Zelda Turns 35; The History Behind the Legend, How Passion and Imagination Made the Best Series Ever

Zelda just turned 35 and the entire gaming community is thrilled. We wish the future unfolds many more milestones for the fabulous video game 'The Legend of Zelda'. However, in order to embrace the blessing of the future, one must not forget the past and certainly, this is a powerful moment in the history of video games, where one can't help but remember how the journey of Zelda began; how it all started.

"An everyday boy gets drawn into a series of incredible events and grows to become a hero" – That's where the wheel started turning.

The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda Nintendo

It All Started With A Cave And The Imagination Of A Little Boy

According to a 1994 interview, the creator of the Zelda series, Shigeru Miyamoto, stated that this was the original notion on which the entire game is based. A game that went on to become a revolutionary franchise that continues to mesmerize gamers all over the world even 35 years later.

As the tale goes, Miyamoto had created the game out of his own knowledge and experiences of exploring the countryside in Japan. The creator tells a story of his childhood, when he had stumbled upon a cave entrance as a boy and only after a few moments, he could gather the courage of entering the cave to unravel the secrets in it. This was the experience, the sense of adventure that the creator had intended to recreate in the gamers while playing the original 'The Legend of Zelda'.

"I wanted to create a game where the player could experience the feeling of exploration as he travels about the world, becoming familiar with the history of the land and the natural world he inhabits. That is reflected in the title: 'The Legend of Zelda'," stated Miyamoto.

The Storyteller

Shigeru Miyamoto
Shigeru Miyamoto Wikipedia

The original game tells the story of one Link, a 'young lad,' who's been bestowed with the tough mission of handling the evil Ganon and stopping him from taking over the land of Hyrule. Further the story tells that Ganon has taken over one of the two Triforces (in the original Zelda), the Triforce of Power. So, in order to protect Hyrule and to make sure that he doesn't get his hands on the second Triforce, Triforce of Wisdom, Princess Zelda has broken it into eight pieces and scattered them across the land.

Of course, evil Ganon had to retaliate in some way, so he has captured and locked up the Princess. Now, Link's missions are to collect all the eight pieces of Triforce of Wisdom from across Hyrule, then restructure it, defeat Ganon in Death Mountain and last, but not the least, save Princess Zelda.

In the original Zelda, Link kicks off with absolutely nothing and what does he see in front him on a field? Well, of course, a large cave.

Just how Miyamoto had described one of his childhood encounters. Now, in order to explore the cave Link aka the player gets a sword and also an idea that exploration brings back rewards – the essential outline of the game.

"Adventure games and RPGs are games where you advance the story through dialogue alone, but we wanted players to actually experience the physical sensation of using a controller and moving the character through the world," elucidated Miyamoto in the same interview.

He added that, "We wanted dungeons to be explorable with a simple mapping system. These and similar ideas were what we wanted to experiment with in Zelda. These themes are carried forward in the SFC Zelda as well."

The Very First Steps Of Becoming 'The' Franchise

The original Legend of Zelda was first launched as a part of Famicom Disk System on February 21, 1986, 35 years ago. Famicom Disk System was a Japan-only add-on for the Famicom floppy disks. The specialty was that it offered the consumers with more storage space and also the ability to write data. This was quite a big deal back then, as it allowed for the larger games because players were then able to save their progress to continue later, instead of having to start from the very beginning or write down a difficult and lengthy password.

The game was first released in Japan as a disk for the Famicom Disk System.
The game was first released in Japan as a disk for the Famicom Disk System. It was later converted to a cartridge for American release on the NES Wikipedia

So, the land of Hyrule was really massive in compare to the other games of that time. It incorporated a huge overworld, which then went on to explore nine different maze-like dungeons. A total of 364 screens were there in the game. Add to that it includes a 'second quest' mode. Interestingly it could only get unlocked if a player finished the game successfully or entered their name as ZELDA. The name ZELDA led to different dungeon maps, which were more difficult and complicated.

However, There Were Many Questions

"Once we decided there'd be riddles and puzzles in Zelda, that carried a lot of anxiety with it as well. Some of the puzzles are quite difficult to solve, after all. Since we were working on Super Mario at the same time, once Mario was finished, we grabbed the Mario programmers and used them for Zelda in a final programming sprint. That was really tough," Miyamoto said.

The Japan-only Famicom Disk System was never brought into the waters of west; so, Nintendo came up with a different option to launch the game in the western territories.

The Legend of Zelda became the first cartridge game ever to have allowed the players to save their progress in the game directly onto the cart via an internal battery.

The Legend of Zelda most definitely 'found its secret' and thrived in leaps and bounds over the last three decades. Although the current version of the game is much more updated and drastically different from its original version; one cannot disregard the fact that even at the beginning The Legend of Zelda was a basket full of innovations; a true legend itself.