365//365: Day 208 – The Legend of Zelda (NES) [Comparison Series]



For this Comparison Series, we’re going to take a trip back to a time where legendary games were forged, and lesser known imitations were placed in similar molds of ambition. The Legend of Zelda was a genre defining, as well as a system defining title that captivated millions of gamers with its intricate dungeon layouts, maze-like overworld and a journey to save Princess Zelda and the nine fragmented pieces of the Triforce from the clutches of the evil Ganon. While the Zelda franchise has become synonymous with the the words “video games”, there was another title released years later on Nintendo’s competitor in the gaming market, the Sega Master System. Golden Axe Warrior flew under gamers radars, just as the Sega Master System its self did. While many who have played both titles claim that Sega “borrowed” a good number of elements from Nintendo’s famed franchise, there are still those who have never even heard of such a title. The similarities between the two titles is the subject of our latest Comparison Series: The Legend of Zelda on the NES versus Golden Axe Warrior on the Sega Master System. As always, during the last day of the Comparison Series, a winner will be select for Audio, Visuals, Gameplay and Replay Value, with each games score following each ranking.

Today’s game will be The Legend of Zelda.
Although Adventure on the Atari 2600 was the first true….adventure game that most old school gamers remember playing, The Legend of Zelda added so many elements to the experience, that it has become the game synonymous with classic adventure games. With a world containing more detail than any title before it, more areas to explore than most games before it and a large amount of leeway as to what order you can tackle each situation in. The Legend of Zelda has been, and may always be the true definition of an epic adventure into the unknown.

A major driving force into the immersion of your journey comes in the form of the audio performance. The effects are clear, pristine and devoid of any complications or any misplaced quips. Even as a rather early NES title, it remains one of the best collections of sound effects on the system. The music, though, has a minor problem. Although what’s available in the game is instantly recognizable by just about any gamer over the age of 18, there’s not enough of it. The signature Zelda “theme song” is composed in such a clever manner, and really brings out the sense and awe that you’re exploring a vast world around you, as is the dungeon theme, which perfectly represents trepidation and certain uncertainty to your exploration of the rooms ahead. But the lack of variety is somewhat disappointing. If it weren’t for the fact that what little is available is beyond a classic collection, it would be a significant detraction from the experience.

The one thing that does not garner any resentment comes in visual form. Though not necessarily the sleekest looking game on the NES, the iconic dungeon layouts, elementary design of the overworld and the clean, simplistic look of the characters, all gel together into an untroublesome visual festival. The lack of color assortment is a tad disappointing, but for the scope of the game, within the time period this was developed and conceived, it more than does the experience justice. The beam shot from your sword was particularly cool, and sadly replaced by a less than brilliant spinning beam in A Link to the Past.

Navigating throughout Hyrule never had any hitches to it. There weren’t many, if any games that featured diagonal movement back in the mid to late 80’s, so the omission is null and void. Movement speeds were adequate, attacking and using sub-weapons were easy to use and switch back and forth. In fact, there’s a number of items you’ll come across on your journey that will be essential to venturing further. Whether it be an offensive weapon such as the boomerang, or something to “bridge the gap” such as the ladder, you’ll find that there’s no useless piece of gained treasure in any dungeon, or purchased off any merchant.

With a game world so expansive, unless you have a map handy, or have traveled through the lands of Hyrule more than the average gamer, you’re going to get lost pretty easily. Part of the charm to The Legend of Zelda is the fact that the world is ripe for the picking, as you have the then unheard of ability to enter certain areas sooner than you’d expect, or should. You’ll still have to utilize one of the plethora of sub-weapons or items you accumulate throughout your travels in order to reach certain areas, but you’re not held back from taking your time and exploring each area. Although there are intuitive ways of opening certain dungeons or hidden merchants, they require you to know exactly which screen and which bush to burn, or rock to bomb. Future Zelda titles would adopt similar philosophies, with an even larger game world, though the obscurity of certain key locations were a bit much. All of these concerns are quickly debunked with even the most remedial ability to use the world wide web.

Finally, when talking about The Legend of Zelda, one cannot forget to mention the generous bonus that Nintendo left for us gamers. Inputting our game as ZELDA will unlock a second quest, where dungeons and other items and locations of interest, are placed in a totally different location. Even though the topography of the world does not change, your experience will feel fresh, thanks to the notion that nothings as it once was. Nintendo could have easily sold the second quest in Japan as The Legend of Zelda 2, pulling a Super Mario Bros. 2 act on gamers, but they kept it in the same cartridge.

Although it sounds like there’s a lot of negativity shined down upon The Legend of Zelda, the fact of the matter is that it was a trend-setter, and a reason why video games have come as far as they have in terms of scope and unprecedented feelings of treasure hunting and adventuring as a whole. Removing the majestic history from the equation, The Legend of Zelda still remains an impressive feat, both in the size of the game world as well as how well it looks for the time it was built. The dungeons are captivating, the sprawling overworld provides ample opportunity for thorough exploration, and fighting even the lasagna-looking Like Like’s feel like an epic battle. Although many sequels have come and gone, the original is still a wonder to behold, for its own reasons.

Check back tomorrow for the final part of this Comparison Series, as we take a look at Golden Axe Warrior, the score for each game, as well as which game has the better Visuals, Audio, Controls and Replay!

Jason V.

I am the Co-Editor-in-Chief here at Chocolate Lemon. Over the last 15 years, I have been writing gaming articles here and there, including my time with GameSages, a then IGN affiliated video game code database that's now owned by IGN, as well as my near four year stay on this very site. I'm quite the gaming enthusiast, have a somewhat "old school" soul, and enjoy a wide variety of geeky shows, movies and so on. Follow me on Twitter @Jas0nVelez