When Zelda 1 makes you kill your pets it's only half your fault

I've been playing through The Legend of Zelda, the first one, on the 3DS over the past few days, and it's got me thinking. Obviously this game is "too hard." Left on your own, in a void with no human contact, and only the ROM and no previous experience with it, I can't imagine the game is beatable. Or at least, not beatable without completely losing your mind.

I mean this is not my first time playing Zelda 1. But my first time was not as a child, in front of a flickering CRT. It was as an adult, with the full support network of the Internet available at every turn. Now I'm not really one who likes using guides to figure shit out. In fact I abhor it except for postgame content! But for this particular game you almost have to use a guide, unless you have three months of grueling unfun time to spare.

So I am thinking about what went through the minds at Nintendo when they made this game. I can think of only two possibilities. One, they wanted kids to play these games for as long as possible, so it was made to be obtuse and horrifying so those kids would come back to it, day after day, re-burning and re-bombing every single square on the overworld until something would finally give. "Welp, don't know what to do again, back to burning every sprite in the world." Kids are dumb, they don't know they're being abused.

Two, they expected word to travel. Maybe someone would stumble upon a secret, either via attrition or by buying a guide. Maybe they would call the Nintendo Power hotline! But one way or another, one kid would figure it out, and it would spread throughout the schoolyard. A primitive form of viral networking would move the data throughout the real world, in hushed tones, and that kid stuck looking for the eighth dungeon for months would follow the rumors, and GOOD LORD, there it is. "Wait didn't I already try that, oh son of a bitch the fire went too far that time."

It was probably a combination of the two. What that means, though, is that it's a game that you can't really play "the way it was intended" any more. Consulting the Internet is almost too easy, and if you sneak over into the neighborhood schoolyard and whisper your questions into the delicate ears of the budding youth, you may find yourself more concerned with breaking out of your new home, prison, than locating Dungeon 8.

The point is, don't feel too bad when you cheat your way through it. Well, maybe feel a little bit bad, depending on how much you cheat. Zelda 1 is a game for people that already hate themselves anyway, though, so I'm sure you can handle it.

  1. How do you make a sequel to Breath of the Wild and channel even an ounce of the "wow oh gosh" the first game had?  This kind of systems-driven open world with unprecedented freedom in its traversal, you can't just throw in "more systems" and "more world" and achieve that kind of impact.  But if we distill the game's primary message to one of "freedom," there's a natural next step: put that fancy boy in the sky. This wouldn't be the first time the series has dabbled with flight, obviously.  Skyward Sword's overworld was a giant playground for Link to flap around in on the back of his own oversized...
    read more
  2. We all had that nightmare, years ago.  A fevered, flop-sweat vision of a future we dared not believe could come to pass. "Nintendo making mobile games." Jesus!  I still shudder.  The benefits of Nintendo sticking to their own hardware have been well argued, and at the very LEAST we enthusiast game-doers place value on buttons.  The notion of Nintendo going multi-platform in the very worst way was not a pleasant one. But fret not!  They didn't put Nintendo games on phones.  They made mobile games with Nintendo characters in them.  Microtransactions!  Subscriptions!  Gacha!  Twelve pages of notices...
    read more
  3. Nintendo sometimes makes a big deal about milestones—Mario's 30th, Zelda's 25th, and the "Year of Luigi" are all recent examples that come to mind—but one thing you won't usually hear them mention is how long it's been since something went away. Luckily, my encyclopedic knowledge of pointless factoids stands at the ready! You see, today, February 19, 2019, marks the 25th anniversary of the very last games that Nintendo ever released for the Famicom, the system that enjoyed new releases for nearly 11 years and put them on the map as a home video game publisher. The two final Nintendo-published...
    read more
view all posts