodate for the NES's inferior sound channel, and also includes a couple of minor differences from the original.

Starting with 2003, when The Legend of Zelda was included on Collector's Edition, many translation errors were fixed, most notably from the title screen intro. This version was reused in subsequent ports, except for the Virtual Console release on 3DS, which is based on the PRG1 version. The 2003 release's title screen was updated to include 2003 (or 2004 in the Classic NES Series re-release) as a copyright year. In Japan, the Collector's Edition version was released in 2004, and thus the title screen's copyright year was also updated to 2004. This version is based on the first Family Computer Disk System, but retains the rewritten intro from. Similarly, the Japanese 3DS Virtual Console opted to use the original translation.

There are a couple of other notable differences:

  • The Bible was renamed to the Book of Magic from the introduction in international releases. This was done in order to comply with Nintendo of America's censorship policies against adding religious content in-game. The Family Computer cartridge re-release also reads "Book of Magic" text but the katakana text still reads Bible.
  • In the Family Computer Disk System and Family Computer versions, one way to defeat a Pols Voice is to yell into the Family Computer's built-in microphone. Since the NES hardware does not have this feature, Link can instead defeat a Pols Voice by firing Arrows at it.
  • In the NES release, the Zola sprites changed to have a black outline surrounding them, which gives them further on-screen visibility.
  • The NES release features the thicker, common font present in many NES games.
  • In the PRG1 NES version, the save option screen warns users on how to prevent losing their save data. While this message was removed from the hidden Animal Crossing version, the text layout was left unchanged.
  • The Family Computer Disk System version has a smoother screen transitional effect than the NES and Family Computer cartridge releases.
  • The PRG1 version of the NES release adds a trademark symbol to the title screen.
  • The Family Computer cartridge re-release was updated to include the number "1" in its title. This change is also reflected on the title screen.
  • In Japan's 2004 re-release, the copyright info and "Press Start" message reuse the original Family Computer Disk System font.

Staff[edit]

The complete ending credits from the Family Computer Disk System release.

Everyone except the producer, Hiroshi Yamauchi, is listed under a pseudonym during the end credits:

Executive producer:

  • Hiroshi Yamauchi

Producer:

Directors:

Designer:

  • Takashi Tezuka

Programmers:

  • Toshihigo Nakago
  • Yasunari Soejima
  • I. Marui

Sound composer:

Gallery[edit]

Main article: Gallery:The Legend of Zelda

Names in other languages[edit]

Language Name Meaning
Japanese ゼルダの伝説
Zeruda no Densetsu
ゼルダの伝説1
Zeruda no Densetsu 1
Legend of Zelda (subtitled "The Hyrule Fantasy" on the logo)

The Legend of Zelda 1 (Family Computer 1994 re-release)

References[edit]