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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Legend of Zelda

You know, it's been well over a year since I did a blog entry on a video game series.

When this blog first began, I had initially designated Thursday blog entries as “Thursday Night at the Arcade”. Throughout 2011, I used the Thursday blog to talk about video games of the past and (then) present from the Colecovision to the Nintendo DS. But at the end of 2011, I realized that not a whole lot of people really took much interest. So, when 2012 came around, I changed the theme day to the “Thursday Confessional”. And, now in 2013, it's called the “Thursday Diaries”.

(Can you tell that Thursdays have been a source of frustration for this blogger?)

Looking back on the original arcade game feature, I don't think that it was that bad of an idea. I did talk about some of the popular games that took the gaming world by storm, after all. I did a couple of entries on Super Mario, dabbled in a little bit of Sonic history, added in Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon as a little bit of a footnote, and had a lengthy discussion on video games that probably should have never been made.

Back to the Future for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Enough said.

Of course, part of my research was made a lot easier by the search button that I added to the blog just underneath the main header. You type in any word you want to, and if the word appears in any of the 599 previous entries that I have done, it will bring up the entry in the search engine.

So, why am I telling you this?

Well, first things first, if you've read between the lines, this is the 600th post in this blog. YAY!

(Self-gratification transmission ended.)

And, secondly, I realized that in the seven months that I kept the video game feature going on, I never did a blog entry on one of the most popular video game series ever created.

I thought to myself...this wasn't right. After all, millions of people have probably played at least one game in this particular series...I know that I played a couple of the games when I was younger. Of course, I don't know if anyone else found this to be the case, but when I was playing these series of games, I was absolutely clueless as to how to play them. I kept dying, and getting stuck, and by the end of it all, I was ready to chuck the controller through the bedroom window.

(In case you can't tell, I never did beat any of the games in this series.)

But for twenty-seven years, this little guy decked out entirely in green has wielded his sword against mythical beasts and creatures, found hidden treasures...and broke into people's homes and smashed up every single ceramic pot in their possession. Oh, but don't worry. You won't get thrown in jail for it. The people just smile and happily dole out little nuggets of information to you anyway, like the Stepford wives they seem to be.

Of course, there's a reason for the mass murder of forest creatures and vandalism of private property. You have to save the princess of Hyrule from an evil being and make sure that the Triforce of Wisdom is restored and repaired in the hopes of bringing peace to the land.

Mind you, our protagonist has done a lousy job of it so far. I mean, he's had twenty-seven years to put things right, and yet Ganon STILL manages to cause mischief. I tell you, Link is just losing his touch.

Yes, we'll be talking about the characters of Link, Princess Zelda, and Ganon in today's blog. As for the game we'll be spotlighting? Why not start at the very beginning with “The Legend of Zelda”?

I know it seems hard to believe, but next month will mark the twenty-seventh anniversary of the “Legend of Zelda” series. The game was released in Japan on February 21, 1986 (just a few months after the Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America), and since then has been re-released for the Nintendo GameCube, Game Boy Advance, the Wii's Virtual Console, and there are talks for the game to be released for the Nintendo 3DS sometime in 2013.

The game was developed and created by duo of Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. At the time they were working on “The Legend of Zelda”, the team was also developing the 1985 video game “Super Mario Brothers”. But although both games were being created together, both men intended to make both games as different as possible. As a result, “Super Mario Brothers” became a linear platformer game, while “The Legend of Zelda” became more of a non-linear role playing game.

The inspiration behind the game largely came from Miyamoto's own childhood adventures. Growing up in Kyoto, Japan, he would often be exploring fields, woods, and caves. He would often go off on little adventures without a map or a compass, and be completely surprised and excited over what he would find. He even recalled one story where he came across a lake in his travels that he had no idea even existed before.

And, that's essentially what “The Legend of Zelda” is. It's a game of exploration. Link, our hero, makes his way through different villages to interact with townspeople, and moving through caves and forests in hopes of finding treasure. The whole point of the game is to find a way into the eight secret dungeons hidden throughout the land of Hyrule to retrieve the eight pieces of the shattered Triforce of Wisdom, an ancient artifact representing the essences of a trio of Golden Goddesses. Once the Triforce is fully assembled, Link can then gain entry into the ninth and final dungeon to rescue Princess Zelda from Ganon.

TRIVIA: Ever wonder how Zelda ended up getting her famous name? According to Miyamoto, the name Zelda came from a woman named Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of novelist Francis Scott Fitzgerald. There was no reason why Zelda was chosen other than the fact that Miyamoto liked the name.

EVEN MORE TRIVIA: Actor Robin Williams is a fan of video gaming. In fact, he's such a fan of this particular game that when his daughter was born in 1989, he named her Zelda, after the video game!

For the record, the origin of Link was designed solely with a “coming-of-age” angle to it. The game progresses in such a way that at the beginning of the game, he is a na├»ve young boy who probably shouldn't be tackling on a big adventure (at the very beginning of the game, he doesn't even have a weapon), but towards the end, he's matured into quite the hero.

Albeit a hero who has to rescue a princess as many times as a certain plumber with a mustache...

What is interesting about the game was that it didn't exactly have Nintendo's full backing at first. Initially, the management team had concerns that “The Legend of Zelda” would end up being a huge flop. But those fears ended up being unfounded, as the game became a massive success. The game was the first NES game to sell one million copies, and by the end of the 1980s, it had sold more than 6.5 million copies. The game was brought to North America in 1987, which was right around the time that the sequel “Zelda II: The Adventures of Link” was being released in Japan.

The Zelda games also stood out from the rest of the Nintendo cartridges when they first were released because the cartridges were gold in colour. Take a look below.

If only ALL Nintendo game cartridges were that colour. Heck, if they designed a gold Nintendo 3DS, I would totally purchase it.

And, “The Legend of Zelda” was also responsible for the kick off of various video game tip magazines such as “Nintendo Power”, “Game Players”, and “GamePro”. When the game first came out, people who had purchased the game and sent in the warranty card that was included with the game, Nintendo would automatically enroll them in the “Fun Club”, and send them newsletters which contained puzzles and hot tips for the latest video games. Because of the difficulty of the game, Nintendo often included tips on how to find hidden rooms, or how to find various upgrades, or how to defeat a certain enemy inside each newsletter. These tips proved to be a godsend for many video gamers, which in turn caused the mailing list to grow to over one million people. This prompted the company to create Nintendo Power magazine in the summer of 1988, and the magazine provided tips and hints to gamers until it ceased publication in December 2012.

Did you also know that “The Legend of Zelda” also is the holder of five Guinness World Records? Just singling out a couple of them to talk about in this entry, it is the first game to use a battery powered saving feature. Instead of using passcodes and passwords to progress through the game, “Zelda” had a built in component that actually saved your game. Whenever you took a break from playing, all you had to do was select the save file, and you could continue on with the game. The Final Fantasy series also used this technology, but “Zelda” did it first.

The game also holds the record for being the highest-rated video game of all time.

In the years since “The Legend of Zelda” was released, a total of fifteen different games featuring Link and Zelda have been created (the most recent being 2011's “Skyward Sword” for the Nintendo Wii). The characters of Link and Zelda were animated into cartoon form for both the “Super Mario Brothers Super Show” and “Captain N: The Game Master” cartoon series, and the popularity of the game series spawned dozens of merchandising opportunities including sticker albums, lunchboxes, breakfast cereals, and jewelry.

And, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the “Zelda” series in 2011, Nintendo did a couple of things. They re-released the wildly popular “Ocarina of Time” game for the Nintendo 3DS, and they created a special “Zelda” themed level within Super Mario Land 3D, also for the Nintendo 3DS.

(It's World 5-2, in case you're wondering.)

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