Some older games are a challenge to rate, simply because they were unique at the time yet have been improved on in so many different ways that they seem bland by comparison. Nonetheless, this critic trudges forth but not without looking at The Legend of Zelda with the perspective of the past.
Plot: 8 out of 10
Like the game itself, this is hard to judge. There’s not much plot development here. But compared to what? This was 1987. Back then, there was very little plotting going on. The pre-game introduction and dialog from people in caves were about as good as it got. In fact, this really wasn’t far from the days when a lot of games never even ended. So I have to be lenient here.
Graphics: 5 out of 10
I’m far less forgiving on this. The characters are at once small and undetailed. Meanwhile, all backgrounds and objects are both simple and constantly repeated. The NES version of Ghosts ‘N Goblins, released a year earlier, looked much better. Furthermore, it was just a year later that this game was getting regularly outperformed graphically.
Sound: 8 out of 10
A very memorable soundtrack. Plus, it’s very fitting for a fantasy setting. Sound effects are very good and in place too.
Gameplay: 9 out of 10
Maybe nostalgia’s a factor, but I find this game quite a romp to play. The most fun romp there is to play? Not even close, as so much of what it did was soonafter improved upon. Contrary to popular belief (and what Nintendo’s PR department wants us to think), this was not the first game to challenge gamer’s wits. There had been many games in the PC realm, such as the Ultima series, that required thinking. But it certainly can be argued that Legend of Zelda perfected the concept. You get a sword in the beginning and have to buy and find many other items to succeed. Additionally, there are nine dungeons — eight to assemble the pieces of the Triforce, which make the last one accessible to you*. This was a somewhat fresh approach at the time and is quite fun even today. It can’t hurt that the controls are quite solid.
*That reminds me of a really bad translation I can’t not share: “Ones who does not have Triforce can’t go in.”
Challenge: 9 out of 10
This is a moderately difficult game. The first three of nine dungeons are easy but the difficulty picks up somewhat from there. By the sixth, they’ll be throwing everything and the kitchen sink at you. And don’t expect to make it through in one trip.
After you complete the game (or name your save game “Zelda”), you’ll get a chance at a second quest. This is a much harder quest and the locations of nearly all the important stuff has been changed for the tougher. This would be the expert version. I definitely don’t recommend trying this before you’ve done the first quest.
Overall: 8 out of 10
Improved on or not, the Legend of Zelda is a quite solid game. Just be warned that after the many sequels, this might come off as a little underwhelming.