You know, I still remember checking out Castlevaniaon the NES in the early-to-mid 2000s, marveling at the foundations of the series that spawned one of my favorite games at the time, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. This had to have been late in my middle school years, perhaps even my first year of high school. I had already been turned onto video games for a year or so, and not too long before I had scored an incredible haul from a garage sale that furthered my interests in retro gaming. It was a NES with, like, all the heavy hitters. I’m talking multiple Super Mario Bros. and Zelda games, Metroid, Contra, the Zapper, and of course, Castlevania. What stuck with me most about checking out Castlevania was its difficulty. I could only get so far – maybe the second boss – before burning out and throwing in the towel.
Fast forward to Halloween afternoon, 2021 and I STILL hadn’t played a thematically appropriate game for the month of October. As one does with scary stories, horror movies, and the like, there’s just something fitting about consuming them in October. At least here in North America, fall is starting to FEEL like fall. It’s getting darker earlier and colder, which makes it harder to enjoy physical activities outdoors, and on top of that, everything’s dying. Why not revel or find solace in a piece of entertainment that mirrors the increasingly dire situation that surrounds oneself? Well after days of seeing Philip Summers – aka “The Hand-Drawn Game Guides guy” – post about his Castlevania exploits on Twitter, I decided I’d do the same!
When I beat Super Mario Bros. for the first time last year, I felt I had marked an item off of a video game bucket list. It was a momentous achievement not just because it’s such an influential and important game to the medium, but because it was challenging as well. It took many, many failed attempts, progressing slightly farther each time before I was able to conquer Bowser and when I did, I felt like I accomplished something! For the same reasons, I’ve recently come to the Mega Man series.
For someone who fancies himself a collector and a knowledgebase of video games, it’s been hard for me to reconcile the fact that I’ve only played one Mega Man game; not even a core title in the series either but a spinoff: Mega Man Network Transmission. With compilations of both the classic and X series, I decided it was finally time to rectify this omission. With little deliberation, I shelved the Mega Man X Collection and decided to begin where the franchise did: with Mega Man. Granted, playing the Xbox version of Anniversary Collection on the Xbox 360.
It didn’t take long to dawn on me once I’d started, but this game and this series helped define the action-platformer. In a basic sense, Mega Man plays like Super Mario Bros. with guns. It retains the precision platforming of that game while featuring more frantic action, especially with the bosses. The stages are relatively brief affairs but each one hosts unique platforming challenges. Even with their brevity, it would always take multiple continues before I could reliably reach the boss; if I didn’t decide to halt that stage for the moment and move onto another after losing my stock of lives.
Another influential aspect of this game is the open-ended nature in completing it. Before Mega Man has the opportunity to settle his score with Dr. Wily, he first has to beat six of the mad scientist’s robot masters. Their stages could be selected in any order and what’s more, once beaten, Mega Man obtained their weapon. I could freely switch between the weapons Mega Man had acquired and was rewarded for doing so as each robot master was weak to another’s weapon. After obtaining a new weapon, I’d try a stage and make it to the boss to see if it was weak to the weapon just acquired and do so until I found my match.
Once the robot masters had been defeated and the path to Dr. Wily became available, the challenge really began. I went through a decent amount of continues before reaching the Yellow Devil. This iconic Mega Man boss was highlighted to me with his annoying inclusion in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U where he transfers chunks of his body horizontally from one side of the screen to the other rebuilding itself, a difficult attack to evade. Now I know where that originated. That exact same tactic is present here and was one of the hardest video game obstacles I’ve had to overcome in recent memory, maybe since beating Super Mario Bros. last year! It took me so much time and effort (multiple sessions across a couple of days even) that I naively thought this was the final boss. Because of course it wouldn’t be DR. WILY! Come on John, think about it!
So once I’d finally conquered the Yellow Devil (which literally made me exclaim WOOHOO!), I was crestfallen to realize there was more to do… much more. Dr. Wily’s stage was four sections long – each ending with a boss fight, or set of boss fights. Each of the robot masters that Mega Man had beaten previously had to be beaten again. Thankfully, the game allows unlimited continues and mercifully, when used in Dr. Wily’s stage, they restarted me in the current section and not at the very beginning of the stage – pre-Yellow Devil. With that ability, I was actually able to make it deep into the final section of Dr. Wily’s stage when that nightmare scenario we all have while playing video games happened – I lost power. ARGH!!!
With that, I was done with Mega Man. Not just for that night but for a long time. At least, that’s how I felt for the next fifteen minutes until I had a chance to cool down. This was something I still had on my video game bucket list, something I still felt I needed to do in order to broaden my gaming knowledge. A few days later I returned and with little resistance was right back where I was pre-power outage. Most thrilling of all was the rematch with the Yellow Devil. What had once taken me an eternity to overcome I could now topple in a few attempts!
With the robot masters bested again and these sections completed, there was one thing left to do: put Dr. Wily in his place. Like the Yellow Devil, this was another tough matchup. Dr. Wily had two forms, each with an eternity of a health bar. After a few attempts I knew what I had to do: I had to cheese him.
In the original Mega Man, there’s an exploit that allows Elec Man’s weapon to damage an enemy multiple times with one shot. This weapon’s projectile is long and branching like lightning. As soon as it made contact with Dr. Wily, I pressed the back button on my Xbox 360 controller – pausing the game. Upon unpausing the game, it damaged him again as if this was the first time the projectile made contact. This exploit wasn’t removed from the Anniversary Collection and I milked it across a half-dozen attempts before the mad scientist finally bowed to Mega Man.
Although I wound up cheesing the final boss, I have no regrets. I overcame so many obstacles while testing my reflexes, dexterity, and memorization that I still feel accomplished. Besides, literally every FAQ and forum commenter I came across suggested the same thing. I’m not sure anyone’s beaten Mega Man without utilizing that exploit! Nonetheless, I can cross beating Mega Man off my bucket list and can feel a little more confident in my gaming prowess and knowledge. Foremost of which is the fact that Mega Man is a precisely tuned action-platformer that’s tough but rewarding. Now, onto Mega Man 2!
When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.
There are some games in my collection that I don’t recall obtaining. Magic Johnson’s Fast Break is one such game. I can speculate how it came into my possession, but ultimately the game is pretty inconsequential to me. As best as I can recollect, I’ve played it once. My friend and I competed against each other as part of the Leonard 2012 Video Game Olympics. He’s much more adept than I when it comes to sports games and accordingly was victorious. It’s incredibly dated at this point, but I can’t imagine it had much going for it back in the day even. My belief is that basketball games weren’t noteworthy until NBA Jam, but many people have a fondness for Double Dribble so that would seem like the genre’s best on the NES.
Magic Johnson’s Fast Break was originally developed and published by Arcadia Systems and released as an arcade game in 1988. It was ported to the NES by Software Creations and published by Tradewest in North America in March 1990. It was also ported to a handful of European PCs at the time as Magic Johnson’s Basketball. Most notably, the NES version featured support for up to four players.
What can I say about Super Mario Bros.? I mean, it’s Super Mario Bros.Everyone knows about the 1985 classic. Everyone can recall Mario’s initial journey through the Mushroom Kingdom on his quest to rescue Princess Toadstool from the diabolical Bowser. Everyone has stomped on the heads of numerous Goombas, kicked several Koopa shells, and found the game shortening Warp Zones. Everyone has beaten it, ecstatic to see the princess instead of yet another Toad. Well, that is everyone but me.
After briefly playing Vs. Super Mario Bros. at PJ Gamers, one of my local arcades, I realized I had never beaten the Mario game that started it all. Never mind Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., or Mario Bros.Super Mario Bros. really kicked off the career of Nintendo’s mascot. Thus, I’ve spent the last week or so playing the game in hours-long sessions attempting to beat it. Finally, after discovering secrets and honing my platforming skills, I’ve gotten good enough to reach the end.
Among other elements, I feel two of the most important are the game’s precise controls and simplicity. They tied together in an interesting way after spending hours learning stage layouts and adapting to the controls. I’d often get reckless and misjudge a jump or run into enemies enough times to deplete my stock of lives OVER AND OVER AGAIN. It could get frustrating, but it was psychological – I was getting too comfortable with my abilities. In many ways, overcoming my careless tendency to hold down the run button was the key to my success.
My experience with the game was enhanced by playing it with a friend, switching off when we’d lost all of our lives. Like most things, playing this game was improved with a partner. The kicker was discovering the hidden 1ups that were necessary to extending our sessions and devising strategies for dealing with tough sections. Accessing the Warp Zones was the most fruitful of our discoveries. I wouldn’t have been able to complete the game without accessing the secrets we did and I wanted to be able to say I completed Super Mario Bros. so there, I said it.
Billed as Nintendo’s first video board game, the Rare developed NES game Anticipation has become one of my go-to multiplayer games since I stumbled upon it at a local game store. I was immediately drawn and disgusted by the game’s dated box art and expected little but was surprised to discover an entertaining multiplayer competition.
Like most board games, in Anticipation players are represented by little figurines. The goal is to correctly guess what the game is drawing and do so on each of the game’s three levels; the winner is the one who completes all three levels first. This can become tricky because the game requires a correct answer from four different themes before moving on to the next level. When it comes down to needing a correct answer from that last theme, it’s not uncommon to go on a lengthy dry spell where landing on the needed space is annoyingly elusive.
When advancement became elusive, I found that I could initiate a level of strategy that emphasized a risk and reward principle. Buzzing in when the dice roll would work out favorably allowed others to buzz in before me, but if they were stumped, I had the opportunity to roll the dice so I’d land on the theme I needed. When all players realize this strategy, the bluffing and screwing of your competition becomes part of the fun.
Of the many games of Anticipation that I’ve played, I’ve noticed that the backend tends to drag on as the drawings get tougher and inevitably, someone requires that last theme to advance or win. Sometimes, I’d rather just turn the game off then sit through a potentially laborious dry spell where no one makes any progress, but for the most part, Anticipation is good fun.
For Halloween, my friend and I compiled a list of related games and played them, usually for a short period of time. One that we devoted more time to was Fester’s Quest for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was developed and published by Sunsoft and released in the USA in 1989. The game stars uncle Fester from the TV show The Addams Family as he attempts to prevent an alien invasion.
My friend and I took turns playing, handing off to the other when we died. We saw Fester via a top-down perspective as we explored the city around him. We were quickly greeted by enemy aliens whom Fester had to shoot to defeat. Often times they would drop pickups. These pickups varied; we most commonly came across money, but there were also weapon upgrades and downgrades, as well as usable items.
Money would allow Fester to buy hot dogs and restore his health, but he had a very limited amount of health; two hits and it was game over. Another item we came across frequently was keys. Keys allowed Fester to get into houses where family members were taking shelter. They would provide Fester with important items. One my friend and I liked was the TNT which was very helpful in defeating stronger enemies.
It didn’t take long for my friend and me to explore to small area available to us. To progress, Fester had to go underground and get to an otherwise inaccessible area of the city. We only made it out once though. The underground consisted of corridors which made it very difficult for us depending on how upgraded Fester’s gun was.
As we accumulated upgrades, Fester’s gun got stronger, faster, and sometimes had a wider bullet spread. This combination of wide bullet spread and narrow corridors was bothersome. Luckily, our enemies would sometimes drop weapon downgrades which allowed us to “fine tune” Fester’s gun to our needs. We spent a lot of time accumulating enemy drops so we maxed out a few items, but we never maxed out Fester’s gun.
So my friend and I didn’t get very far in Fester’s Quest. We both thought the game was tough, but that our deaths were mostly our fault. I wish we could’ve maxed out Fester’s gun and maybe that would have helped us underground, but I guess Sunsoft didn’t want people to max out everything very quickly. Fester’s Quest is supposed to have first-person dungeon-crawling so that makes me want to give it another go. Unfortunately, Fester’s Quest doesn’t have a save feature and each time we died, Fester began with the same amount of items and upgrades, but he always started at the very beginning, so completion is unlikely.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is drastically different from its predecessor. With a sword and shield equipped, Link still travels Hyrule’s reaches in an effort to save princess Zelda, but the way I did it as a player was different.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was developed and published by Nintendo, and released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988. The Adventure of Link takes place a few years after The Legend of Zelda. One day, Link notices a Triforce appear on the back of his hand. He seeks out Impa who shows him that princess Zelda has fallen into a slumber. Impa tells Link why this is, and that to wake Zelda, he must retrieve the Triforce of Courage from the Great Palace. Entry to the Great Palace cannot be gained until six magical crystals are placed in six palaces spread throughout Hyrule.
With my objective known, I left princess Zelda’s castle and ventured out into Hyrule. Like The Legend of Zelda, I controlled Link on the overworld and saw Hyrule via a top-down perspective, looking down on him. Unlike The Legend of Zelda however, I did not move from screen to screen. Instead of moving around the overworld one screen at a time, I was free to move about as I pleased, or so I thought.
After walking around for a little bit, enemy silhouettes appeared. I could try and avoid them, but if I wasn’t successful a battle would start. My view of Link changed in the battle. Instead of being above him as on the overworld, I now saw him from the side; The Adventure of Link became a side-scrolling game when I saw him from the side. To return to the overworld, I had to walk to either end of the battle scene. I do call these battle scenes for a reason however, there are enemies hindering my exit, but defeating them earns experience points. Once I had enough experience points, I was able to level up an attribute: strength, health, or magic. Leveling up strength made my attacks stronger, leveling up health allowed me to take more damage, and leveling up magic made my spells use less magic.
Battles took place on the terrain I was on when I touched the enemy silhouette. If I was in a swamp, I would have a harder time moving about the battle scene. If I had touched an enemy on a road I wouldn’t have to fight them at all. Knowing this I was able to avoid battles if I was near a road. Depending on where I was the enemies would be different as well. As I got farther into the game, the enemies became tougher but were worth more experience. If I lost all my health, I would lose a life. I began with three lives each time I played and if I lost all three, it was game over.
Following the road from Zelda’s castle led me to a town. One of my complaints about The Legend of Zeldawas the lack of human life, so I was happy to see a town. Entering the town again shifted my view of Link to the side. Throughout the game there were many more towns. In towns I talked with residents and learned more about Hyrule and my next objective. After completing side quests, I was also able to learn new magic spells, vital to the completion of the game.
After exploring more of Hyrule I eventually ran into a palace. It was in palaces that I needed to set the six crystals I had, necessary to opening the Great Palace. Undertaking palaces was also a side-scrolling affair. I navigated my way through each palace’s myriad of rooms, eventually coming across an item vital to my progression. These items were usually related to navigating the overworld and reaching new areas. Searching palaces thoroughly would bring me to the boss of the palace. Boss fights were tough; if I was lucky I wouldn’t lose all my lives, having to restart at Zelda’s castle, but this wasn’t always the case.
Once I had ventured through all of Hyrule, found every item, learned every magic spell, it was finally time for me to attempt the Great Palace. It was an endeavor that took me a few hours and much rage. Getting to the Great Palace was almost as tough as the palace itself. I had to make my way through many forced battles, battles I could not avoid, but I was able to overcome this obstacle relatively easily.
The Great Palace was bigger than any of the previous palaces, in fact, it was probably twice as big as any other palace, and its layout was much more confusing. The enemies inside were the toughest in the game, but I evaded as many as I could, saving my health and lives for the boss battle. I knew I was getting closer when I came across a fairy (restores all of Link’s health) and an extra life.
And there it was a giant red bird, a third of the screen or larger, shooting fireballs everywhere. It took me a few lives before I realized that I had to cast the strongest magic spell in Link’s arsenal, and only then was the bird vulnerable. Even then I still had to restart a couple of times, but luckily I restarted at the entrance of the Great Palace and not at Zelda’s castle. I conquered it and walked down the hallway to find the Triforce of Courage, but then it disappeared and Link’s shadow began attacking me! I had to defeat Shadow Link, which was also quite difficult. But I prevailed; I completed Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, one of the toughest games I’ve managed to beat.
Like I did with The Legend of Zelda, I also made a collection of maps to go along with The Adventure of Link. There are some spots in the game where it is necessary to make a map. The maze of Death Mountain and the Great Palace come to mind. Mapping the palaces was a tad difficult, but the overworld was as easy as or easier than mapping it in The Legend of Zelda. It lengthened the time it took me to complete The Adventure of Link, but it helped me out in the end. I was able to max out each of Link’s attributes and I found every heart and magic container hidden in Hyrule.
So, I’ve talked a lot about the game now and I hope whoever reads this knows a lot more about how the game plays, but what do I think about it? I liked a lot about Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Having way more NPCs and actual towns made Hyrule feel more alive, something I didn’t like about The Legend of Zelda. The Adventure of Link retained a strong emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving, while still maintaining a lot of action. The combat is where the game falls apart for me. My actions didn’t seem as precise as they needed to be to defeat some enemies, and a lot of enemies were frustrating because what I did wasn’t effective or they took a lot of damage. Having to restart at Zelda’s castle was frustrating, especially when I was trying to get on the other side of Hyrule. It was a difficult game, especially in the end. If someone was interested in playing it, I’d recommend until they reached the Great Palace. It was very difficult and required a lot of motivation, but then again being able to say I completed Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is pretty awesome.
Acclaim’s Double Player System is a unique set of controllers for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I wouldn’t consider myself the most versed in the accessories released for the NES, but I know the Double Player System is one of the few options for wireless controllers for NES gamers. Include the turbo and slow motion functionalities and the set seems like a no-brainer, but I did run into some issues.
The Double Player System utilizes infrared technology, the same concept implemented in television remotes. To work, the controllers must point at a receiver plugged into the NES. I initially tested them out by turning on Star Soldier, holding a button, and moving the controller around to see when they lost contact. My radius was very limited and playing with them required a steady hand at all times. While in the thick of Star Soldier however, I noticed that I didn’t move around that much. I remained focused and only lost the signal on a few occasions.
The controllers were quite useful for playing Star Soldier as they had added functionality compared to a standard NES controller. Besides being wireless, the controllers also had turbo and slow motion functionality.
I was not impressed with the slow motion as I couldn’t get it to work. I tried it with both controllers but to no avail. Whenever I’d press the button enabling slow motion, the game would rapidly pause and unpause. I tried it with multiple games as well. Perhaps it was my controllers malfunctioning, I mean these are twenty year old controllers (released in 1988) and who knows how well they were taken care of.
The turbo functionality on the other hand was stupendous. To be fair, these are the only controllers for the NES that I own having turbo functionality so I don’t have anything else to compare them to, but unlike the slow motion, turbo actually worked. The turbo functionality was perfect for Star Soldier where I just mashed the fire button to shoot. To enable turbo I clicked in the turbo button above either the A or B button and that button was now rapid-fire. Instead of mashing on the fire button, all I had to do now was hold the fire button to blow fools away.
While Star Soldier was my primary test subject for the controllers, I did play Guerrilla War with a friend to test both controllers at once. We didn’t encounter any interference between the two controllers, but my friend and I had a bit of trouble figuring out who was player one and player two, even after making the selection on our controllers.
With The Double Player System I had little leeway; if I moved slightly and the controller and receiver lost each other, it could turn out terribly. Terribly, like the slow motion functionality. Maybe it’s the games I chose or maybe my controllers were busted, but the slow motion just didn’t work for me. The turbo functionality however worked like a charm and I can foresee myself picking the Double Player System over a standard controller depending on the game I’m playing, a shoot ‘em up for instance. Multiplayer brought about a slight problem, but one that could be overcome. Playing without wires is nice, but the only reason I’d choose the Acclaim Double Player System over a standard controller is for the turbo functionality.
Instead of weaving an interesting tale of space intrigue and drama, Star Soldier for the Nintendo Entertainment System focuses on gameplay that requires memorization and quick reflexes.
Developed by Hudson Soft and published by Taxan in 1989 for the NES, Star Soldier is a vertically scrolling shoot ‘em up set in space. While the plot is never touched upon in the game, there is a single paragraph in the manual that sets the stage. Starbrain, an evil computer is roaming space with waves of enemy ships and robot creatures and are destroying anything in their path. The Galactic Empire decides to send in their best star soldier along with the best ship in their Galactic Fleet, Caesar to take care of Starbrain. And that’s the plot. It’s basically identical to any other space shoot ‘em up, but I didn’t purchase Star Soldier for the story, no, I purchased it for the gameplay.
Piloting Caesar I flew through space (vertically mind you) shooting down Starbrain’s waves of minions, of which there were plenty. And instead of simply palette-swapping enemies (same enemy design, different stats and color) Hudson Soft created a large array of enemies that had their own patterns that I needed to memorize to be successful.
Every enemy type moved and attacked me differently which means I had to deal with nearly every enemy type in a different way. And with the exception of a few, the enemies weren’t kind enough to attack me one at a time, they attacked me in waves. Each wave was wholly composed of one enemy type, but a lot of that enemy type. With each stage lasting at least a few minutes, I had to deal with many waves that required unique strategies. The key to success was learning how to cope with each enemy type, and if that didn’t pan out I could try and hide from them.
One of the things that I found polarizing about Star Soldierwas the stage design. While the game takes place in space, I wasn’t just flying through twinkling stars. Each stage had something more to it; some had stage-long space stations in the process of being built while other stages had me flying around floating landmasses. I had the ability to fly under most of the construction and most of the floating landmasses, but not every single one. This was confusing and added another level of memorization to the game. Why would I want to fly beneath these structures though?
Well, when I flew underneath them I could avoid enemies and enemy fire, but I’d lose my ability to fire too. This mechanic was helpful when I confronted a wave of dive bombing enemies that moved very fast as they would fly over the structure while I was under it. Coming out from underneath these structures was difficult to time however and I lost many lives running into stray bullets or just crashing into enemies. I ended up avoiding flying underneath structures as much as I could because it messed with the rhythm I had built up and usually led to easily avoidable deaths.
Star Soldier required a lot of memorization and for the first hour, it was more about learning how the enemies act and how I should react than actual stage progression. I didn’t get very far until I had that understanding, then I was able to get a little farther in the game each time I played. I had to build that base knowledge of how Star Soldier operated, and then learn each stage and apply the tactics I developed. Sometimes I’d have a good rhythm going and get far without losing lives, but once I began doing bad, it was hard to get back in that rhythm. I wasn’t able to complete the game though; of the sixteen stages I only made it to the seventh, but I was extremely satisfied making it that far. One thing that helped me get that far was earning extra lives.
I was awarded extra lives at fifty-thousand points, two hundred thousand points, and beyond that I’m not sure. Killing enemies aided in accumulating points, but what really helped was finding hidden enemies. On the half-built space stations and floating landmasses were hidden enemies that would appear after I shot the space they occupied a few times. Instead of giving me a standard amount of points, I got a larger reward for each one destroyed. I initially got five hundred points, but this moved up to one thousand, four thousand, ten thousand, forty-thousand, and so on for each one found. This added yet another element of memorization to the game.
After I understood the enemies, the stage design, and had plenty of lives I could finally defeat Starbrain and this brings me to the last thing I want to talk about: the boss fights. At the end of each stage I fought Starbrain, and at the end of each fourth stage I fought Big Starbrain. Defeating Starbrains and Big Starbrains wasn’t that difficult of a task. Their attacks were easily avoidable as were their movements. Big Starbrain was a little more difficult as I had much more to destroy, but I rarely lost a life in these battles. However, if I didn’t defeat them quickly enough, they would escape and I would have to attempt the stage over again. This didn’t concern me too much though as it only happened once.
Star Soldier was a challenging, but fun shoot ‘em up that employed some interesting mechanics. I appreciated that there was a large amount of unique enemies instead of palette-swapped versions. Dealing with each type was challenging, but rewarding once I took out an entire wave. The ability to interact with the stages was interesting, but as is the case with the story, I was ambivalent towards it. Having the same two bosses repeated throughout the game wasn’t a sticking point for me, I was glad that I knew what to expect at the end of a level and would have to restart or learn another boss’ patterns. The manual contains helpful information and tips for the game and I found a complete copy for the NES cheap, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessary to enjoy the game. And I did enjoy Star Soldier; after half a dozen hours of play I’d gotten enough out of it, but I would recommend it for anyone looking for a classic shoot ‘em up.
I completed The Legend of Zelda a few weeks ago. I originally purchased it something like five years ago at a garage sale along with a Nintendo Entertainment System and some other games. At that time I was beginning to realize I really liked what The Legend of Zelda games offered. I played The Legend of Zelda and probably got halfway through it but gave up. But I recently decided to compose an encyclopedia dedicated to the franchise and thought I should begin with the first installment. Besides playing through the game, I crafted graph paper maps of the overworld and each dungeon, as well as an item list, a bestiary, and a synopsis.
The Legend of Zelda has no intricacy to the story. Ganon has captured princess Zelda and wishes to rule Hyrule. Link saves Zelda’s nursemaid who tells Link of this and he decides to save Zelda by completing the Triforce of Wisdom, which Zelda broke into eight shards to prevent Ganon from getting them. Akin to the story, Hyrule itself is rather sparse. There are towns in Hyrule, occasionally caves will house merchants or some helpful elderly citizens, but that’s it. The Legend of Zeldais a lonely adventure.
That’s not to say there isn’t much life in Hyrule, to the contrary. There is a plethora of enemies throughout the kingdom, as well as in the many dungeons. There’s actually a wide variety of enemies too. Sure some are variations of other monsters, e.g. red and blue versions, but defeating all these different enemies requires many weapons and items.
So now that Link has an objective, complete the Triforce of Wisdom and save princess Zelda, and he has enemies in between him and his goal, it’s quest time proper! But what’s an adventurer without a weapon? Well Link receives a sword at the very beginning of the game, the first screen to be precise, from a helpful old man. But besides the trusty sword, there are many additional weapons throughout Hyrule that are necessary to progression.
Even though I feel Hyrule is very sparse because of the lack of towns or humans, it’s a wonderful place to adventure through. Exploring Hyrule was often very satisfying, made more so as I completed another screen of my maps. With each screen, I stumbled upon a new arrangement of enemies, the screen itself a battle puzzle, and once I finished off the remaining enemies, I’d explore my surroundings and see if anything was out of place. At some point the areas of Hyrule I could reach would force me to battle through a new dungeon, obtaining a new weapon or item, and clue, that would help me defeat more enemies, reach new places, and hopefully, set me on the path to my next destination.
Once in a dungeon, the object is to reach the boss, defeat it, and claim the shard of the Triforce. Each dungeon has a dungeon map that reveals the layout and a compass that shows where the Triforce shard is located. In most dungeons, there is a secret item that is necessary to defeating that dungeon’s boss, or a subsequent dungeon’s boss. Also located in nearly every dungeon is an old man who gives a hint as to Link’s next steps. Some of the clues were vague, but it was enjoyable deciphering them and figuring out for myself what to do next.
I found the first half of the game quite easy. The areas of Hyrule I had access to at this stage was limited, due to the items I had at the moment, so the enemies weren’t too difficult. As I got closer to completing the Triforce though, I was able to explore Hyrule more fully, and not only that, but the dungeons began growing in size and becoming much more troublesome. The enemies took more hits to defeat and there was a greater quantity of them in the later dungeons. In many of the later dungeons I’d often get stuck on one room in particular, usually because it contained a lot of enemies that would take multiple hits to defeat. The layouts were more confusing as well; instead of obvious room to room progression, there’d be more dead ends or secret paths that opened when bombing walls. That aspect didn’t bother me at all however. It would be annoying when I ran out of bombs to try and find some more, but finding secret paths made me feel like I was mapping a world unseen.
Finding paths, deciphering clues, and mapping the world in general was very appealing to me. Completing The Legend of Zelda was fun, but much of my enjoyment came from making my maps and learning Hyrule. The combat got difficult in some areas, but it was also simple and fun. At some point, mapping dungeons or the overworld would become necessary to complete the game, but doing it from the beginning adds an extra sense of accomplishment and I will always have these maps to look back on.