The series quickly became one of Nintendo’s most recognised and influential pieces of work, much like Super Mario Bros. and Pokémon. The games have sold in excess of 52 million copies since the original legend began. Link has consistently come out on top of character popularity contests for websites such as IGN and Gamefaqs beating other Nintendo favourites and more modern characters such as Marcus Fenix, Altair and Nathan Drake along the way.
Critically acclaimed, every major title in the Legend of Zelda series has been hailed by fans and critics, A trend which sets the series apart from others. Each release is regularly praised for fantastic musical scores despite the limited audio technology in the earlier platforms in turn with incredible level design and dozens of hours of side quests and collectibles. Ocarina of Time has consistently been recognised as the greatest game of all time with the earlier release of A Link to the Past sharing some of glory for it’s deep landscape. Both Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker have been awarded perfect scores by Japanese gaming mag Famitsu to become the only franchise to be awarded a perfect score across multiple titles. Each of the major 3D titles across the Nintendo home consoles, aside from Majora’s Mask, have received perfect scores by one or more reviewers with 13 of the 15 major releases having aggregate review scores higher than 80%.
Within the span of 15 official titles, Link and Zelda have expanded their reach into other media, much like you would expect from a popular franchise. Manga adaptations of most of the series’ titles have been released in Japan with a short-lived American comic being featured as part of Valiant Comics “Nintendo Comics System” line. Novels were also penned by Tracey West who adapted numerous episodes of the Pokémon anime show into light novels all of which share no significance with the chronological story of the main games.
An add-on peripheral was released in Japan for the Super Famicom in 1995. Named the “Satellaview” the peripheral was a block which clipped onto the reverse side of the console, an idea Nintendo utilised with their later consoles in the form of the 64DD and Gameboy Player. The Satellaview took the form of a base for the Super NES system, and, by utilizing rented satellites in Japanese homes, the satelleview enabled Nintendo to effectively broadcast video game content to players around the country during set times, an idea which was used for 3 rarely heard of Zelda titles, “BS The Legend of Zelda“.
Back in 1989, Nintendo released their first portable Legend of Zelda title. Probably not the type of game you would consider when you hear “portable zelda”, the game was a small release on the Game & System series of handhelds and stripped away the dungeon exploring in favour of pure stage based combat.
Skip forward a few years and Phillips’ entry into the console market collapsed with their CD-i platform. The company attempted to secure a deal with Nintendo to bring it’s disc-based format to the SNES althoguh the deal eventually fell through. The disagreement left Phillips with the rights to use 5 Nintendo characters in their own games for the CD-i platform with little help from Nintendo themselves. This resulted three CD-i Zelda games which brought back the side-scolling platform action of Zelda II. The games were heavily ridiculed due to poor controls and dodgy animated cutscenes with Nintendo rarely acknowldging their existence.
The Legend of Zelda has made a few drastic turns throughout its lifetime. Rarely straying away from the core adventuring concept of the titles, the games have gone through numerous artistic designs from the classic design of Ocarina of Time to the chibi/cel-shaded/cartoony look of Wind Waker and the DS iterations through to the more realistic and darkened approach of Twilight Princess and now, as of this year’s Skyward Sword release, an oddly water-coloured yet beautiful approach, vaguely described as somewhere between the Twilight Princess and Wind Waker art styles.
In the final segment of this article we will look at the impact the series has had to its fans and the community over the years and highlighting what has spawned from the popularity of the franchise.