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Here’s to 25 Years of Zelda Magic – Part 1

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The ever continuing journey of the Hero of Time in his quest to save Hyrule for returning threats has now, officially passed its 25th birthday. Players have controlled the various iterations of Link for the past two and a half decades fighting to protect the contents of the sacred realm from falling into the wrong hands. Now we take a look back at the series’ history and origin to see the effect Link’s adventures have had on the world (and myself) along with a guess as to what may be on the horizon for the blade-wielding hero.

The Legend of Zelda has spanned over 15 major titles in its 25 year grip on gaming, rarely branching out of the formula which helped to define not only its place in the action/adventure genre but also define the genre itself, we will highlight some of the peculiar direction changes it has attempted in the past.

The series has enjoyed more than 15 releases in its lifetime, but only those main 15 are appointed as the canon games within the franchise with the other releases ranging from the character spin-off “Tingle” games to the dangerously abysmal Phillips CD-I titles. Multiplayer aspects have made their way into select titles allowing players to cooperate by controlling the separate Link entities created by the “Four Sword”. One of which is available as a free download for 3DS and DSi/XL users. The timeline to the right indicates the release years of the main 15 titles in the series.

The story of Link, Zelda and the land of Hyrule first began back on the Famicom back in 1987, the original adventure started with the classic top-down adventure concept that is still used to this day for the handheld titles. Zelda II was the only title to adopt a side-scrolling action RPG model, something which has thankfully never been used again. 
  Premised by Mr Shigeru Miyamoto, the pioneer behind Mario, Starfox, Pikmin and other huge gaming hallmarks, the action/adventure series was inspired by Mr Miyamoto’s own adventures as a child through small forests, lakesides and caves around Sonobe, Japan which he hoped to bring to players with the creation of the first title, an effect I have felt from the games from an early age.

Through Mr Miyomoto’s devotion to create the series from the adventurous childhood he enjoyed through Japan, I can confirm his wish to bring that sense of adventure through to his work was a success. I was introduced to the series when I was around 6 years old. My cousin picked me up from my house with my uncle one day, it’s a little hazy but I think I must have visited their house near enough every day to see that playthrough of Ocarina of Time from start to finish so much so my uncle started to address me as his second son.

Seeing Link forward roll through Hyrule Field to hopefully outrun the closing gates of the Castle as the sun fell behind the clouds seemed to have a big effect on my personality. Obviously, it wasn’t just rolling through a field, that would be a little weird, but I like to think that the various landscapes of forests, caves, mountains and even the back alleys of a town Link travels through helped to forge a sense of adventure within me that still has me staring wondrously when I walk into a mysterious forest or notice a small crawlspace that just screams to be explored. Even today I can remember the sounds of the Sacred Grove and Zora’s Domain being the reason why I find rivers and waterfalls so calming and Link’s arsenal being why I prefer swords over guns in my video games, they all help to create and reflect that mysterious, perhaps ancient age within ruins, caves and woods.

During my introduction to the series, I developed a fascination with Link’s array of weapons. The sword, the shield, the bombs, the bow, the hookshot, you name it. I quickly broke a slingshot that was given to me as a souvenir from a vacation, much to my own disappointment, and I can guarantee my parents were not going to hand a 6-year old boy a sword to play with. Instead, my own Nan presented me with a toy sword and shield for my birthday, a set with the mouth of some sort of monster emblazoned on the centre. The shield was designed as part of a water fight kit and housed a trigger on it’s handle which opened the mouth of the centrepiece and fired water at my enemies – and stray animals. Same deal with the sword. Made from some kind of rubbery plastic, I could squeeze the handle and fire murky puddle water at my friends. You could easily tell me apart from all my water gun slinging friends. I was going for the stylish swordplay!

Eventually, when me and my cousin became a little older, we tried our hand at the N64 titles ourselves. No way were 5-6 year olds capable of completing those games, not a chance, more so for Majora’s Mask, time travel plots to this day confuse me, though, through our determination (and the occasional help from my uncle) we finished Ocarina of Time. My uncle surely saw our obsession with the games he introduced us to and surprised us one day with a metal full-scale hand-crafted Hylian Shield for my cousin (his son) and a wooden full-scale Mirror Shield from the games. You can only imagine how happy two little kids would be after getting something like that. Fitting with the game, the shields were almost bigger than us. Sadly, the Hylian Shield disappeared some time ago, with the Mirror Shield sitting behind me after it was transformed with additional wood to look like it’s long-lost Hylian brother.

Hands down though, my favourite part of Zelda history is by-far the fan reaction to Twilight Princess during it’s debut during E3 2004. That moment still gives me goose bumps to this day. I only wish I was there to be a part of it.

Of course, we both still play every Zelda title we come into contact with. Skyward Sword is a big thing on our minds right now with an inevitable replay of Wind Waker on the horizon and we are both planning to attend the Gamecity6 Zelda celebration hopefully alongside my non-Zelda loving friend this month.

In the second chapter we will outline some of the more rare and unheard of Zelda titles to appear throughout the years and see how they may have taken the series through a slightly different and less traditional road.

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