The Legend of Zelda (Series)
- This article is about the series as a whole. For information on the first game in the series, see The Legend of Zelda (Game). For the television program, see The Legend of Zelda (TV series).
The Legend of Zelda (Japanese: ゼルダの伝説 Zeruda no Densetsu) is a video game series that takes place in the fictional Kingdom of Hyrule. The protagonist of the series is Link, a young man who is destined, in most of the games, to save Hyrule from the clutches of the evil thief Ganondorf or his alter-ego, the dark beast Ganon. Some of the games feature additional protagonists such as Navi the fairy, Ezlo the Minish Cap, or Midna the Twili, who serve as sidekicks throughout the course of the game, or different antagonists, such as Vaati the Wind Mage, the General of Darkness Onox, or the Usurper King Zant.
The Beginning (1986-1993)
The Legend of ZeldaThe Legend of Zelda, was first released in Japan in 1986, and in the United States and Europe in 1987. Though relatively simple by today's standards, it was quite advanced for its time. Innovations include the ability to use dozens of different items, a vast world full of secrets to explore, and the cartridge's ability to save progress via battery-backed memory. The game also features a "Second Quest", accessible upon completing the game, where dungeons and the placement of items are different and enemies stronger. Besides the game's technical innovations, the gameplay (finding items and using them to solve puzzles, battling monsters in real-time, and exploring a vast environment) was a successful formula and became widely copied. The game was wildly popular in Japan and North America, and many consider it one of the most important video games ever made. During the last years of the Famicom the game was re-released in cartridge format. A modified version known as BS The Legend of Zelda was released for the Super Famicom's satellite-based expansion, Satellaview, in the mid-1990s in Japan. BS Zelda was re-released for the Satellaview a year later with re-arranged dungeons and a re-arranged overworld (more or less a "Second Quest"). This re-release was dubbed BS Zelda ~MAP 2~.
Zelda II: The Adventure of LinkZelda II: The Adventure of Link was released in July 1988, and was a departure from the concept of the first game. It exchanged the top-down perspective for side-scrolling and introduced RPG elements (e.g., experience points) not found in other Zelda installments. It is also the only Zelda title until Four Swords Adventures in which Link does not collect rupees. Because of these fundamental changes, many consider it the "black sheep" of the series. Both this and its predecessor were notable for their gold-colored game cartridges, which stood out amongst the system's usual gray cartridges. This is an irony as both games were later re-released in the final years of the Nintendo Entertainment System with gray cartridges that happen to be harder to find than their gold-colored counterparts.
A Link to the PastA Link to the Past, returned to the top-down view (under a 3/4 perspective) and added the concept of an alternate dimension to explore, a land known as the Dark World. The game was released for the Super NES in 1991. It was later re-released for the Game Boy Advance on December 9, 2002 in North America, on a cartridge with Four Swords, the first multiplayer Zelda, and then on the Wii's Virtual Console on January 22, 2007. In addition, both this game (unchanged except for being converted into a downloadable format) and an exclusive "loosely based" sequel (which used the same game engine) called BS The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets were released on the Satellaview in Japan. On April 17, 2013, a sequel to A Link To The Past was announced for the Nintendo 3DS. It will feature the same Hyrule layout as A Link to the Past with new dungeons as well as a new ability for Link to be turned into a wall drawing, which can be used to go through walls and access different areas.
Link's AwakeningLink's Awakening, was the first Zelda for Nintendo's Game Boy handheld on June 6, 1993 and is the first to take place outside of Hyrule. It was re-released for the Game Boy Color in 1998 as Link's Awakening DX with some additional features, including an extra color-based dungeon and a photo shop that allowed interaction with the Game Boy Printer.
The 3D Era (1998-2002)
Ocarina of TimeOcarina of Time which was released in November 1998 in Japan and the US and December 1998 in Europe. This game, initially known as Zelda 64, retained the core gameplay of the previous 2D games and became one of the most successful games of all time in both commercial and critical terms. It is considered by some to be one of the best video games ever made, and scored perfect scores in several video game publications, including the first 40/40 score in Famitsu (a prestigious Japanese gaming magazine). In 2006 it was ranked by Nintendo Power as the best game to ever appear on a Nintendo console. The title was originally slated for the ill-fated, Japanese-only Nintendo 64DD, but was ported to a cartridge when the hardware was delayed. Innovations include the use of lock-on targeting, a new gameplay mechanic that focuses the camera on a nearby target and alters the player's actions to be relative to that target. Such mechanics allow precision-based swordfighting in a 3D space and were a revolutionary development for the time. Like its Nintendo Entertainment System predecessors, Ocarina of Time was notable for being released on a limited Collector's Edition gold cartridge (available mainly to those who pre-ordered the game) as well as a more traditional gray cartridge.
Ocarina of Time was re-released on the GameCube in 2002 when it was offered as a pre-order incentive for The Wind Waker in the US and Japan. Europe continues to receive it free in every copy of The Wind Waker, except for the discounted Player's Choice version. It included a previously unreleased 64DD expansion known as Ura Zelda in Japan and Master Quest in North America, however the original Ura Zelda planned for the 64DD at the time was to enhance Ocarina of Time in most aspects, instead of being a dungeon remix, which Master Quest is. Ocarina of Time was included as part of Collector's Edition for the GameCube in 2003.
Majora's MaskMajora's Mask which was released in November 2000, used the same 3D game engine as the previous Nintendo 64 game (dropping the Fixed 3D elements), but added a novel time-based concept, leading to somewhat mixed reactions from series fans. It was originally called Zelda Gaiden, a Japanese title loosely translating to Zelda, Another Story. Gameplay changed significantly; in addition to a form of time limit, Link could use masks to transform into different creatures with unique skills. While Majora's Mask retained the graphical style of the landmark Ocarina of Time, it was also a departure, particularly in atmosphere. The game is much darker, dealing with death and tragedy in a manner not previously seen in the series, and has a sense of impending doom as a large moon slowly descends upon the land of Termina. All copies of Majora's Mask are gold cartridges. Instead a limited Collector's Edition lenticular cartridge label was offered as the pre-order incentive. Copies of the game that weren't Collector's Editions featured a more traditional sticker cartridge label.
Oracle of Ages & Oracle of SeasonsOracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, were released simultaneously for the Game Boy Color, and interact using passwords or a Game Link Cable. After one game has been completed, the player is given a password that allows the other game to be played as a sequel. They were developed by Capcom in conjunction with Nintendo, with supervision from Miyamoto. After the team experimented with porting the original The Legend of Zelda to the Game Boy Color, they decided to make an original trilogy to be called the "Triforce Series". When the password system linking the three games proved too troublesome, the concept was reduced to two titles at Miyamoto's suggestion. These two titles became Oracle of Ages, which is more puzzle-based, and Oracle of Seasons, which is more action-oriented. The canceled third game was to be called The Legend of Zelda: Mystical Seed of Courage.
Four Swords sub-series (2002-2005)
In December 2002, A Link to the Past & Four Swords was released for the Game Boy Advance, comprising a modified port of A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and an original multiplayer-only game titled Four Swords—the first multiplayer Zelda game.
The Link and Princess Zelda featured in this game are childhood friends. This is also the first game in which Vaati and the Four Sword appear. As part of the 25th Anniversary of the Zelda series, Four Swords Anniversary Edition was briefly made available as a free download for both the Nintendo DSi and Nintendo 3DS. The game was a special edition of Four Swords now featuring a single player mode.
The Wind WakerNintendo GameCube on August 24, 2000, the day before Nintendo's SpaceWorld 2000 exposition, one software demonstration showed a realistically-styled real-time duel between Ganon and Link. Fans and the media speculated that the battle might be from a Zelda game under development. At Spaceworld 2001 Nintendo showed a cel-shaded Zelda title, later released in December 2002 as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which Miyamoto felt would "extend Zelda's reach to all ages". The media reported that Zelda was shifting to a younger audience, to Miyamoto's surprise. Nothing further was shown until a playable demonstration was ready, which was well-received. The gameplay focused controlling wind with a magical baton called the "Wind Waker" and sailing a small boat around a massive, island-filled ocean.
Four Swords AdventuresFour Swords Adventures for the GameCube, which was released in the first half of 2004 in Japan and America, and in January 2005 in Europe. Based on the handheld Four Swords, Four Swords Adventures was another deviation from previous Zelda gameplay, focusing on multiplayer gameplay and "level-based" action (like many Super Mario Bros. titles). The game contains 24 individual stages and a map screen; there is no connecting overworld. For the multiplayer features of the game, each player is required to use a Game Boy Advance system linked to the Nintendo GameCube via a GBA-GCN cable. Although it focuses on multiplayer, the game also features a single player campaign in which using a Game Boy Advance is optional.
Four Swords Adventures is really two games in one: Hyrulean Adventure (with a storyline and action somewhat similar to a traditional Zelda adventure) and Shadow Battle (a free-for-all melee "battle mode" which pits Links against each other as the players struggle for dominance in Hyrulean arenas). The Japanese and Korean versions include a third segment, known as Navi Trackers (originally designed as the stand-alone game Tetra's Trackers), which is not included in any other incarnation of the title. Navi Trackers contains an important first for Zelda, as the game has spoken dialogue for most of the characters.
The Minish CapGame Boy Advance, The Minish Cap. The central concept of The Minish Cap is Link's ability to shrink in size with the aid of a mystical sentient hat named Ezlo. While tiny, Link can see previously-explored parts of a dungeon from a new perspective, and enter new areas through otherwise impassable openings. Link is able to switch from big to small at special portals throughout the land, once again giving Link two "worlds" to play in. This game was also developed by Capcom under Nintendo's supervision.
The Next Generation (2006-2011)
Twilight PrincessTwilight Princess arrived as the first Zelda game on the Wii, although it was originally going to be a GameCube-only title. During the following month, December 2006, it was released on the Nintendo GameCube as well. The new game once again strives for a realistic look, improved even beyond the aforementioned SpaceWorld demo. Twilight Princess is set hundreds of years after the events of Majora's Mask. This game chronicles the struggle of a more mature Link, the descendant of the Hero of Time, to rid Hyrule of the "Twilight Realm", a mysterious force plaguing the land. When Link enters this realm, he transforms into a wolf and the gameplay shifts radically. Twilight Princess also focuses more heavily on horseback transportation and mounted battle scenarios (including boss battles) than previous installments.
Phantom HourglassPhantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS was shown. The trailer revealed traditional top-down Zelda gameplay optimized for the DS’s features, a cel-shaded graphical style directly recalling The Wind Waker. At E³ 2006, Nintendo confirmed its status as a direct sequel to The Wind Waker. Released on June 23, 2007, Phantom Hourglass features unique new controls making use of the Nintendo DS hardware capabilities, and incorporates a 1-on-1 multiplayer battle mode, supporting play both locally and online through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
On March 25, 2009, a trailer for the next Nintendo DS Zelda title: Spirit Tracks, was revealed at GDC 2009. It is set in the new-found Hyrule, 100 years after the events of Phantom Hourglass. A new Link appears wearing a conductor's outfit and hat. Early on in the game, Link obtains the Hero's Clothes. Spirit Tracks features the same cel-shaded graphics style that was seen in Phantom Hourglass and The Wind Waker. Also, the game features many new songs, with a few select melodies returning from Phantom Hourglass. The game was released towards the end of December around the world, and features the train mechanic, which replaces the steamboat from Phantom Hourglass'.
Skyward Sword is the 16th installment in the Legend of Zelda series. On June 2, 2009, IGN talked to Shigeru Miyamoto about the upcoming Zelda game for Wii. He made comments about the changes that the new motion plus would bring to the game, and said "Think of Zelda while you're trying some of the archery and sword play in Wii Sports Resort." At E3 2010, the game was finally unveiled. According to the details given, Link lives in a land known as Skyloft which floats high above Hyrule. He learns that Hyrule is in danger and travels to the ground to save the kingdom. Much of the gameplay focuses heavily on the use of the Wii Motion Plus, allowing the players to have a much greater level of control over Link. At E3 2011, much of the game was unraveled by Miyamoto and Aonuma, including a new flying mechanism in the game. As for characters, a villain under the name Ghirahim causes some controversy in Skyloft, which leads to the kidnapping of Link's friend, Zelda. The game was released on November 18, 2011 in Europe and November 20, 2011 in North America.
Rethinking the Conventions of Zelda (2013-present)
A Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds for the 3DS is the 17th game in the series. It takes place in the same world as A Link to the Past and is a sequel to the SNES game. It takes place hundreds of years later, when forces from the parallel universe of Lorule invade Hyrule and turn its sages into paintings. The game is remarkable for its open-ended nature. Link can rent or buy key items from Ravio instead of finding them in dungeons, allowing him to complete dungeons in almost any order. Link can also turn into a painting to slip by obstacles or cross wide chasms. It features StreetPass support, allowing other players to enter the game as Shadow Links that Link can defeat for a large prize. The game was released on November 22, 2013 in North America and December 26 in Japan.
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Link's Crossbow Training
Link's Crossbow Training became the first Wii exclusive title, released on November 19, 2007 in America. This game was bundled with the Wii Zapper instead of being sold as a typical release. The game reuses locales, enemies, and Link himself from Twilight Princess. This title has no overall plot, but includes two bosses near the end stages, Darknut and Stallord. Also unique to this title is the first-person shooter aspect; in place of the typical adventuring game play of the series. A multiplayer mode is offered, but even so, the gameplay remains played in single player phases. While using multiplayer, the Wii Zapper is passed from one player to the next in turns.
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