I wanted a break from the Pokemon games for the time being. During my holidays, I came to the conclusion that all I was doing was playing, watching, and studying the gameplay of Pokemon. So, I decided to break down one of the greatest franchises of all time, The Legend of Zelda. Here’s why it has the following that it has now.
The Golden Era of Gaming
Legend of Zelda is an old game and considered a classic. In the 80s to 90s games first started coming to light as something major, and Legend of Zelda was no exception. Developed in 1986, the game was the exact opposite of the already popular game Super Mario Bros. for the NES. Instead of a platformer of strict level progression, Legend of Zelda enticed the player tried to explore the world. It even introduced saves since the game was much longer than others at that time.
A sequel, The Adventure of Link, came out a year later in 1987. The game is black sheep of the franchise as it went back to a more platformer type of game. It introduced the famed magic meter. And it is the only game with limited lives and experience points. This had mixed reviews, as lovers of the first game would later influence the franchise to go back to its roots.
1991 introduced A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo. This game introduced many ideas and concepts into the world of Hyrule. First, it hinted at the creation of the world and its goddesses. It introduced the concept of alternate and parallel universes in the franchise as a whole. Most of all, it introduced the Master Sword. This was the game that started the stone rolling down the hill from the franchise. This was later supported with the release of another sequel, Link’s Awakening in 1993, which got introduced to handhelds.
With the success of Mario, Sonic, Crash, and Zelda, Ocarina of Time pushed gaming forward. It introduced a world of 3D graphics, complex mechanics, and most of all, a fulfilling story. Now, games didn’t focus on story, but on the action in the platformers and sidescrollers. But that would soon change after the success that Ocarina of Time.
Two years after the famed Ocarina of Time, a much darker and thrilling sequel emerged. Majora’s Mask is one of the most unique games in the franchise. It took the graphics of Ocarina of Time and changed the aspect of the franchise. With the addition of time limits, it was in a world outside of Hyrule. Its mature nature was a vast change from its predecessors. Nonetheless, it had a following that rivals Ocarina of Time. To this day it’s considered one of the greatest games of all time.
By now, franchises of new and old were developing at a rapid pace, and Legend of Zelda was no exception.
Evolution of a Legend
From here, the franchise focused on handheld consoles like Gameboy Color and the Gameboy Advance. Games like Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages, Four swords, and Minish Cap were decent games at best. Don’t get me wrong, they were most definitely good, but it never stood out from the rest of the franchise. Around this time, it would have been Wind Waker that would grab all the attention. Made in 2002, the franchise would take the original art style of the games, and flip it onto its head. Being the opposite of Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker was happy and cheerful. It was full of bright colors and gameplay. The art style was completely different. It didn’t have as good a feedback as the original serious type games. It didn’t do as well as the other games, which is a shame as the story is one of my favorites.
Skip a few years into the future and we have the 2006 Twilight Princess. Oh boy, where to start with this one. It reintroduced what Legend of Zelda was about to the world. It brought back the dark and serious mood of Ocarina of Time, but it had most definitely evolved since then. The story was complex and beautiful developed. The graphics, of course, had major improvements. And the introduction of characters such as Midna made this game one of the most well know in the series. It explored concepts and characterizations that it would affect their future successes. This spurred on fans to have another game like this. But it would be years before the commercial successor Skyward Sword would come out.
Between the two games, there were two DS titles. The first being Phantom Hourglass. It was a sequel to Wind Waker and is the reason why the cartoonish like Link is popular. Despite its cartoonish art style, it got good feedback. A following would develop that supported the cartoonish aspect. Toon Link became a thing, that it’s success spurred on another sequel within a few years, Spirit Tracks. Okay, this one is my opinion, but what the actual hell happened with this game? Not only did it not have an interesting villain or plot, but it involves trains. Trains of all things fantasy and epic. I hated this game when it first came out, and I still do recognize that there are people that enjoy the game for what it is.
Now we come to what I deem as the pinnacle of the franchise. After years of improved storytelling, Skyward Sword was the child of years of love and experience. It was as light-hearted as the cartoonish Wind Waker. It had the maturity and world exploring of Ocarina of Time. It had the memorable characters of Twilight Princess. My most favorite story belongs to Skyward Sword as it was pretty much perfect. It involved lots of humanistic elements, emotional scenes, and great storytelling. There was never a moment in the game where I thought that something made no sense. By the end of the game I had a box of tissues at my side.
Following its success, A Link Between Worlds came out in 2013. And it continued to use what made Skyward Sword so successful. It was the perfect sequel to A Link to the Past.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the biggest and most game-changing of the franchise. Its story was as good as Skyward Sword. But what I loved about it was the humanistic aspect to the game and the what if scenario. The once always knowledgeable Zelda had flaws for once, and I enjoyed it. The story explored the idea of, what if the hero fails? There is nothing more satisfying going through heartbreaking moments. Link pushes through endless hardships as he tries to recall his memories. This was just the icing on the cake. What’s more, it was an open world of adventure. Before all the games had a strict storyline progression from A to B. Now I can run wild and do whatever I want in the game.
So all in all…
Legend of Zelda was a classic. It was a breakthrough and was influential to the gaming industry with its unique ideas and approaches to gaming. Follow this up with the fact that the franchise was always improving its gameplay, it’s story, and it’s characters. Or at least, if there was a mistake, it was almost entirely addressed and fixed in the next game. The story is forever evolving, and despite it’s some flaws, the developers continue to understand what the fanbased wants, and that is why this franchise succeeds. Honestly right now, I just want to see the next game as soon as possible.
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