While the anniversary of Zelda’s North American release is still a year and a half away, right now the internet is abuzz over the game’s 30th anniversary in Japan. Way back on February 21, 1986 the original Zelda launched in on the Famicom Disk System and ushered in a whole new way to experience 8-bit games. Mario may always take center stage, but in my heart Zelda was (and is) Nintendo’s premier franchise.
Look at the rest of the Famicom (and later NES) lineup at the time – Zelda’s openness and sense of adventure trounced all other titles on the market. Instead of being directed to your next Mario flagpole or arcade-style “level,” Zelda simply dropped you in a dangerous, confusing world and said “you figure it out.” This of course led to awesome moments of discovery, as well as painful defeats, but each victory was earned. And then at school, playgrounds bustled with questions and theories about what it all meant and how one could survive long enough to see the end.
Long story short, it was the Dark Souls of its day – and I say that well aware I’m not the first to make the connection and that anything being “The Dark Souls of…” is itself a well-worn and tired comparison. But, this does explain why Zelda captivated me in the 80s, and why Souls/Borne are doing it to me in the 2010s. It’s not the difficulty that makes them similar, it’s not “prepare to die” and all those admittedly brilliant marketing lines that we all ate up in 2012… it’s adventure and the unknown and triumph that makes these experiences so unique.
Anyway, clearly Zelda left its mark on me (eventually literally, via four tattoos y’know) and I’ve since done a few articles and reviews over the years. But here on LaserTime, this is what you can check out if you’re still in the Zelda 1 anniversibration mood:
GOLD STANDARD: A glistening history of Zelda’s Luminous Packaging
The Japanese version debuted on a (standard for the platform) yellow disk, but when the game came to North America it sported a gold seen that set expectations quite high – not only for the game itself, but the packaging for every subsequent game!
VGMpire: Hyrule Hits Vol 1
Back in 2013 I covered the first several Zelda titles on my game music podcast – give it a listen, why don’t ya? There’s also a Vol 2 that takes us through Twilight Princess.
VGMpire 66: Fun with Famicom
When Zelda finally debuted in the US, it was on the cartridge-based NES, not the floppy-disk-esque Famicom Disk System. Most of the game content is identical, but some of the FDS music benefits from an extra sound channel… and we cover the classic title screen tune in this episode!
Zelda turns 30 – the live stream part one
Like everyone else, we streamed some Zelda 1 to mark the occassion. But this is just the beginning! Tune in 3pm Pacific each Thursday until I finish it!
The ever-changing sizes of Ganon and Link
OK, so this is actually a GamesRadar article from FRIGGIN 2009. But I do love it so, and it’s got that “anniversary” feel to it, so please to enjoy this thing I did seven years ago.
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