The Legend of Zelda (video game)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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The original Legend of Zelda is a top-down Action Adventure Hack and Slash video game with a very nonlinear setup, designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, and developed and published by Nintendo in 1986. It is the very first game in what would come to be The Legend of Zelda franchise (linked here if that's what you were looking for.

Originally the first game to be released for the Famicom Disk System in Japan, in North America and Europe, it was the first game for the Nintendo Entertainment System to use a battery-backed save feature, and was released in a gold cartridge rather than standard gray as a gimmick.

The story, as told through the opening title scroll - which was originally full of Engrish, and revised in the Japanese cartridge re-release (used for the Collector's Edition, GBA and Wii Virtual Console rereleases) - is that the evil Ganon had stolen the Triforce of Power, and captured Princess Zelda, holder of the Triforce of Wisdom. However, to keep it from falling into Ganon's hands, she had split it into 8 pieces and hid them in the eight dungeons across Hyrule. Link, the hero, must gather the 8 pieces, allowing him to enter Ganon's lair and defeat him, claim the Triforce of Power, and Save the Princess.

Successfully beating the game allowed you access to a much harder "second quest" that features revamped dungeon layouts, trickier item placements and even a couple of new enemies. Both the original adventure and the second quest would eventually be remade as BS-Zelda, an enhanced version for a satellite-based Super Famicom add-on, and the game has also been re-released several times:

  • A hidden NES game (which only ended up being available through hacking) in Animal Crossing
  • As part of the Legend of Zelda Collector's Edition bonus disc, which came with each Nintendo GameCube
  • As part of the Game Boy Advance Classic NES Series
  • On the Wii's Virtual Console
  • As part of the 3DS Ambassador Program
  • It is also present on Super Smash Bros. Brawl as one of the unlockable "classic games" made available by completing a specific challenge; however, once the game is started, the player only has a limited amount of time to 'sample' the gameplay.

Not to be confused with Zelda Classic.

The Legend of Zelda (video game) is the Trope Namer for:
  • Death Mountain: The recurring location's first appearance, and the site of the final dungeon (specifically located in Spectacle Rock).
  • Gannon Banned: Named for the mistranslation of Ganon's name provided in the title scroll.
  • Wall Master: These notorious enemies make their first ever appearance.
Tropes used in The Legend of Zelda (video game) include:
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: You can only hold 255 rupees in this game, and some good items tend towards the three-digits range in price. It doesn't help that Rupees technically count as ammo for the bow.
    • Magic Shields can be 90, 130, or 160 Rupees depending on which shops you visit. Said shield can also be eaten by Like Likes, monsters that resemble a pile of evil pancakes, which means leaving the dungeon for a fairly long bout of Rupee farming.
    • The much more optional Blue Ring costs 250 Rupees - potentially worth it for a source of halved damage, but still unreasonably expensive.
  • Affectionate Parody: The Legend of Neil.
  • Animated Adaptation: The cartoon was primarily based on this, with elements of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
  • Asteroids Monster: Zols and Vires, which split into Gels and Keese unless hit with a strong enough weapon. The second Digdogger in Level 7 also splits into three miniature copies when the Recorder/Flute is played.
  • Bat Out of Hell: Vire and Keese.
  • Blackout Basement: This starts occurring (and is most prevalent) in Level 4 of the first quest, where nearly every room is pitch black, with Level 5 being a close runner-up; dark rooms appear more intermittently in later dungeons. A single application of a candle lights the entire room.
  • Blind Idiot Translation: To the point that it actually impacts the difficulty of the game.[context?] Needless to say, a lot of the trial-and-error aspects of the game would have been averted if the messages had been rendered properly, and indeed Japanese speakers who played the Japanese version have traditionally cited the enemies as being the primary reason for the game's Nintendo Hard difficulty, rather than the difficulty of finding dungeon entrances and hidden treasures.
    • Perhaps the most infamous example - where a message revealing the location of the Magic Key in the first quest's eighth dungeon in Japan instead said "10th enemy has the bomb" stateside - turned out to be a complete aversion (and in hindsight, one that might have been easily spotted as such). The former message was swapped out entirely for the latter, and its main "crime" is being about as vague as any other hint given by the old men: After killing nine enemies that can death-drop items in a row without taking damage, killing a tenth such enemy with a bomb will guarantee that they drop a set of bombs.[1] Pop Fiction has an entire 2013 episode dedicated to deciphering the phrase, and the feature sees frequent use in speed play and races.
    • Good Bad Translation: On the other hand, the game also gave us a fair amount of memorable and meme-worthy lines.
  • Bold Inflation: Used in the intro scroll.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Darknuts are immune to most forms of attack from the front due to their shield, and are additionally outright immune to fire, arrows, or bolts from the Magic Rod. They frequently appear in groups and walk around at a steady pace, making attacks from the side dangerous since they can turn towards you with no warning. Red ones take four Wooden Sword hits (or two Bombs) to defeat - their presence in the third dungeon is a sign for many players to seek out the White Sword. The blue ones are even faster with twice as much health in addition to the above, and start appearing in level 5.
  • Classic Cheat Code:
    • Naming your saved game ZELDA (or at least starting the name with ZELDA) starts you off on the second quest.
    • Pressing Up + A on the player 2 controller takes you to the Continue/Save/Retry screen immediately, so you can save without having to die.
  • Comic Book Adaptation: The Valiant Comics series authorized by Nintendo was based on this and Zelda II.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Every dungeon located on Death Mountain in the first quest has lava in place of water. Not only is it non-hazardous, but Link can also cross narrow flows of it with a wooden ladder. The lava is also completely invisible in the dark.
  • Creepy Cool Crosses: All the tombstones in the graveyard have crosses on them, as do Link's shields and, oddly, the Magic Book. Word of God explains that the motif is caused by the fact that the original plan was to have Christianity as the main religion in Hyrule; the three goddesses weren't invented until after the two NES games were released. The Magic Book's cross is only odd in the States, though - the tome is explicitly a Bible in the Japanese version.
  • Cyclopean Creature: Tektites, Armos, Ghini, Digdogger, Gohma, and Patra.
  • Damage Discrimination: Played straight with Bombs, and averted with flames from the Candles and Bible/Book of Magic-enhanced Magic Wand.
  • Denial of Diagonal Attack: Link is only able to move in four directions and his main attack is a straight-forward stab, which makes it somewhat difficult to attack things that you'd rather not be standing directly in front of. You can throw your boomerang diagonally with a bit of dexterity, but that's it.
  • Disc One Nuke:
  • If you know where to look, are somewhat good at evasion, and willing to grind Rupees for a few minutes, it is possible to get three of the five overworld Heart Containers, the White Sword and the Blue Ring before entering the very first dungeon in the first quest. The three extra hearts and the White Sword can be obtained easily and will allow you to breeze thru at least the first half of the game, but the ring is very expensive at 250 rupees (5 away from the maximum). If you want to buy it quickly, but you're not in a mood to farm or else cheese the money-making minigame via Save Scumming, you'll have to spend some time finding hidden caches of Rupees. It's well worth it for an item that halves damage, though.
    • It's also possible to get the Magic Key very early in the first quest, with only the bow and arrows required to do so. Granted, it's rather difficult with this bare minimum, but you never have to worry about keys from that point, making dungeon exploration a breeze.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Unlike the later games, there is little character interaction other than the vague hints given by various old folks, and the "side-quests" consist largely of hunting down optional upgrades and Rupee caches.
    • Pieces of Heart did not yet exist; instead, full Heart Containers are obtained from defeating the main dungeon bosses, and were additionally found in caves around the map.
    • A minor example that isn't explicitly mentioned in the game itself, but the presence of crosses is because Christianity was Hyrule's religion (as discussed above); the mythology of the Golden Goddesses would come later.
    • A less minor example is the fact that there are no NPC-filled towns, and NPCs themselves are rather rare; this was rectified in the next game, which is generally considered to be the Oddball in the Series.
    • Also of note is that Link is going after the Triforce "with" Wisdom, and is not yet the holder of the Triforce of Courage.
    • Arrows did not yet have their own dedicated inventory slot - as such, they only have to be bought once, and use the Rupee count as ammo.
  • Empty Room Psych: While most levels were fairly straightforward, the ninth dungeon and several second quest dungeons tended to feature these.
  • Exact Words: Some caves contain an old woman who says "Pay me and I'll talk". All of them will supply you with info if you pay them their maximum offered amount... except for one who merely replies with "Boy, you're rich." You have to give her the middle amount instead for her to pony up the real information.
  • Faceless Eye: Patra.
  • Feed It a Bomb
  • Feelies: The game came with a poster sized map which had the locations of most of the dungeons and could be used for taking notes. Much to the general annoyance of people who owned the original, this map has not been re-released with any of the remakes.
  • Flash of Pain: Both Link and the enemies when hit.
  • Flip Screen Scrolling
  • Game Mod: Several - the best-known (and best) is probably Zelda Challenge: Outlands.
  • Giant Eye of Doom: Tektites, Digdogger, and especially Gohma and Patra.
  • Give Me Your Inventory Item: GRUMBLE, GRUMBLE...
  • Go for the Eye: Again, Gohma and Patra.
  • Guide Dang It: Try to get through the second quest without looking at a map. Just try. You'll probably get to about Level 3 before giving in.
  • Heart Container: The Trope Namer.
  • Here There Were Dragons: Unlike later games, magic (while it does show up) doesn't play a large role. The artbook Hyrule Historia officially calls the NES games "The Era of Hyrule's Decline".
  • Heroes Want Redheads: The sprite and artwork of Princess Zelda are shown with red/brown hair.
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: A dragon called Aquamentus is the boss of the first and seventh dungeons, while the multi-headed Gleeoks appeared in the fourth, sixth and eighth dungeons.
  • Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: Used to a higher degree here than in any other title in the series. Not only would keys transfer over from dungeon to dungeon, but you could even buy extras if you somehow managed to fluff the puppy and run out. There's also a "Magical Key" in the eighth dungeon that is reusable.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: "Bubbles" were flaming skulls that disable Link's ability to use a sword for awhile, with absolutely no way to kill them. This was even worse in the Second Quest, where two new versions were added -- a red one which took away the sword ability completely, and a blue one which restored it. Touching the first required touching the second, which was sometimes in a completely different room.
  • Kid Hero: According to the Hyrule Historia, this incarnation of Link is only ten years old.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Candle, and the upgraded Magic Wand after you find the Magic Book.
  • Knockback: Occurs with both Link and the enemies - splitting enemies are sent flying all the way across the screen if hit with weak enough weapons. Link can actually get knocked back into another enemy, and will take more damage if the Mercy Invincibility wears off.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: If a monster has a red or orange version and a blue version, the blue version is generally tougher. The only exception is the second quest's Blue Bubbles, which are far less annoying than the red versions.
  • Lost Forever:
    • In both quests, there are old men who offer you a choice between a Heart Container or a red potion. You can buy red potions, but you can't buy Heart Containers, so selecting the potions means missing out on them permanently.
    • In the second quest, some of the old men in the dungeons ask for 50 rupees, and if you don't have that you must give up a Heart Container. Not as in one unit of health, we mean one heart of your life capacity.[2]
  • The Lost Woods: They make their first appearance here. To reach the Graveyard, you must go up, left, right, and left again.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Yes, this game has an example when you defeat Ganon. He explodes into a mess of red pixels, which then pile up underneath the Triforce piece he leaves behind.
  • MacGuffin: The pieces of the Triforce.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Peahat, Manhandla and (arguably) Leever.
  • The Maze:
    • The Lost Woods and the Lost Hills are overworld examples - the Lost Hills are a lesser example. Going up twice is enough to bring you to the dungeon entrance hidden beyond it.
    • Level 9 in both quests, and the majority of the labyrinths in the second.
  • New Game+: As was not-uncommon in those days, there is a "second quest" with a remixed extra-hard layout.
  • Nintendo Hard: Only somewhat more forgiving than the second game. Focusing more on combat than puzzles, this is the hardest of the standard style games. If you started on the later games, it even combines with Surprise Difficulty.
  • No Swastikas: Averted. The third dungeon in the first quest forms a manji symbol. The Angry Video Game Nerd lampshades this, calling it a swastika at the beginning of his review for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
  • Oculothorax: You probably might not guess this from the game itself, but Digdogger (who hates a certain kind of sound) is one of these.
    • Patra is an entire squadron of these.
  • Rainbow Speak: The introductory scrolling text qualifies.
  • Recurring Boss: All of them except the final boss.
    • Level 4: Manhandla, boss of the third dungeon, returns as a midboss.
    • Level 5: Three Dodongos show up for a miniboss battle, where a single one served as the final boss of the second dungeon.
    • Level 6: The two-headed dragon boss of the fourth dungeon, Gleeok, shows up as a midboss sporting a third head.
    • Level 7: The fifth dungeon's boss, Digdogger, returns for a miniboss battle, followed later on by another trio of Dodongos. Later still, another Digdogger appears, and this one splits into three during the battle. Finally, the boss of this level is Aquamentus, the boss of the first dungeon.
    • Level 8: A total of three Manhandlas appear in this dungeon, as do two Gohmas - which, due to the Law of Chromatic Superiority require three times as many hits to defeat as the one that served as the final boss of the sixth dungeon. The final boss is a four-headed Gleeok.
  • Save Game Limits: Sort of. You have three save slots, and unless you know the Player Up+ A code, the only way to save manually is to die. This unfortunately doesn't work in the Virtual Console re-release, which for whatever reason is ported from the Game Boy Advance re-release.
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty: The game hits a major difficulty spike about halfway through the first quest with the introduction of tough enemies such as Wizzrobes and Darknuts. The beginning of the second quest is even harder, as you must deal with such enemies much earlier on and with less equipment/life at your disposal. The difficulty rapidly subsides as you near the end of the second quest, however, as you continue to get stronger while the game's challenge begins to come more from increasingly complex/confusing dungeon layouts than from strong enemies (whom you see less of at this point than you did in the first quest).
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: A number of players have worked out how to get through the entire game (except for the final boss) without using a sword.
  • Sequence Breaking: Later games carefully worked out where you could find and use keys so that none were left over and no doors were left locked; this one didn't do that, so you can easily clear level 2 with about six or seven of them in reserve, making it even easier to beat some of the later dungeons.
  • Sequential Boss: Level 6 in the second quest ends with a battle against Manhandla in the room immediately before Gohma at the end of the level.
  • Skeleton Key: The Magic Key functions as one, rending regular keys completely obsolete.
  • Spell Book: It's not necessary for Link to be able to use the Magic Wand, but it does make his shots burst into flames. Ironically, this actually weakens the power of the wand, as enemies who would be injured by the magic but are impervious to fire stop being affected by wand shots. Many Genre Savvy players don't bother picking up the book, since it's not a required item for anything, just so they can keep using magic.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Aquamentus, Gleeok, and Ganon all use a pterodactyl roar lifted straight out of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, just in low-quality (and low pitch). Something similar may also apply to the noise made by Manhandla, Digdogger, and Patra.
  • Sword Beam: If your life meter is at maximum, you can fire these at distant enemies; notably, unlike many later Zelda titles this sword beam carries the same power level as the blade itself, and is not exclusive to higher-level swords. Even so, getting the White Sword or even the Magical Sword as early as possible is a major boon.
  • Talking with Signs: Link holds up a sign reading "PLEASE LOOK UP THE MANUAL FOR DETAILS" in the opening title scroll.
  • Trope Maker: This was the first console game to use Save Points and post-game content.
  • Tutorial Failure: In the instruction manual, the Pols Voice enemy is said to "hate loud noise". Naturally, the player would assume that their weakness would be the flute, then, but that's not the case at all. The flute does absolutely nothing to the Pols Voice. What the manual is actually referring to is the built-in microphone found in the Famicom, the Japanese version of the NES, the functionality of which was removed entirely for the American release. This is fixed in later games, where musical items will kill the Pols Voices.
  • Unfortunate Names: Seriously, Manhandla? Its original name was even worse: Testitart.
  • Unwinnable: In a way, possible in the second quest. Several rooms have all their doors slam shut until you defeat all of the non-Bubble enemies in them. If you get tagged by one of the red Bubbles (which remove your ability to use a sword until you touch a blue Bubble) in such a room without a blue Bubble, then you're down to whatever subweapons you have on hand. It's quite possible to be out of uses (if you haven't gotten unlimited-use ones like the wand or the red candle yet) and stuck in the room. Fortunately, you can just quit and retry even should all those conditions apply.
  • Useless Useful Spell: Part of what makes the second quest so difficult is that certain "useless" items get a lot more mileage on their next go around, as they become essential to finding many helpful power-ups. The only indication you receive of this is finding said items much earlier in the game than before.[context?]
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: If you attack the peaceful dungeon dwellers (usually old men), they respond by having their campfires shoot fireballs at you until you go away. The ones encountered on the surface simply can't be hit.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind: In the first quest, the first dungeon boss Aquamentus returns as the boss of the seventh dungeon with no improvements whatsoever. Three hits with the White Sword (two with the Magical Sword) is all it takes, and the Magic Shield can block its beams.
    • Averted in the second quest with originally weak enemies such as Stalfos, who can now throw swords, and the Rope snakes, who now take more hits (and flash).
  • Warp Whistle: The Whistle. Link can also use the Power Bracelet to uncover Warp Zones between four areas.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: Quite possibly the Ur Example.
  1. Specifically the tenth enemy, not every tenth - additionally, the sixteenth enemy killed in this way (bomb or not) releases a Fairy. You have to take damage in order to reset the counter.
  2. Of course, you can either use the P2 Up+A trick or attack the old man and wait for the resulting fireballs from his flames to kill you instead.