The Legend of Zelda franchise has a very expansive universe, and I’ve had quite a history with the series – both good and bad. Together with the GenGAME crew I went over the ten best and worst Zelda games – but that’s not at the heart of what I want to talk about here. This is all about my personal experience with the Legend of Zelda series.
I like most of them and there are a few that I enjoyed particularly over the others. On the flip side there are some Zelda titles that I wasn’t a big fan of. Be prepared to take everything written here with your opinion goggles on.
I am a big Legend of Zelda fan, but there are titles that I have not played. Rather than going over titles that I haven’t played, Zelda fans can fill in the blanks and see that I mostly haven’t ventured into the handheld games that much.
The Zelda games I’ve played:
- The Legend of Zelda
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest (GCN)
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure
- The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass*
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword**
First on the list is the original Legend of Zelda: a classic game that kind of escaped my initial Zelda experience. I grew up on the 3D titles and then went back and played the ‘top-down’ games of old.
Truth be told, the original Legend of Zelda seems dated to me, but it’s still a classic and the starting point for this great series of games. I may get some flak for this, but I didn’t have an original NES as a kid, so my Zelda career started briefly on the SNES with A Link to the Past, but was really reinforced with the stunning graphics in the third dimension with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Speaking of A Link to the Past…
A Link to the Past was a game that I owned on the SNES… that’s pretty much all I can say about my first experience with it.
I lost my patience and put it down, only to play it again many years later. There were some weird cryptic translations, and it was just plain confusing to me as a kid. When I went back I enjoyed the experience, and realized how satisfyingly challenging this game was.
Here’s everyone’s favourite – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The first time I played this game was with a good friend who introduced me to the Zelda series. The N64’s graphics made this game for me, and the puzzles kept me guessing as my friend and I played on his cartridge. I asked for this game for my birthday and got to play through the whole game by myself without the guide that my friend and I had the luxury of looking through. It took a long time to complete, but that was the fun of it. No game had ever given me that much fun in a very challenging way.
Way back in 1999, those puzzles were much harder without the Internet community being as established as it is today, and my 7 year old kid self didn’t have all of the puzzle solving skills (or attention span) as the much more talented and dashing 20 year old kid self of today. Needless to say, it’s almost everyone’s favourite in the series, and it was my first true introduction to the Zelda series.
Mixed Feelings at First
Now here’s one of the games that many fans find controversial, whether they hate it, love it or have mixed opinions: Majora’s Mask, which came out a year after Ocarina of Time. By the time of its release I hadn’t even beaten Ocarina of Time yet, but I still got the game, knowing the ending of Ocarina of Time anyways. I played a little bit of it and for whatever reason was turned off from the game and went back to beat Ocarina of Time as well as other games like F-Zero X and Mario 64 instead.
To put things into perspective, getting a new game wasn’t like how it is today. That game could sit for a while in place of other games because they were all either difficult to beat, or you as the gamer (full-time elementary student) just didn’t have the time to complete a long adventure game like Banjo-Kazooie or the Legend of Zelda.
Another big factor of some games being put down for a while was getting stuck in one part somewhere along the line. As I mentioned before, there was no cushion like the Internet to coddle you and push you through the game. There were written guides, but the games themselves cost a lot of money and a lot of people didn’t have the money to pay for a guide on top of the game. For me, my parents, as my major source of income (birthday money), were the only way to buy a game other than waiting for it as a Christmas gift. Also, back in 1999 – and in my family in particular – family members would stay away from buying games because they were either very distant from us and didn’t know our hobbies, and since they were very expensive… it just wasn’t gonna happen.
I’m sure lots of people who were into gaming at that age can relate to that in some way… but that wasn’t the end of my Majora’s Mask history.
I never beat the game fully on my own cartridge. The one I had picked up was the fancy gold version with the pseudo-holographic cover, but for years I flat-out didn’t like the game. Sure, I eventually beat it, but I never liked the 3-day cycle – losing your items and feeling like I had to do the same things over again.
Majora’s Mask didn’t build up my undying respect until about 2 years ago where I sat down and played it again with a fresh mind. I beat it and walked away saying, “Wow. I actually enjoyed playing this game.” Since that day I’ve always enjoyed Majora’s Mask, and particularly the Stone Tower Temple.
That’s it for Majora’s Mask. I’ve beaten the game about four times now, which is more than I can say about any other Zelda game. The next game sadly wasn’t for the N64. I had dreamed up an amazing new Zelda game which had everything that I loved about Ocarina of Time with the mask aspect of Majora’s Mask all built up into one huge adventure all on hand-drawn maps.
Sadly, there was never another N64 Zelda, but I wasn’t entirely let down because The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was soon announced for GameCube.
The cel-shaded art style, boat sequences, and general gameplay shown from videos that I had seen around its launch didn’t matter to me. It was a new Zelda game.
At the time, I had only known of three Zelda games, and that each one was very different from the next. Wind Waker was a new adventure… but one that looking back, was not that exciting – or even particular good for that matter.
I think that the boat is boring and just winds up prolonging the game. Having to go from place to place for a majority of the game was obnoxious but it was all rectified with the Ballad of Gales which warped you to several islands. I could never quite understand why it wouldn’t allow you to warp to any island but that’s not too important. The real kicker with Wind Waker was the Triforce piece hunt. Having to search for maps to find Triforce pieces and paying a lot of money to Tingle for him to read the maps is what makes it hard to enjoy a replay.
It seems like everyone has the same few issues with this game, but rather than focus solely on the negatives, let’s look at the positives. The game was new, but stuck to the Zelda formula. There were some very unique islands, funny characters, rewarding side-quests, and a whole world to explore just like in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Sure, you had to use a boat to get everywhere, but reflecting on it I remember enjoying racing my friends through that game when it came out.
Another plus for Wind Waker is that it came with a GameCube version of Ocarina of Time, and the all-new Master Quest which was another bonus on top of having a new Zelda game. Of course this was only available with a Wind Wakerpre-order, but it was the reason I started pre-ordering Zelda games.
The Wait for Twilight Princess
After Wind Waker I waited for the next Zelda game to come out on the purple little box I grew to love. The GameCube had a bunch of great games like Sonic Adventure 2, Super Mario Sunshine, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Medal of Honor: Frontline, and 007 Nightfire, to name a few. Since Ocarina of Time was followed by Majora’s Mask on Nintendo 64, logically I the next Zelda game was obviously going to come out on the GameCube. But no, I had to wait years before I could play what became The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
And the wait was worth it. My pre-order was originally for the GameCube, but once the Wii was announced I was able to switch the pre-order for the Wii version of the game through GameStop.
While some people say that Twilight Princess was boring, didn’t have good controls, had a weak story or whatever – I liked it. It was fun to run around in a cool looking HD-esque Zelda game doing exactly what you did in Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time. There was a big field to explore, a bunch of temples to fight bosses in, and interesting items that had a special mechanic inside and outside of the dungeons.
It was great to check out familiar environments with places like Lake Hylia and the Lanayru Province, where my favourite group of fictional Zelda characters live: the Zoras. What was great about this game was that it stuck to the core groups of people. The Gorons were there and acted like Gorons, as did the Zoras, and it just seemed to fit in like a Zelda game should.
There were some neat motion controls that I weren’t fond of at first, but they weren’t overdone, and actually responded pretty well. Having double Clawshots was interesting, and aiming the bow with the pointer was cool. Sure, swinging the Wii remote around like a sword didn’t matter since you could just ‘wag’ it around to kill stuff, but it added a decent amount of immersion which fit very well into the Zelda universe. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Twilight Princess as a Zelda game, and it’s a game I can always go back to and enjoy.
The Split Timeline: GenGAME’s Zelda Marathon
Here’s where the timeline of my reflection splits and follows a different tack. Rather than moving on to the logical purchase of Skyward Sword, this story takes on a different path into some GenGAME history.
In August 2010 GenGAME launched officially as a true-blue website – but that wasn’t the true start of GenGAME. The original GenGAME, known then as Generation:GAME, was a Zelda Marathon that started in GenGAME founder Trevor Magnani’s basement. This is where my role as a GenGAME writer came into being. I quite literally drove over to Trevor’s house, even though at the time I didn’t know him too well, and hung out with him, Brad, Christina, Stephen and later on that week Joe to play some Zelda in a basement one sunny week in July.
During that Zelda Marathon I managed to play a few games for large periods of time, and some games for short periods of time to cover people’s sleep breaks or work shifts. I played A Link to the Past very briefly, then some of Twilight Princess the next day. The extent of my playthrough was the Water Temple and the Arbiter Grounds. After that a day later I did the Triforce piece quest in Wind Waker and then I delved into unknown territory. As the Zelda Marathon went on, I ran out of games that I had played before and was left with Zelda games that I hadn’t even thought of purchasing.
The first of these was Phantom Hourglass.
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I played it for all of 30 minutes before opting out and switching the live stream over to Four Swords Adventure, which was our go-to game for downtime because it was easy to play. Starting from the desert area, I managed to beat it to completion and then journeyed into more uncharted territory with The Minish Cap.
Minish Cap reminded me of A Link to the Past in many ways and I really had fun playing it. By the time I stopped playing it was about 3 a.m. and I tossed the game off to Joe for the final level opting to go home and go get some sleep. That was the last Zelda game I played in the Zelda Marathon and we went on to raise ~$250 for charity.
After that, GenGAME launched in August, and I waited for the next Zelda title to hit shelves.
Skyward Sword and the Future
I didn’t play Ocarina of Time 3D because I didn’t have a 3DS but I did wait in anticipation for Skyward Sword. I didn’t purchase it the day it came out, and waited for Christmas time to get it on sale. In truth it’s sad, because I didn’t really enjoy the game.
Rather than get into details about why I didn’t like it, my entire negative side of Skyward Sword can be seen in a separate article here on GenGAME. You’re welcome to disagree with any of my opinions, but I just didn’t enjoy Skyward Sword. I’m not going to bash it here – instead I’ll just look forward to the next great Zelda title.
It seems rather sad to end such a nice reflection on a bad note, so let’s go ahead and look to the future. I hope that the new Zelda for Wii U will recapture my love for the franchise just like the older games did. Until then, I’ll still be a huge Zelda fan and I’ll keep revisiting the classics like I have in these reflection articles.
More Zelda articles:
- Five Reasons Why Monolith Soft Should Make a Zelda Game
- Not Immersive Enough: Why Zelda Should Embrace Voice Acting
- Skull Kid: The Imp From The Heavens
- Skyward Sword is Simultaneously the Best and Worst Zelda Game
- Majora’s Mask: The Essence of the Hero
- The Adventure of Link Convinced Me That Zelda is an RPG
- Zelda Wii U Needs More Than HD Visuals to Succeed