Thursday, May 31, 2012

Below The Cut: The Legend of Zelda (NES)

Source: GameFAQs

The Legend of Zelda - Rating(7 RPP)
1) 1 - Character advancement: practice/experience based advancement, stat or level increases, multiple classes or characters, customize characters
2) 1 - Combat: character stats used for combat, additional combat options, turn based
3) 1 - Items and Equipment: store to buy and sell, equipment decisions, item decisions
4) 1 - Story: main story at the forefront; world full of hints and lore; descriptions for objects, people, and places
5) 2 - Exploration: open world from the beginning, visited locations remain open
6) 1 - Quests and Puzzles: side quests not related to the main quest, puzzles and riddles to solve

While I'd happily play through this game again, I can't bring myself to include it among the other games in this playlist. There are some points that it has in its favor, but none of the key features I'd consider necessary to put this game in the same category as Final Fantasy, or even the upcoming Miracle Warriors, are present.

What we do find most like those games is a large--mostly open--world ready for exploring. There's hardly any direction, which allows the player to approach the game however they like. I can see this leading to an investment in the actions taken, and into Link as a character. Muted in this experience is growth from practiced actions. We're rewarded only for completing dungeons, and finding hidden areas, by gaining additional health, but no other character based gains are made.

Combat is only excelled in by the skilled, and improving is dependent on the player becoming better at the game rather than the character. Link becomes stronger by finding more powerful swords, but only gets small amounts of rupees, health refills, or bombs from defeated enemies. It's a nice mix of progress, but hardly the same experience as leveling up. I'm not saying one is better than the other, but there's an obvious difference, and my focus here is on the latter.

We've already seen the series dip on the other side, but in future versions they toe the line on this side of the genre boundaries. Who knows, maybe there'll be another time when a Zelda game is included in this list. Until then, we say farewell to Link and Zelda.


  1. I agree with your assessment that The Legend of Zelda doesn't fall into quite the same gnre as Final Fantasy. It has elements of an RPG, but also elements of more traditional adventure gaming as well. Considering how thin the story is, and that there's no RPG-story elements either, I've never really classified The Legend of Zelda as an RPG

  2. There are probably more similarities between games like Devil May Cry and the RPG genre, so I find it odd that anyone would think Legend of Zelda is an RPG while leaving off other games. I've already written the post for the Macventure games, and realized that Maniac Mansion didn't make his list. I mean if one is going to include adventure games, shouldn't they all be included?

    I hope others are finding my decisions to cut games sound. It seems I've yet to receive an argument for the contrary.

  3. "Is Zelda an RPG" is the question that sparked a thousand RPG nerd flamewars. Personally, I think of it as an action-adventure game with RPG elements, just like a lot of modern football games are sports games with RPG elements. Zelda is definitely a classic, but I understand why you would choose to exclude it from this blog.

    I can't comment on Devil May Cry (never played it), but one modern game that comes very close to Zelda is 3D Dot Heroes. It also has open-world exploration, action-based combat, puzzles, a sweeping (if somewhat silly) story, and RPG elements. You can "level up" your HP and your magic meter by finding certain items, as well as upgrade your weapon.

    Interestingly enough, 3D Dot Heroes has a bonus gameplay mode that effectively removes your ability to level up your HP - your hero dies in one hit no matter what. (It's still possible to level up one's magic meter, though). This effectively transfomes the game from an action-RPG-hybrid to a pure action game.

    Fun game, BTW.

    1. Yeah, I know some argue Zelda games are RPGs, but I've never met anyone that does so adamantly. In any case, I think Zelda II is the only one I'll play for this blog. I may play through some games that are more similar to Zelda than an RPG, but I hope to catch most before I get too far deep. I recently cut Rolan's Curse (and its sequel).

      I'll put down 3D Dot Heroes as a game to consider, but it doesn't sound like it'll fit the blog. I think I had it on the list back when I was actually removing games I didn't think fit well.