The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.
[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]
What other game character can end this challenge than the Princess of gaming herself?
Game: The Legend of Zelda is a high-fantasy action-adventure video game series created by Japanese game designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. Each game in The Legend of Zelda series tells an important part of the history of Hyrule. The Japanese version of the game on the Famicom is known as The Hyrule Fantasy: The Legend of Zelda.
- First release – The Legend of Zelda – February 21, 1986
- Latest release – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – March 3, 2017
Genre/gameplay mechanics: The series’ gameplay incorporates elements of action, adventure, battle-gameplay, exploration and puzzle-solving games. These elements have remained constant throughout the series, but with refinements and additions in each new game. Later games include stealth gameplay. The role-playing elements, however, have led to much debate over whether the Zelda games should be classified as action role-playing games, a genre on which the series has had a strong influence. The games pioneered several features that were to become industry standards. The original Legend of Zelda was the first console game with a save function that enabled players to stop playing and then resume later. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time introduced a targeting system that simplified 3D combat.
Setting: The Legend of Zelda takes place predominantly in a medieval Western Europe inspired fantasy land called Hyrule which has developed a deep history and wide geography over the series’ many releases. Hyrule’s principal inhabitants are pointy-eared humanoids called Hylians, which include the player character, Link, and the eponymous princess, Zelda. Some games take place in different lands with their own back-stories. Termina and Lorule serve as parallel worlds to Hyrule, Hytopia is a connected kingdom, and Koholint is an island far away from Hyrule that appears to be part of a dream.
Storytelling: The series centres on Link, the chief protagonist, and the timeless battles between good and evil. Link is often given the task of rescuing Princess Zelda and the kingdom of Hyrule from Ganon, who is the principal antagonist of the series; however, other settings and antagonists have appeared in several games. The plots commonly involve a relic known as the Triforce, a set of three omnipotent golden triangles. The protagonist in each game is usually not the same incarnation of Link, but a few exceptions exist.
Releases + Expansions: Since the original The Legend of Zelda was released in 1986, the series has expanded to include 19 entries on all of Nintendo’s major game consoles, as well as a number of spin-offs.
IGN and GamesRadar selected their Top Ten Zelda games in 2016 and 2017 respectively, while the top three from aggregated scores for all the games on Metacritic in 2017 were:
- 99 – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – (November 21, 1998) – Metacritic’s highest-rated Zelda game, ever. “It’s no surprise why: Not only was the game the first in the series with 3D graphics and time travel, the 256-megabit Ocarina of Time was the largest game ever produced by Nintendo at the time. Over 7.6 million copies have been sold worldwide.” As GamesRadar said, “It popularized so many techniques that are ingrained in 3D gameplay – Z-targeting, camera control, world layout – that it’s easy to take for granted, particularly when later Zelda titles improved on them so well.”
- 97 – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – (March 3, 2017) – The newest entry in the Zelda franchise, IGN’s Jose Otero said, “is a masterclass in open-world design and a watershed game that reinvents a 30-year-old franchise.” According to GameSpot’s Peter Brown, “there’s so much to see, to accomplish and to learn that you never feel like you have control over the world. This is a great thing.” GamesRadar said, “It’s, in a word, breath-taking, and it marks a rebirth for The Legend of Zelda that sent shockwaves through the entire industry.”
- 96 – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – (December 13, 2002) – “Set in a vast sea dotted with small islands long after the events of Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker charges a cel-shaded Link with rescuing his sister, solving the mystery of the flooded world and again defeating the menacing Ganon.” Zach Ryan of IGN said, “This version of Link is so expressive and charming that it’s hard not to love him right from the outset. It refined everything that made Ocarina an instant classic to near perfection.”
Platform of origin: Family Computer Disk System
Origins (Chronological) include:
- The 1980s – Hearing of American novelist Scott Fitzgerald‘s wife Zelda, co-designer Shigeru Miyamoto thought the name sounded “pleasant and significant”. Paying tribute, he chose to name the princess after her, and titled it The Legend of Zelda.
- The 1950s – principally inspired by Miyamoto’s “explorations” as a young boy in the hillsides, forests, and caves surrounding his childhood home in Sonobe, Japan where he ventured into forests with secluded lakes, caves, and rural villages. According to Miyamoto, one of his most memorable experiences was the discovery of a cave entrance in the middle of the woods. After some hesitation, he apprehensively entered the cave, and explored its depths with the aid of a lantern. Miyamoto has referred to the creation of the Zelda games as an attempt to bring to life a “miniature garden” for players to play with in each game of the series.
- The 1900s – Link and the fairy were inspired by Peter Pan and Tinker Bell.
- 12th–13th centuries – The Master Sword was inspired by Excalibur in the Arthurian legend, first mentioned in Welsh mythology, as in the Mabinogion as; ‘Caledfwlch’ . The similarities lay with the swords being kept in stone until the chosen one, the ‘hero’ takes it out to save the land. It’s fascinating when a Japanese cultural icon like The Legend of Zelda has a root in one of the British Isle’s oldest legends – one that creeps into works like The Lord of the Rings, as well as King Arthur. Myths and legends echo each other and the human condition, so why not in video games.
Adaptations set in the ‘Zelda’ universe – as well as the 27 video games, the franchise also includes a cartoon adaptation, multiple comic book adaptations, and soundtracks.
- TV – An American animated TV series based on the gamesaired in 1989. It is heavily based on the first game of the Zelda series, The Legend of Zelda, but includes some references to the second, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
- COMICS – individual manga adaptationscommissioned by Nintendo have been produced in Japan since 1997, and are now being released in English.
Recommendation: The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo’s most prominent and successful franchises, selling over 80 million copies as of 2017. Many of its titles are considered by critics and fans alike to be among the greatest video games of all time. The Legend of Zelda series has received outstanding levels of acclaim from critics and the public. Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, Skyward Sword, and Breath of the Wild have each received a perfect 40/40 score (10/10 by four reviewers) by Japanese Famitsu magazine, making Zelda one of the few series with multiple perfect scores. Ocarina of Time was even listed by Guinness World Records as the highest-rated video game in history, citing its Metacritic score of 99 out of 100. In Nintendo Power‘s Top 200 countdown in 2004, Ocarina of Time took first place, and seven other Zelda games placed in the top 40. There is a devoted and extensive community behind the games.
Alternative ‘Z’ thoughts:
Z is also for the weirdly watchable 1974 Boorman movie Zardoz with Sean Connery, almost mentioned in my O post, where I said, “O is also for Oz, as in the L Frank Baum’s wonderful book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz …There were numerous adaptations, including games, but none that sparked my research brain – despite Baum’s origins.”
For those that don’t make the connection, the Baum book is the source of the name ‘-zard [of] oz’.
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