One of the most anxiously awaited titles for the Nintendo Wii launch, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess failed to disappoint, providing one of the most satisfying gaming experiences of the year and possibly of the decade. And while gamers are hailing Link’s latest jump into 3D gaming, Nintendo has also seen fit to release Link’s very first adventure on its new Wii Virtual Console service. The Legend of Zelda, originally released for the NES almost 20 years ago, is now available for 500 Wii Points. But does it still measure up to the standards Link has set throughout the years?
The plot is as timeless as any other, as the first Zelda game lacked the complexity that later outings would bring. This was a simple “hero rescues princess-in-distress” affair, as the most complex part of the plot was Link receiving his first sword at the outset of the game. Of course, these were simpler times, so paper-thin plots were the norm. What made Legend of Zelda great was the gameplay.
Gameplay took place on a large overworld map filled with various monsters and secret passages. While it was absolutely massive at the time, the overworld is still large even by today’s standards. Filled with secrets dying to be explored, intrepid gamers can search every nook and cranny using the many tools at Link’s disposal. And Link has plenty of tools to explore with. Not limited to a sword, Link also picks up candles, bombs, a whistle, and several other items throughout his quest. Most of these items are found in the game’s many dungeons and can be controlled easily with either the Wii-mote, the Classic Controller, or the Gamecube controller, as controlling Link’s inventory is as simple as a push of a button.
The dungeons are mind-numbing mazes that send players back and forth looking for a way forward. Gamers need to use their sword skills alongside their puzzle-solving skills in order to advance through to the dungeon’s boss, consisting of many classic series foes like Dodongos. Boss battles consist of either using Link’s sword or bow and arrow to defeat the dungeon beast or strategically using special weapons found in the dungeon. Clearing every dungeon leads to a final battle with the evil Ganon, who would go on to terrorize Link (and gamers) for many years to come.
Graphics are the standard 8-bit fare of the 1980’s. While Link does battle today with life-sized villains, his first adventure sees him taking on tiny sprites. While it’s far from anything special, it’s still a feat to witness an overworld of Legend of Zelda’s magnitude. There’s no getting around the fact, though, that this game’s graphics haven’t aged well. Of course, no one will be buying Legend of Zelda for its graphical prowess. Die-hard fans of this game’s graphics are often found at Hot Topic, but for everyone else, the small sprites are a huge step backwards.
The game’s graphics may be average, but the Legend of Zelda’s musical score is slightly better. The overworld theme is unforgettable and has become one of the all-time classic tracks in video gaming. No song in gaming gives players a greater sense of adventure than this track. However, the rest of the game’s tracks leave a lot to be desired. The dungeon theme is repetitive and gets extremely annoying after long exposure, which is inevitable given this genre of game. And the secret areas are devoid of music, period. Make no mistake about it, the overworld theme saves this game musically, making it as much of a one-hit wonder as Vanilla Ice. But players can still take solace in hearing the signature “unlocked” sound that has since become a staple of this franchise.
Looking at it historically, the Legend of Zelda series is tops and no gamer should be without a copy of the first title in the series, which is completely free of any emulation issues. The main quest will keep players going for at least 20 hours, with an unlockable second quest keeping players going further. Side quests and mini-games are a notable omission, but the Legend of Zelda series wouldn’t known for those qualities until it hit the Super NES years later. A low price tag of 500 Wii Points makes the Legend of Zelda a no-brainer for any Wii owner’s Virtual Console library. However, anyone who owns the Legend of Zelda bonus disc that came with either a Gamecube or a Nintendo Power subscription need not purchase this, as all Gamecube games are compatible with the Wii. Those fans already have their Zelda fix available.