System: Wii Virtual NES
Developer: Nintendo R&D4
Originally released in 1987 on the Nintendo Entertainment System, The Legend of Zelda was a bold new design from the now-legendary Shigeru Miyamoto. The game shipped with a gold cartridge and a revolutionary ability to save a game’s progress via batter power. Sporting a huge overworld to explore, tons of dungeons and bosses to vanquish, and yet another blond princess to rescue, Miyamoto’s new game went on to become one of the most influential titles in the industry.
Since its release, there have been many sequels, spinoffs, character cameo appearances, and even a philosophical book, but there is only one original. This game is where the greatest franchise in video game history was born.
Link starts his journey equipped with nothing other than a small shield standing somewhere in the land of Hyrule. Your journey is to traverse through deep woods, deadly mountains, and vast desert landscapes with the ultimate goal of finding the pieces of the Triforce and rescuing Princess Zelda from the demented Ganon. Through your venture you will eventually build a massive arsenal of different weapons ranging from boomerangs and bombs to Magical Rings and Wands, each new piece of equipment making it far easier to advance on the rest of your journey.
And you’re going to need all the help you can get, as none of the NPC’s you’ll run across in caves are going to be of much help. Really, there is an extreme lack of narrative throughout the entire adventure, and the citizens of Hyrule won’t be able to tell you anything other than how dangerous it is to go alone.
This is where the single drawback to the Virtual Console emulation is. When the game launched here in the States, Nintendo of America (NOA) feared the dauntingly huge overworld and severe lack of narrative or in-game direction would present too much of a challenge for us lazy American gamers. And they were absolutely right. That’s why the game came packed with a full poster map of Hyrule and an in-depth play manual with tips, tricks, and hints so that players wouldn’t feel too lost.
Here in the Virtual Console edition, no one will be holding your hand. I really wish they would’ve included digital versions of these pack-ins inside of the Operations Guide (found on the HOME Menu of all VC games), but since they didn’t I highly recommend using a guide or walk through if this is your first time through the game, as it is the only way to find your way around Hyrule without simply wandering aimlessly until you get lucky enough to find a piece of the Triforce. And even if this is your hundredth time, guides will probably help you find some secrets you didn’t know about and make this adventure feel much more fresh.
One of the many things that made this game a true innovator upon its release was the battery-powered saving unit used to record progress throughout your journey. Gone were the tedious writing down and typing in of long passcodes or leaving your system run for days on end until you finally beat a game, saving your game and picking up later was a huge deal in 1988. However, there were some flaws with the way things worked.
Whenever you saved and quit, Link was reverted back to 3 hearts (the other containers remained, but you’d have to manually refill them) and was magically taken back to the spot in Hyrule where you started, forcing you to make your way all the back to wherever you were before quitting. With the Virtual Console update, you can simply suspend your play session by pressing the HOME button and returning to the Wii Menu and pick up exactly where you left off.
The visuals are all fairly basic, and aside from the enemies you will notice an absence of life in the fields of Hyrule, save a few NPC’s stuffed away in caves by themselves, but the huge overworld and intimidating amount of dungeons presented one of the biggest, deepest games of its time. The developers stuffed as much as they possibly could into the minuscule memory limitations they were presented at the time.
The Legend of Zelda for Virtual Console is a complete steal at only 500 Wii Points ($5), and I highly recommend it to absolutely everyone. Though I know it will only appeal to Zelda fans, gaming enthusiasts, and true hardcore gamers looking for a timeless retro challenge, I think everyone should get in touch with their roots and see where one of gaming’s biggest franchises was born. Sure the high difficulty and lack of in game direction will be a turn off to modern gamers, but this is one of the games that started it all. An O.G. if you will.
- A timeless classic
- Modern save system
- Link’s first adventure
- Reaching the Second Quest
- Only 500 Wii Points
- Too hard for panzy gamers
- Should have included digital versions of the poster map and tips guide in the Operations Manual
Score: 9.0/10 (Amazing)