The Legend of Zelda (NES)

Legend of Zelda Box Art

The Legend of Zelda

System: NES

Release Date: August 22, 1987

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: Adventure

The Legend of Zelda is our next game and it is the first in the long, long line of Zelda games. You star as Link, who is on a quest to collect the eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom, scattered across Hyrule. With the Triforce, Link hopes to put an end to the evil Ganon, who stole the Triforce of Power.

Oh thanks old man, that is really very nice! I can always count on you for help and friendly advice. Though I’ve never seen a sword quite that shape or size…

Link first enters a cave on the starting screen and is told, “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this!” The old man gives him a sword, which will be your best friend during the adventure. My playthrough was based on memory of the many times I’ve played through the first quest. Luckily, that meant I knew where to find all of the dungeons. The first dungeon is not far away from the starting point. Inside of each dungeon is a special item used to either move ahead or make your life easier.

The magic boomerang comes to me quickly.

The first dungeon gives the boomerang, which is used to both stun enemies to make them easier to kill and to pick up far away items. You can also find the bow, which allows you to buy arrows for a strong, straight shot. Once you buy arrows, you can shoot as long as you have rupees. This is important to kill certain enemies later on. The second dungeon gives you an upgraded boomerang, which moves faster and farther across the screen. You also find bombs if you haven’t bought any already, which is necessary to defeat Dodongo.

This is a place you can’t survive with just your sword and your wits. Enjoy the white sword!

The third dungeon gives the raft, which is necessary for entry to dungeon four. The fourth dungeon gives the ladder, which is a helpful navigation tool. By this time, Link should have enough hearts to wield the White Sword, which is near the fifth dungeon. After collecting the White Sword, move north several times through the Lost Hills to reach the fifth dungeon. Inside is the Whistle, which is used for a few purposes throughout the quest. Certain enemies are weakened by the whistle, it also acts as a teleport between dungeon entrances.

It’s a secret to everybody.

At this point, I had to do a lot of grinding for rupees. I wanted to buy the blue ring, which cuts damage received by half. The downside is that the price is 250 rupees, which can take awhile to amass. I also upgraded to the magical shield, which I picked up at the cheapest merchant for 80 rupees. There are a lot of hidden merchants across Hyrule. Many screens need to have a spot bombed or burned to open the entrances up. You can find gambling dens, free rupee caves, heart containers, information, and more.

Access to the Magical Sword is in the graveyard.

As I went to dungeon six, I had enough heart containers to pick up the magical sword in the Graveyard. In order to get there, you have to go through the Lost Woods. A nearby information cave says to go north, west, south, west, which sends you to the Graveyard. Dungeon six brings the annoying Wizzrobes which become the bane of my existence as the dungeons continue. You also find the Magic Wand, which is neat. Around this area, you can find the power bracelet, which allows you to open up four warps around Hyrule. Dungeon seven requires you to use the whistle at a lake near the Lost Woods that doesn’t contain a fairy.

Burning down the forest one tree at a time.

Inside the seventh dungeon is the red candle, which allows you to light a fire multiple times per screen, as opposed to the blue candle, which you can buy that only allows you to use it once per screen. The eighth dungeon is hidden under a tree that must be burnt. Inside you can find the master key, which allows you to open any locked door, and the magic book, which adds a flame to the end of your magic wand, which is great for damage and lighting up rooms without having to switch items.

The entrance to Ganon’s lair beckons.

Finally, you have all the pieces of the Triforce, which allows you to move forward to the final dungeon up in Spectacle Rock atop Death Mountain. This is the biggest dungeon, full of boss level enemies, and underground tunnels. It takes everything you’ve got to get through this labyrinth. Hidden inside are silver arrows, which are necessary to kill Ganon, and the red ring, which cuts damage to ¼. I did not run across it in my playthrough, but I didn’t need it.

Ganon has been reduced to ash. The Triforce is mine!

Ganon is invisible and you need to hack away, hitting him multiple times to incapacitate him. Then, as he sits there, you shoot him with the silver arrow, turning him into ash and leaving you with the Triforce of Power. In the next room, guarded by flame is Princess Zelda herself. You rescue her and are rewarded with the credits and a second quest.

Yes, yes I am.

Graphics: 3.0

The graphics are good, but not detailed enough, in my opinion, to be considered great.

Sound: 3.5

You know, there are only a few songs present, the intro, the overworld, the dungeon, the final dungeon, and the game over. They’re all good, and the sound effects are fine… except for the low health alarm…

Gameplay: 4.0

This is probably the best game design to date on the NES. Everything builds on everything else. Then you get a second quest!

Difficulty: 3.5

If you’re having a tough time, you can get items to help you out. Finding out which items work on which enemies is important to progressing through the game.

Fun Factor: 4.0

You can’t go wrong with the Legend of Zelda. It’s an excellent game and it brings me joy every time I pop it in, ever since the late 80s.

Overall Grade: 3.6

The Legend of Zelda earns an A-. An excellent grade for an excellent game. I really only see one possible contender for the rest of 1987. We’ll see what happens when we get there!

The Legend of Zelda Video Review on YouTube