Classic NES Series: The Legend of Zelda Review

Though the game is old and has been followed up by plenty of other, deeper games in the series, The Legend of Zelda still holds up quite well.

The Legend of Zelda series has been one of Nintendo's most active since its domestic introduction back in 1987. In addition, it's been one of the most popular series of games ever created. The several sequels that have been released over the last 17 years have all followed the same basic blueprint as the original action adventure game that was released on the NES. Now, players can go back to the original game--but this time on their Game Boy Advances--because it's been rereleased as part of Nintendo's Classic NES Series. Though the game is old and has been followed up by plenty of other, deeper games in the series, The Legend of Zelda still holds up quite well, making it one of the only games in Nintendo's Classic NES Series that is worth the $20 price tag.

The game is skinny on plot but long on action.

You won't find a lot of plot information inside the actual game, but the manual has some tidbits, and, well, the plot of the game is basically the same plot that you've seen in most of the other games in the series. You play as Link, a little dude with a sword and a multitude of other items. You're out to rescue the princess, Zelda, from the evil, piglike villain, Ganon. You do this by making your way through an expansive overworld to eight dungeons, where you must fight creatures to regain pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom. Once you've reassembled the Triforce, you can head off to the ninth and final dungeon to take on Ganon himself. Once you've done all this, a remixed version of the original game becomes available.

The gameplay in The Legend of Zelda is a good mix of action and some light puzzle-solving. You'll acquire items as you play, and using these items at the right time is the key to moving forward. Some of the items are more combat-oriented. You'll start with a simple, wooden sword, but by the end of the game you'll have a bow and arrow, a boomerang that stuns most enemies, bombs, a magic wand, and more. On the movement side of things, you'll earn a raft that can be used to reach a couple of out-of-reach areas and a ladder that lets you run across some otherwise-uncrossable gaps. You'll also get a whistle that, among other things, can be used to warp around the overworld map.

If you still have intimate knowledge of The Legend of Zelda, you can blaze through it pretty quickly to finish it in a day. But unless you've been spending a lot of quality time with the free Zelda bonus disc Nintendo recently released on the GameCube, you can expect to get eight to 10 hours out of the game. This number goes up quite a bit if you decide to take on the second quest.

Graphically, this version of The Legend of Zelda duplicates the NES original pretty faithfully. The backgrounds occasionally look a little squished, but this is a minor point that you'll probably only notice if you're playing on a Game Boy Player. It may not look like much now, but considering it's merely attempting to duplicate the look of a game originally released more than 15 years ago, it's hard to fault it for looking dated. The game's look actually holds up pretty well, considering its age.

The original Legend of Zelda contains many of the same elements you still see in today's Zelda games.

The game's sound is in the same boat. It's old, but it's well duplicated here on the GBA, and the sound effects hold up well too. The music, which has been updated and remixed over and over again throughout the rest of the Zelda series, is still really catchy.

The only thing that undercuts this rerelease of The Legend of Zelda is that Nintendo recently released a Zelda bonus disc that contains the two NES Zelda games, some N64 Zelda games, and so on. This disc was released for free. So it seems a little strange, now, paying $20 for just the first game in the series. However, on its own merits, the game has some length to it, and it holds up well. So if you don't have a GameCube or missed out on the Zelda bonus disc, this is one rerelease worth checking out.

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Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.

The Legend of Zelda More Info

  • First Released
    • Famicom Disk System
    • Game Boy Advance
    • NES
    The Legend of Zelda is a top-down, action RPG for the NES, and the first game in one of the biggest series of all time.
    Average Rating7612 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Published by:
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    All Platforms
    Mild Fantasy Violence