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  • I'm sure you've heard this phrase before: "we're going back to our roots".

  • Like, a developer makes a game about inching through a creepy mansion and then, several

  • years later, that same series is now about jumping over a helicopter on a flippin' motorbike.

  • Yeah. So, Capcom says "we're going back to our roots" and Resident Evil returns to claustrophobic

  • corridors, hoarding herbs, and ruining your favourite jeans.

  • It's all about identifying what made a series so great in the first place - and taking a

  • good, hard look at a franchise to see if it still carries the essential DNA of its earliest games.

  • The next series to do this is, perhaps, my favourite of them all: The Legend of Zelda.

  • For the next game, Breath of the Wild, Nintendo will be going back to its roots, by looking

  • to the very first Zelda game for inspiration.

  • Which, I think, is pretty exciting. Because despite its simple graphics and general retro

  • clunkiness, Zelda 1 remains as one of the very best entries in this series - and it did

  • things that no other Zelda game has done since.

  • Designer Shigeru Miyamoto made The Legend of Zelda to capture his childhood experience

  • of exploring the Japanese countryside.

  • He's said, "I went hiking and found a lake. It was quite a surprise for me to stumble

  • upon it. When I traveled around the country without a map, trying to find my way, stumbling

  • on amazing things as I went, I realized how it felt to go on an adventure like this".

  • He wanted players to feel that same sense of adventure when they were exploring the

  • fields, forests, lakes, deserts, mountains, and graveyards of Hyrule.

  • So, you definitely don't have a map in this game - there's just a grey box that shows

  • your position in the world. And you aren't told where to go - the text crawl says that

  • you need to track down eight pieces of the triforce, but how that happens is up to you.

  • You're just let loose in a clearing, and told to get on with it. You don't even start with

  • a sword - you've got to enter this cave to grab that. A way for Miyamoto to tell players

  • that this game isn't going to hand them anything on a silver platter.

  • You're given a huge amount of freedom, from the very beginning. You can technically explore

  • the entire world right now, perhaps striding off west and coming across a lake, or heading

  • off east to squeeze through a canyon before you burst out onto a beach.

  • Sure, games like Skyrim let you go anywhere you like - but in that game you make the choice

  • between following a quest or freely exploring the map. There's no such choice in Zelda 1

  • - it's just all curious exploration, never knowing what you might come across next.

  • Maybe a shop. Or a secret. Or the entrance to one of the game's dungeons, which are these

  • tricky underground mazes filled with treasure, bosses, mysterious messages, and one of the

  • eight pieces of the triforce.

  • The dungeons are numbered, but there's rarely anything stopping you visiting them out of

  • sequence and accidentally stumbling into one of the last dungeons in the game. In Zelda

  • 1, surprises lurk on every screen.

  • Part of what makes this game so enchanting is that it's mysterious and oblique. You're

  • given no companion character to provide hints and assistance, and the few friendly faces

  • in Hyrule offer up cryptic riddles that need to be deciphered.

  • But they are intoxicating. I remember this guy, who said "did you get the sword from

  • the top of the waterfall?" and I was like "No?!" and then found myself following the

  • stream up into the mountains with giddy anticipation.

  • And this is a game that encourages experimentation, as much as exploration. Items like the blue

  • ring and the piece of paper and the candle and the magic croissant are just added to

  • your inventory without description. and you'll simply have to figure out what the heck they do.

  • Zelda 1 just felt indifferent to the player's existence. It had whatever the opposite of

  • hand-holding is. You know, you're just dropped into a world and told to explore it. It was,

  • to sum it up in a single word, an adventure.

  • I'm sure it was mind-bending 30 years go but I played it for the first time... in 2017

  • and it still enraptured me so if you haven't experienced it yet and you think it sounds

  • interesting - please go grab it and turn off this video because I'm about to spoil the

  • crap out of it.

  • Years later, Miyamoto said "We were very nervous since The Legend of Zelda was our first game

  • that forced players to think what they should do next. We were afraid that gamers would

  • be bored and stressed by the new concept".

  • Luckily, they weren't. The game was successful and led to a couple sequels.

  • But I don't think he had any reason to worry, because - and this shouldn't come as a surprise

  • to anyone who watches my stuff - but it's because Nintendo knows how to make video games.

  • So, yes, Zelda 1 does offer a huge amount of freedom. You can go anywhere you like,

  • and visit - though not necessary finish - the dungeons in any order you want. But the designers

  • use some clever tricks to help guide you through the game, stop you getting lost, and make

  • the world naturally open up, piece by piece.

  • For one, the world map just isn't that big. It's only 16 screens wide and 8 screens high,

  • meaning you can learn most of the layout in a few hours. To make it feel bigger, the map

  • is turned into a giant maze with winding pathways, dead ends, and chokepoints.

  • Also, Zelda keeps some of the map away from you until you're more experienced with the game.

  • Not through actual locks - only two screens and two dungeons are literally impossible

  • to reach at the beginning of the game -

  • But through, what you might call "soft locks", which discourage exploration of certain areas.

  • One of these, is challenging enemies.

  • These centaur dudes, and screens filled with tricky foes, will quickly kill you if you

  • only have a few hearts. And dying in the overworld sends you right back to the first screen

  • so instead of trekking all the way back to where you just got pummelled into a fine pixelated

  • mist, you're more likely to just try going off in another direction.

  • Another soft lock, is information.

  • To access this whole area over here, you either need the ladder from dungeon four, or you

  • need to know the correct path through the lost woods. That's a maze that will keep turning

  • you around if you don't know the right order to take its many exits - and to get the solution

  • you need to find this woman, and pay her some rupees.

  • These locks also help you find the dungeons in a more sensible order. If you're just wandering

  • around the main part of Hyrule, you'll only stumble upon the entrances for the first three

  • dungeons. The remaining six are more hidden.

  • The fourth dungeon requires the raft. The fifth is on top of the magic mountain, so

  • you'll need another solution. The sixth is in that western area I just talked

  • about. And the seventh, eighth, and ninth dungeons are just hanging out in Hyrule - but

  • hidden away so you'll need special items and clues to find them.

  • Ah yes, the clues. Zelda is, like I said, a mysterious game, and not one to quickly

  • give up its secrets or tell you where to go. But, if you listen carefully, you'll realise

  • that these old men and women do give Link cryptic hints that actually detail almost

  • everything you need know to get through the game.

  • Some tell you about the boss's weakpoints. Others give you clues about finding more powerful

  • gear. Some tell you stuff that doesn't make much sense... though, you have to

  • remember that the game's English translation isn't perfect.

  • Zelda fans fevershly argue about the meaning of this clue, which says "eastmost pennisula

  • is the secret", but it wasn't written by the game's designers. In the original Japanese

  • version, that same man tells you that shooting arrows costs you money.

  • Anyway, other characters tell you how to find the most hidden dungeons.

  • In the fourth dungeon, this guy tells you to "walk into the waterfall" - where you'll

  • find the hint you need to find dungeon number five. In the sixth dungeon, a man says "there

  • are secrets where fairies don't live", which should help you find the entrance to seventh

  • dungeon in the only pond without a fairy.

  • The clue for the eighth dungeon is more obtuse, I'll grant you. This guy tells you to look

  • out for the tree at the dead-end - which I guess is referring to the entrance to dungeon

  • eight? I mean that's how I took it, and ended up in the penultimate dungeon in my first

  • hour with the game.

  • But, maybe this is why I kept seeing that bogus claim that you need to burn every bush

  • and bomb every wall to beat Zelda 1. Nah mate.

  • There are hidden rooms behind random bushes and walls, and they don't have telltale signs

  • like big ol' cracks. But that actually makes them... secrets. So it's a genuine surprise

  • when you find them.

  • And you really want that stuff. Zelda 1 can be brutally hard, so any help - whether that's

  • rupees or heart containers - is more than welcome. But it's all optional stuff, so you

  • can beat the game without it.

  • Of course, there were some genuinely tricky bits. I won't deny that. Especially in the

  • dungeons, which I'lll cover in more detail in the NES episode of my dungeon design series,

  • Boss Keys.

  • But, if you got stuck, all hope was not lost because Nintendo encouraged you to look beyond

  • the game for help.

  • There's the manual - which you are told to read in the opening text crawl. Both the main

  • text, and the bonus tips that are hidden behind a protective seal, give you loads of help.

  • It describes all the items in the game, reveals that there's a secret on almost every overworld

  • screen, and gives up the locations of the last three dungeons. Though, the English manual

  • is also filled with translation issues, like this erroneous claim that the warp whistle

  • can take you to the ninth dungeon.

  • You could also ask a friend. Miyamoto purposefully designed the game to encourage communication

  • between gamers, saying "I wanted them to talk with other Zelda players and exchange information,

  • ask each other questions, find out where to go next. That's what happened - this communication

  • was not a competition but it was a real life collaboration that helped make the game more popular".

  • So The Legend of Zelda is a game that gave players the freedom to dictate their own journey

  • through Hyrule, allowing for surprises and sequence breaking. And the game felt mysterious,

  • with secret passages, weird items, and cryptic hints.

  • But I think the team used clever design to make a game that felt free, but didn't let

  • you get lost. Mysterious, but far from inscrutable. And completely indifferent to the player - while

  • secretly helping them reach their goals.

  • But in more recent Zelda games, you no longer feel free, everything is explained, and that

  • guiding hand is no longer secret.

  • In more recent entires, the overworld is often restricted until you've hit certain points

  • in the story, dungeons can no longer be completed out of order, and you're stuck with chatty

  • companion characters who tell you what to do and where to go.

  • I mean, these games are all fab in their own way - well, almost - but none of them share

  • Zelda 1's unrestricted sense of adventure.

  • And you might think that this is just how modern games are. And that I'm just being

  • a nostalgic old fart.

  • But I'm not so sure. Well, I am a nostalgic old fart. But, games with that sense of freedom,

  • mystery, and surprise still exist.

  • Indie games like Hyper Light Drifter and The Witness are enchanting, wordless odysseys,

  • which capture those feelings.

  • And games like Fez have arguably found even better compromises between mystery with accessibility

  • - like these maps which point you towards secret areas, but don't completely give the

  • game away.

  • And everybody's already made this connection but Dark Souls definitely feels like a modern

  • take on Zelda 1 - complete with secret walls, cryptic hints, and communication between players.

  • So the question is not, "can you make a game like Zelda 1 today".

  • The question is, "can Nintendo make a game like Zelda 1 today".

  • They made a bold start with the non-linear Link Between Worlds on 3DS. But the real test

  • will be with Breath of the Wild. Just how much is Nintendo willing to go back to its roots,

  • To give The Legend of Zelda that feeling of freedom, mystery, and surprise?

  • We'll see.

  • Hey, thanks for watching. Game Maker's Toolkit is, as always, powered by the crowdfunding

  • website Patreon. If you like the show, consider throwing a few bucks my way. Just like these

  • super brilliant people, who donate five bucks or more, per episode.

  • Breath of the Wild will be out in a week or two - and you can definitely expect a video

  • on that game in the near future. Plus, I've got lots of other stuff in the works too so maybe

  • tap the subscribe button, and the bell button, to get a notification whenever I put a new

  • video out.

  • Oh, and if you're still not sick of Zelda stuff then look forward to new episodes of

  • Boss Keys. To be honest, I'm struggling to muster up the enthusiasm to replay these DS games

  • but I started this ridiculous project so I shall finish it. Look out for that video

  • in March, I guess?

I'm sure you've heard this phrase before: "we're going back to our roots".

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The Magic of the First Legend of Zelda | Game Maker's Toolkit

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    Yuyu Chen posted on 2017/08/26
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