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Legend of Zelda 101: Here’s What You Need To Know

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Yesterday, I posted this article on Temple of Geek, but immediately afterwards, I realized that maybe it was time for a refresher course, or even an introduction, into the Zelda Universe. So, class is in session.

Zelda vs. Mario

Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo made both games, but the formats of both were different. Super Mario Bros was developed as an arcade game, while Legend of Zelda was more of a “pick up and set down” game.

The two games have a good amount of similarities:  You have your ordinary everyman (Link/Mario) who is off to save a princess (Zelda/Peach/Daisy/Pauline). The game-play is simple enough for anyone to pick up, but hard enough that it would take serious time commitment to actually bit.

The differences the game-play, however, is pretty drastic

  • Zelda allowed for non-linear  exploration, which is a fancy way of saying that you can basically go anywhere within the creator’s imagination. In Super Mario games, you could only go forward, while in Zelda you could freely roam anywhere.
  • The action components were different. Link fights in combat, while Mario just jumps or head butts his enemies
  • An expendable monetary system. Zelda allows players to spend their rightfully earned money, while Mario was about collecting coins for the sake of collecting coins as incentive
  • More elaborate story telling. This goes back to the linear exploration, wherein Mario had to get from Point A to Point B, while Link had lots of side quests, which allowed for more diversity in game-play. The older Mario games don’t allow you to save your progress, but Zelda games do. (This is also why I still struggle to this day with my Super Mario Land on GameBoy Color, even though I’ve played it since I was in kindergarten, but alas, I digress).

The Legend of Zelda: The Game Itself

Let’s get started with basics!

via Zelda Capital
via Zelda Capital
  • The game takes place in a place called Hyrule, and the ruler is..
via Zelda Dungeon
via Zelda Dungeon
  • Princess Zelda, who is NOT who you play as, but the person you are trying to save (except for a couple of games you can play as her). Instead, you are….
via HDW Twilight Princess Wallpaper
via HDW Twilight Princess Wallpaper
  • Link, aka Luke Skywalker in a green tunic, described as “humble, hardworking, and brave” that never talks, who obtains/earns part of…
via Desktop Wallpapers 4 Me
via Desktop Wallpapers 4 Me
  • The Triforce a powerful device that gives the bearer one of three branches of power based on the goddess it embodies
  • Link becomes the bearer of the Triforce of Courage
  • Zelda is the bearer of the Triforce of Wisdom
  • Ganodorf (aka Ganon) has the bearer of the Triforce of Power, and is the main antagonist (who knew that power corrupts?)

The Legend of Zelda timeline

If you play in the order of the game releases, the plots don’t line up exactly because after Ocarina Of Time (OOT), Link’s timeline gets split up based on two possible outcomes.

via Kotaku
via Kotaku
  1. Link fails to defeat the villain, which leads to A Link to the Past, Oracle of Seasons & Oracle of Ages, Link’s Awakening, A Link Between Worlds, The Legend of Zelda and Adventure of Link.
  2. Link is successful, which leads to the exploration of his childhood (Twilight Princess and Four Swords Adventures) and his adulthood (Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks).

If you think of each game after Ocarina as the same version of Link, the overall plot is confusing. It’s best if to treat Link and Zelda after Ocarina in Time as different incarnations of the same character.

Why Zelda?

As I mentioned in my other article, the tropes that Zelda plays uses are ones that many of us love. Everyone wants to be the hero of their own lives. Hell, that’s why many of us play video games: it gives us the illusion of power and control. It’s a good feeling and it’s one that video game developers know that we like. The “chosen one” trope is one that we see frequently for a reason (ie: Harry Potter, Kingdom Hearts, Star Wars, even Aladdin and The Lego Movie). We want to be needed, and The Legend of Zelda does a great job in satisfying that wish.

Zelda is also a pop culture icon that has been mentioned or referenced in many TV and films, like How I Met Your Mother, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, and even Eminen references the game in one of his songs.

I’m not saying the game and the storyline are perfect. There’s plenty of room for improvement and clarification. But let’s be honest, Hyrule, its fantastical setting and magical elements, seems like a much more exciting and fun place than our reality.

The soundtrack is also really solid…I’m a sucker for really good original soundtrack.

Where should you start?

The great thing about Legend of Zelda is that it’s very user-friendly, especially for those who are new to the gaming world. Each game stands on its own, so playing in a specific order isn’t necessary. If you really want to give the Zelda a shot, here are the six games you definitely should play in our suggested order.

  • Ocarina Of Time: It’s the marking point in the timeline where most of the games get divided up. It’s also got a great storyline and pretty good gameplay. Overall, OOT is a solid game that everyone should try out at least once.
  • A Link to the Past: Considered one of the best in the franchise and despite the age, A Link to the Past still can hold its own against other similar games. It’s also a marking point in one of the three main diverges in plot.
  • Majora’s Mask: Don’t be fooled by its bright colors and upbeat attitude because this one is much darker and sadder than the other Legend of Zelda games. The story does take place a few months after OOT and has many parallels, so it’s best if you play through OOT first, or at least watch a Let’s Play of it.
  • Wind Waker: Wind Waker divided a lot of people.The biggest critiques were too cutesy graphics and repetitive game-play. If you can’t get into it, that’s fine, but you might just find it endearing and unique to the franchise
  • Twilight Princess: I love everything about this one. The plot, the graphics, the game-play, I really thought it was great all around and Twilight also completes the OOT plot-line super nicely.
  • Skyward Sword: Like Wind Waker, you’ll either like it or you won’t. The controls take some getting used to, but it gives the game something to remember. In addition, the graphics and some of the functions of the game are different from the other games in the series (ie: there’s a stamina bar now). If learning more about the character Zelda interests you, pick this game up.

Do you have a favorite Zelda game? Is there a franchise you want us to cover? Just want someone to talk to? Leave us a comment and share this article!