Set in the fantasy land of Hyrule, the plot centers on a boy named Link, the playable protagonist, who aims to collect the eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom in order to rescue Princess Zelda from the antagonist, Ganon. During the course of the game, the player sees Link from a top-down perspective and must navigate him through the overworld and several dungeons, defeating enemies and finding secrets along the way.
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It has moments of jankiness and dated game design (like the lack of a proper map for instance) but all of that aside, Zelda 1 is one of the best games on the NES and there was a reason why this spawned a massive franchise to begin with. The fact that an NES game can have an open world this big is pretty amazing.
I have something to confess: I’ve never actually beaten a Zelda game before. I’ve played a few of them, like The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess, but what would usually happen with those games is that I’d play for a while, come back to it after a few months and end up being completely lost. Although I’ve gotten back into The Wind Waker HD and I’m currently having a lot of fun with it, the Zelda game that I’ve always wanted to beat was the original one on the NES.
The Legend of Zelda is pretty much impossible to beat without a guide. There are so many cryptic hints that it’s incredibly easy to miss items that are required to beat the game because you had to bomb a very specific rock or burn a very specific bush to get to those items. Although exploring the world for the sake of exploring it can be fun, you’re bound to end up having phrases like “WHERE DO I GO?” and “WHAT DO I DO?” echoing in your head throughout your playthrough. The most consistently fun part of this game would be the dungeons, and while there are enemies that eventually become really annoying to fight, these dungeons are still fun.
Overall, The Legend of Zelda is a fun time that’s worth playing whether you’re a fan of the Zelda series or not, but the cryptic design and annoying enemies makes it clear that this was one of the earlier games on the NES.
The freedom to explore wherever you wanted was nice at first but unfortunately you won't make much progress without a guide since the level design is very outdated. Getting put back to the start of dungeons and having to go through the same enemies again when you died was very tedious and frustrating too.