It’s the very first game in the series, the one that introduced us to Link, Zelda, and Ganon, to dungeons and secrets, the triforce (but not of courage) and the iconic overworld theme. It even established green, red, and blue as the colors for Link, Ganon, and Zelda respectively, if only subtly and unintentionally.
It’s so open and full of secrets, and it feels a lot like Breath of the Wild in that respect. A lot of people say Breath of the Wild is the least “Zelda-like” in the series, but with the exception of dungeons, it feels the most like the original, focusing much of its energy on exploration. Neither are particularly story-driven, with The Legend of Zelda keeping its story in the opening scroll and the game manual. But The Legend of Zelda is more dungeon-focused while Breath of the Wild is far more overworld-focused.
As for The Legend of Zelda‘s world, it’s not a very welcoming one. The overworld feels much more dangerous than most Zelda overworlds. You don’t start out in the cozy small village you grew up in – you’re thrown straight into the action. It’s much more difficult to stumble on secrets – no cracked walls here to let you know you should try bombing it. And no indication that I should be burning the third bush from the left on this screen or touching this armos knight. This kind of information is relegated to the game manual, which doubles as a tutorial (maybe I’ll check out some of the Zelda game manuals and write a post just on them). I relied quite a bit on a guide for my playthrough. I tried not to use a guide for most of the dungeons – mostly just for navigating and finding secrets in the overworld, and I’m hoping I can eventually ween myself off using a guide entirely.
I died several times before reaching the first dungeon – my playstyle is a bit too reckless. I can be a bit impatient at times trying to kill all the enemies when I should probably be spending more time avoiding them (and not losing health). I also refused to use a potion in the overworld, reserving them for tough darknut and blue wizzrobe-filled dungeons. I’m generally more into puzzles than combat, so I’ll try to rush through combat (guess I need to get good). Upon a second playthrough of the game, I felt much more comfortable with combat, with made it a lot more enjoyable. I could see this game becoming one I could just play to relax, once I become more familiar with the overworld. I’m actually thinking of making my own Zelda notebook with maps of the overworld and each dungeon to help with my playthroughs, which is what I imagine a lot of people did when the game first came out.
Most of my thoughts on the dungeons will be reserved for my dungeon ranking posts, but I will say that the non-linearity had me interested. Like, what if I went to Level 8 first and got the magical key to use throughout the other dungeons? Not that it would be easy to do…but I’m curious about all the ways you could play this game. The game manual encourages you to go in order, and some dungeons require earlier dungeon items to complete, but there’s nothing stopping you from doing a reverse dungeon order playthrough.
For each Zelda game I write about, I’ve decided to pick out my favorite and least favorite part/feature of the game, so here are my inaugural choices:
Least Favorite: It’s more enemy-heavy than puzzle-heavy. I’m a big fan of discovering secrets hidden behind puzzles, and though this game’s got a couple pretty cool ones, like checking behind a waterfall, or feeding a hungry goriya, it lacks many of the satisfying puzzles of its successors.
Favorite: The dungeon layouts are really neat. Each is shaped like a creature or object, and it’s got some super iconic ones, like the Eagle, the Dragon, and the Skull. It’s another thing that reminds me ever so slightly of Breath of the Wild.