The Legend of Zelda (NES) Review

By Karn Spydar Lee Bianco 03.03.2006

Review for The Legend of Zelda on NES

Unfortunately, given the format of this review there is undoubtedly need for an induction of sorts, thusly we are terribly sorry but we’re going back on our word briefly; (Won’t happen again, promise). Aptly named ‘The Legend of Zelda’ does exactly what it says on the commercial packaging – Zelda, minus all the bells and whistles of recent the more instalments with their swish graphics and such like. But can bare bones Zelda entertain fanatics to this day, or is it best left to brief nostalgic flashbacks?

Before we get down to business it is perhaps essential to note the importance of Zelda's first outing (as if you're not already aware of it), regardless of how it holds up today. It was the first NES game to exceed a million sales and also laid the foundations for an onslaught of sequels and poor imitations for years to come. The Legend of Zelda series is one of the most popular and widely recognised gaming franchises in existence. The only problem when re-visiting a 'Golden-Oldie' such as this after a fairly long period of time is that it won't always live up to what gamers are expecting after playing more recent and refined instalments in the series. So we implore you to keep an open mind for the duration of the review and not dismiss the game on the grounds that we have just discussed - you will almost certainly get more out of that it that way.

Let’s start at the very beginning, then - the storyline. If you’ve ever played an episode in the Zelda series, then odds are you will have a fair idea of what this is all about. Princess Zelda discovers that Ganon (one very evil dude) has acquired the Triforce of Power, one of three immensely powerful artefacts that, when combined, can grant the user almost unlimited power. Fearful that he will try to steal her own Triforce of Wisdom, she divides it into shards and scatters them across the realm. She is of course kidnapped and instructs Impa (her maid) to find a hero that can track down the Triforce. She too is kidnapped but luckily rescued by the one and only Link, who, if for some reason you have been unable to ascertain already, is to become the hero of the story as he ventures to all corners of Hyrule in search of the Triforce. This is no Easter-egg hunt though; oh no – each shard of the Triforce is guarded in a temple by increasingly powerful monsters that must be overcome by Link.

Onto arguably the most important element of the game (hell the most important feature in most games) – the gameplay! Technically timeless and so simple that anyone can pick it up instantly, especially if you’ve ever played another top-down RPG before (more than likely if you’re reading this). The NES controller did of course only have a D-Pad and two other buttons... How did they cope, you ask? With simplified player input, that’s how! So that’s movement via the D-Pad and a choice of what you want the other two buttons to do - generally a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. This could be changed when it was necessary to progress past certain sections of the game, when fighting enemies that only take damage from a bow and arrow for example. New weapons are located around the land of Hyrule in the previously mentioned dungeons. You guessed it, people - ‘The Legend of Zelda’ is where Nintendo first introduced the idea of placing the weapon you need to kill a boss in a certain dungeon in that very same dungeon!

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda on NES

The game is set out as one giant map that can be navigated at will. Due to its size, the game loads every time you move out of the view of a particular screen. In essence, this means that the whole map is split up into lots of square areas that link together, all of which are complete with their own individual features and can be explored freely. One 'problem' with the game is the sheer complexity of trying to work out where the hell you're supposed to go next. There are very few hints or linear aspects; in fact, the game starts without a word on where you should head to, leaving decisions entirely up to the instincts of the player. The magical land of Hyrule is split into the usual distinctive areas - mountains, forests, deserts, etc. Each of these come with their own selection of unique enemies all varying in power and regularity of appearance. With enough practise it's possible to learn the weaknesses of most of your opponents and subsequently exploit them each time you come across them.

Without going into anymore superfluous detail about the game all we have left to talk about now is the presentation, in the form of graphics and sound. Visually, 'The Legend of Zelda' in all honestly doesn't look that great anymore. Certainly you won't have a problem differentiating between locations and enemies but gamers expect a lot more then that nowadays, and unfortunately, they're not going to find it here. So not bad but not awe-inspiring, but does it really matter? No, not particularly.

The soundtrack is an iconic mixture of epic overworld theme and haunting labyrinth melody, that have since gone on to receive various famous arrangements in subsequent games. Of course, that Zelda main theme is one of the most recognised soundtracks in all of gaming, and even in its original chiptune state, it is as catchy as ever. Variety is lacking when compared to later instalments of the series, which feature so many tunes, and there is the chance that what's played through the speakers in this game can start to become repetitive, but they set the tone so well for such a classic game.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda on NES

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

We thought introducing a game that needs no introduction was hard enough, let alone having to score the game that is loved dearly by so many gamers to this day. We're giving it a 7, which is an damn good score and one which is fully deserved. If you consider yourself a Zelda fan you will really enjoy checking out the beginning of the series even if isn't quite as polished an experience as the latter titles.






Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (21 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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