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Videogame: The Legend of Zelda I


The first game in The Legend of Zelda franchise, the original Legend of Zelda was a top-down Action Adventure Hack and Slash, with a very nonlinear setup. Originally the first game to be released for the Famicom Disk System in Japan, in North America and Europe, it was the first game for the Nintendo Entertainment System to use a battery-backed save feature, and was released, as a gimmick, in a gold cartridge rather than standard gray.

Both the original adventure and the "second quest" would eventually be remade as BS-Zelda, an enhanced version for a satellite-based Super Famicom add-on.

The story, as told through an Engrish-filled opening title scroll (though revised in later rereleases), is that the evil Ganon had stolen the Triforce of Power, and captured Princess Zelda, holder of the Triforce of Wisdom. However, to keep the Triforce from falling into Ganon's hands she had split it into 8 pieces and hid them in the eight dungeons across Hyrule. Link, the hero, must gather the 8 pieces, allowing him to enter Ganon's lair, defeat him, claim the Triforce of Power, and Save the Princess. Unlike the later games, there was little character interaction other than the vague hints given by various old men, and not much in the way of sidequests. There weren't even Pieces of Heart - instead, full Heart Containers were found around the map.

This has had some fan remixes over the years, including Zelda Classic.


  • Abnormal Ammo: For some reason, the game uses your rupees as ammunition for your arrows.
  • Animated Adaptation: The cartoon was primarily based on this, with elements of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
  • Bat out of Hell: Vire and Keese.
  • Begone Bribe: "IT'S A SECRET TO EVERYBODY." The Moblin is bribing Link to leave him alone and not tell anyone where he is.
  • Big Bad: Ganon.
  • Blackout Basement: Starts and is most prevalent in Level 4 of the first quest, where nearly every room is pitch black. However, Level 5 is a close runner-up. In later dungeons it becomes more of a random gimmick.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: To the point that it actually severely increases the difficulty of the game. A lot of the trial-and-error aspects of the game would have been averted if the messages had been rendered properly, and indeed Japanese speakers who played the Japanese version have traditionally cited the enemies as being the primary reason for the game's Nintendo Hard difficulty, rather than the difficulty of finding dungeon entrances and hidden treasures.
  • Bold Inflation: The intro scroll.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Darknuts.
  • Classic Cheat Code: Naming your saved game ZELDA (or at least starting the name with ZELDA) starts you off on the second quest.
    • Pressing Up+ A on the player 2 controller takes you to the Continue/Save/Retry screen immediately, so you can save without having to die.
  • Comic Book Adaptation: There are at least three adaptations: Two being manga works and one being the Valiant Comics series, authorized by Nintendo and based on this and Zelda II.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Every dungeon located on Death Mountain in the first quest has lava in place of water. Not only is Link unaffected by it, but he can also cross narrow flows of it with a wooden ladder. It gets better: The lava is completely invisible in the dark.
  • Creepy Cool Crosses: All the tombstones in the graveyard have crosses on them, as do Link's shields and, oddly, the Magic Book. Word of God explains that the motif is caused by the fact that the original plan was to have Christianity as the main religion in Hyrule; the three goddesses weren't invented until after the two NES games were released. The Magic Book's cross is only odd in the states; the tome is explicitly a Bible in the Japanese version. One common suggestion is that religion has waned over the centuries and, with the land quite ravaged, the old Hylian religion was left behind in favor of a Crystal Dragon Jesus religion.
  • Damage Discrimination: Played straight with Bombs, averted with the Candles and the "Book of Magic"-enhanced Magic Wand.
  • Death Mountain: The Trope Namer.
  • Denial of Diagonal Attack: Link is only able to move in four directions and his main attack is a straight-forward stab, which makes it difficult to attack things that you'd rather not be standing directly in front of.
    • With a little finesse, you can throw the boomerang diagonally, but that's it.
  • Destructive Saviour: There's a lot of secret rooms hidden behind walls and bushes which requires Link to do a lot of demolition and burning.
  • Difficulty By Region: A very minor example — the North American version added Keese to a couple of originally empty rooms.
  • Disc One Nuke: If you know where to look, are somewhat good at evasion, and willing to grind rupees for a few minutes, it is possible to get three of the five overworld Heart Containers and therefore the White Sword, and the Blue Ring before entering the very first dungeon in the first quest. The three extra hearts and the White Sword can easily be gotten quickly and will allow you to breeze through at least the first half of the game, but the ring is very expensive at 250 rupees (5 away from the maximum) and thus requires more time spent finding hidden rooms in the overworld for larger caches of Rupees if you want to buy it quickly (and without savescumming or rupee-farming), but it is also a major boon to have itself. (You can also manipulate the money-making game with Save Scumming, which will greatly cut down on the time necessary to farm rupees).
    • It's also possible to get the Magic Key in the first quest with the treasure from just one dungeon, namely the bow. Granted, it's rather difficult, but doing this makes the rest of the quest a breeze.
    • In the second quest, it's possible to get the Magic Key with just the whistle and the ladder, and since the Magic Key is found in the eighth dungeon, which doesn't feature any enemies harder than Blue Goriyas and this quest's revamped Stalfos, it might actually be easier to pull off in this quest (although getting the ladder is no small feat since it involves dealing with Wizzrobes).
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Rather minor since it isn't explicitly mentioned in the game itself, but as mentioned above, the crosses are because Christianity was supposed to be Hyrule's religion; the mythology of the Golden Goddesses came later. A less minor example is the fact that there are no NPC-filled towns and NPCs are rather rare; oddly enough this was rectified in the next game, which is generally considered to be the Oddball in the Series.
    • Also of note is that Link is going after the Triforce "with" Wisdom instead of the Triforce of Courage.
    • The game also has the Stopwatch item, which freezes all enemies on screen and makes Link invincible in the current area. The Stopwatch is the only item that has not been seen anywhere else outside of this game.
    • The lowest Rupee units are orange instead of the now-standard green (since Rupees shared their palettes with the enemy characters). Orange Rupees would later resurface in Wind Waker, but they are worth 100 Rupees in that game.
    • This title, and to a slightly lesser extent the sequel, lacks the elaborate story-lines the series is famous for. There really isn't much in terms of dialogue and the fact there are so few NPCs makes it even more noticeable.
    • Firing arrows would deplete your rupees for every shot due to the game not having a proper ammo system for the arrows.
    • While faeries are around to heal you, there's no bottles to hold them in like the later games did, so you really had to be careful with taking damage.
  • Empty Room Psych: While most levels were fairly straightforward, the ninth dungeon and several second quest dungeons tended to feature these.
  • Exact Words: One of the old ladies in the cave says "Pay me and I'll talk." So, you give her a good chunk of rupees, hoping for some great information about what to do next... and she says "Boy, you're rich." Well, she did say that she would talk if you gave her money...
    • This old woman is meant to screw with you, since paying the maximum is what gets all the other old ladies to talk. Give this one the middle amount and she'll pony up the real information.
  • Faceless Eye: Patra.
  • Feed It a Bomb: The usual method of killing Dodongos, introduced in this game. It's also possible to beat them by detonating a bomb near them instead of having them eat it, since it stuns them and lets you kill them with one hit from your sword. (This is actually a better way of killing them, since it only requires one bomb to do so (rather than two) and they drop more bombs when you kill them this way; on the other hand, it's easy to mess up. It's recommended to stand halfway in between tiles to prevent them from eating the bombs). As the old sages say, "DODONGO DISLIKES SMOKE".
  • Feelies: The game came with a poster sized map which had the locations of most of the dungeons and could be used for taking notes. Much to the general annoyance of people who owned the original, this map has not been re-released with any of the remakes.
  • Flash of Pain: Both Link and the enemies, when hit.
  • Flip Screen Scrolling
  • Game Mod: Several; the best-known (and best) is probably Zelda Challenge: Outlands.
  • Giant Eye Of Doom: Tektites, Digdogger, and especially Gohma and Patra.
  • Give Me Your Inventory Item: GRUMBLE, GRUMBLE...
  • Go for the Eye: Again, Gohma and Patra.
  • Good Bad Translation
  • Heart Container: The Trope Namer.
  • Hello, Insert Name Here: Averted; you can name your file whatever you wish, but Zelda will always use Link's name in the ending. Later games would play the trope straight.
  • Here There Were Dragons: Unlike later games, magic (while it does show up) doesn't play a large role. The artbook Hyrule Historia officially calls the NES games "The Era of Hyrule's Decline".
  • Heroes Want Redheads: The sprite and artwork of Princess Zelda are shown with red/brown hair.
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: Multi-headed dragons (Gleeoks) as bosses.
    • Another dragon called Aquamentus is the first dungeon's boss.
  • Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: Used to a higher degree here than in any other title in the series. Not only would keys transfer over from dungeon to dungeon, but you could even buy extras if you somehow managed to fluff the puppy and run out.
    • There was also a "Magical Key" that left off the "antimatter" part.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: "Bubbles" were flaming skulls that disable Link's ability to use a sword for awhile. There was absolutely no way to kill them. This was even worse in the Second Quest, where two new versions were added — a red one which took away the sword ability completely, and a blue one which restored it. Touching the first required touching the second, which was sometimes in a completely different room. You could also drink a Water of Life to end the red-bubble effect, but with the Nintendo Hard already cranked Up to Eleven in the second quest, this is widely considered a bad move.
  • It May Help You on Your Quest: The memetic use of "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!" could make this game the Trope Codifier.
  • Karl Marx Hates Your Guts: Averted in this game. Two shops may sell the same item, but not for the same price. You actually can shop around for the best deals on certain items.
  • Kid Hero: According to the Hyrule Historia, this incarnation of Link is only ten years old.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Candle, and the Magic Wand after you find the Magic Book.
  • Knockback: Both with Link and the enemies, some of which are sent flying all the way across the screen. Link can actually get knocked back into another enemy and take more damage.
  • Kung-Fu Proof Mook: Several enemies are immune to various parts of your arsenal. Some simply require a specific subweapon to defeat, but just as common are enemies that can only be dealt with using the sword.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: If a monster has a red or orange version and a blue version, the blue version is generally tougher. The only exception is the blue bubbles, which are far less annoying than the red versions.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The designs of the second quest's first five labyrinths look like blocky letters which spell out "ZELDA".
  • Legacy Character: Link and Zelda. Ganon, however, is the same individual from Ocarina of Time, having been resurrected between this game and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
  • Lost Forever: In the second quest, some of the old men in the dungeons ask for 50 rupees, and if you don't have that you must give up a Heart Container. Not as in one unit of health, we mean one heart of your life capacity.note 
    • In both quests, there are old men who offer you a choice between a heart container or a red potion. You can buy red potions, you can't buy heart containers. Potions are expendable. Always take the heart container.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Yes, this game has an example when you defeat Ganon. He explodes into a mess of red pixels, which then pile up underneath the Triforce piece he leaves behind.
  • MacGuffin: The pieces of the Triforce.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Peahat, Manhandla, and (arguably) Leever.
  • The Maze: Two of them - The Lost Woods and the Lost Hills.
    • Arguably, Level 9 in both quests, and the majority of the labyrinths in the second.
    • Level 8 in the second quest is unique in that the maze itself is the big challenge to the labyrinth. The labyrinth has the Goriya/Rope/Stalfos enemy theme, but it's also got more secret passages than any other level in the game, including a half dozen or so one-way passages, and a lot of automatically locking doors to force you back to the beginning if you take even one misstep.
  • Money to Throw Away: The Bow works this way, as, rather than having a stock of arrows like in the later games, each arrow you fire costs you a Rupee. If you run out of Rupees, the bow becomes useless until you collect more.
  • Mooks Ate My Equipment: Like Likes. If you let one touch you, it quickly envelops you and you can pretty much kiss your Magic Shield (if you have one) goodbye. Your only chance to escape without losing your Magic Shield is to have the Magical Sword and give it the required three stabs as quickly as possible. If you have anything less than the Magical Sword, you'd better hope you were caught by one that has already taken damage!
  • Mook Bouncer: The Wallmasters, which reside in the dungeons and take Link back to the first room if they catch him.
  • New Game+: As was not uncommon in those days, there is a "second quest" with a remixed extra-hard layout.
  • Nintendo Hard: Only somewhat more forgiving than the second game. Focusing more on combat than puzzles, this is the hardest of the standard style games. If you started on the later games, it even combines with Surprise Difficulty.
  • Non-Nazi Swastika: There's a dungeon shaped like a swastika, described as "manji" in the manual. Definitely a case of Values Dissonance.
  • No Swastikas: Averted, as the third dungeon in the first quest forms a manji symbol. Even The Angry Video Game Nerd lampshades this as he calls it a swastika at the beginning of his review for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
  • Oculothorax: You'd never guess this from the game itself, but Digdogger (who hates a certain kind of sound) is one of these. It's a lot more clear when it returns in Oracle of Seasons.
    • Patra is an entire squadron of these.
  • Piņata Enemy: The Tektites and Leevers along the southern border of the map. Easy Money Grinding to be found there.
  • Power Up Let Down: The Magic Book is supposed to enhance the Magical Rod by making its shots burst into flame upon contact. However, many of the enemies late in the game are immune to fire and while the Magical Rod by itself could have done damage, the fireball that the item creates from the book completely negates the damage when the enemy is fireproof.
    • The Candle (both versions) are also fairly useless for having extremely short range, not working on certain enemies, and causing self inflicted damage to Link if you walk into your own fire. They do light up dark rooms and burn down select bushes, but that's it.
    • The stopwatch is a wonderful one-use item which freezes all enemies on the screen - however it has an annoying tendency to drop from the last creature you kill on the screen, rendering it utterly useless.
  • Pyro Maniac: Link has always had a thing for bombs, and this was the only game in the series (until the Oracle games) that required you to start several forest fires in order to progress.
  • Random Drop: Enemies and bosses will drop recovery hearts, rupees, bombs, fairies, or the time stopping stopwatch. Bosses guarding a Triforce fragment always drop a Heart Container.
  • Rainbow Speak: The intro.
  • Recurring Boss: All of them except the final boss, sort of.
    • Level 4: Manhandla, boss of the third dungeon, returns as a midboss.
    • Level 5: Three Dodongos show up for a miniboss battle, where a single one served as the final boss of the second dungeon.
    • Level 6: The two-headed dragon boss of the fourth dungeon, Gleeok, shows up as a midboss sporting a third head.
    • Level 7: The fifth dungeon's boss, Digdogger, returns for a miniboss battle, followed later on by another trio of Dodongos. Later still, another Digdogger appears, and this one splits into three during the battle. Finally, the boss of this level is Aquamentus, the boss of the first dungeon.
    • Level 8: A total of three Manhandlas appear in this dungeon, as do two Gohmas which due to the Law of Chromatic Superiority require three times as many hits to defeat as the one that served as the final boss of the sixth dungeon. The final boss is a four-headed Gleeok.
  • Rapunzel Hair: It's hard to tell from the sprites, but Zelda's hair goes down to her ankles. Most other Zeldas have their hair from mid- to lower-back. They're also blonde instead of brunette.
  • Ring of Power: The Blue Ring halves damage Link takes; the Red Ring reduces it to a quarter.
  • Save Game Limits: Sort of. Unless you know the Player 2 Up + A code, the only way to save is to die. In the Virtual Console version, this doesn't even work... for some reason, the Virtual Console re-release is ported from the Game Boy Advance re-release, which doesn't even begin to make sense.
    • You can switch to "player two" with L + R + Y. It still works.
    • The 3DS and Wii U Virtual Console versions completely avert it. The restore point feature allows one to save anywhere at anytime.
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty: The game hits a major difficulty spike about halfway through the first quest with the introduction of tough enemies such as Wizzrobes and Darknuts. The beginning of the second quest is even harder, as you must deal with such enemies much earlier on and with less equipment/life at your disposal. The difficulty rapidly subsides as you near the end of the second quest, however, as you continue to get stronger while the game's challenge begins to come more from increasingly complex/confusing dungeon layouts than from strong enemies (whom you see less of at this point than you did in the first quest).
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: A number of players have worked out how to get through the entire game (except for the final boss) without using a sword.
  • Sequence Breaking: Later games carefully worked out where you could find and use keys so that none were left over and no doors were left locked; this one didn't do that, so you can easily clear level 2 with about six or seven of them in reserve making it even easier to beat some of the later dungeons.
    • There is also very little to force you to do the dungeon levels in order. A few are unreachable (or more difficult) without treasures found in others, but even a level that couldn't be reached without, say, the raft didn't require you to actually complete the level in which you find the raft. This was by design, but careful planning allows you to delay even the first boss fight until you have many more power-ups than you would have otherwise. This is pretty much vital if you are playing a swordless quest.
    • Theoretically, you're supposed to clear the first two dungeons before obtaining the White Sword, but since what qualifies you to "master using it" is not the number of dungeons you clear but the amount of heart containers you have (5), you can easily pick up two free ones in the overworld map using bombs and grab the White Sword before taking on any dungeons at all.
  • Sequential Boss: Level 6 in the second quest ends with a battle against Manhandla in the room immediately before Gohma at the end of the level.
  • Spell Book: It's not necessary for Link to be able to use the Magic Wand, but it does make his shots burst into flames. Ironically, this actually weakens the power of the wand, as enemies who would be injured by the magic but are impervious to fire stop being affected by wand shots. Many Genre Savvy players don't bother picking up the book, since it's not a required item for anything, just so they can keep using magic.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Aquamentus, Gleeok, and Ganon all use a pterodactyl roar lifted straight out of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, just in low-quality (and low pitch.) Something similar may also apply to the noise made by Manhandla, Digdogger, and Patra.
  • Sword Beam: If your life meter is filled to maximum capacity, you can fire these at distant enemies.
    • Notable because the beam, unlike many later Zelda titles, carries the same power level as the blade itself, and they hit everything the sword hits as well (later games have enemies immune to the sword beam). Needless to say, getting the Magical Sword as early as possible is a major boon; even the White Sword is an improvement.
  • Talking with Signs: As Link is a Heroic Mime in the series proper, perhaps this is the only way he could truly talk. He holds up sign "PLEASE LOOK UP THE MANUAL FOR DETAILS" in the opening scroll.
  • Time Stands Still: If an enemy drops a watch, it will freeze all remaining enemies on the screen. However, this will not change their vulnerability - if a Peahat is still moving when the watch is grabbed, it will remain invulnerable. The effect ends when Link moves to a new screen.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: Due to graphical limitations, there's no clue as to which walls are bomb-able, which trees are burnable, and which screens have a "magic effect" when you blow the whistle. Young Link is truly the most destructive fellow in Hyrule: in order to complete both quests (and particularly the second) you'll have attempted to destroy everything in the land. The original game came with a poster-size map of the overworld, so you could mark off your reign of terror as you went, and make notes of where the quest 2 dungeons are found (the overworld has the same layout, but the dungeons are remixed).
  • Tutorial Failure: In the instruction manual, the Pols Voice enemy is said to "hate loud noise". Naturally, the player would assume that their weakness would be the flute, then, but that's not the case at all. The flute does absolutely nothing to the Pols Voice. What the manual is actually referring to is the built-in microphone found in the Famicom, the Japanese version of the NES, the functionality of which was removed entirely for the American release. This is fixed in later games, where musical items will kill the Pols Voices.
  • Uncommon Time: The final dungeon music could be counted as patterns of seven bars, or as 14/4 or something like that depending on how the rhythms are divided. The unusual rhythm (it feels like part of the piece is missing) further contributes to the unsettling nature of the music.
  • Unfortunate Names: Seriously, Manhandla?
    • Its original name was even worse. Testitart.
  • Unwinnable: In a way, possible in the second quest. Several rooms have all their doors slam shut until you defeat all of the non-Bubble enemies in them. If you get tagged by one of the red Bubbles (which remove your ability to use a sword until you touch a blue Bubble) in such a room without a blue Bubble, then you're down to whatever subweapons you have on hand. It's quite possible to be out of uses (if you haven't gotten unlimited-use ones like the wand or the red candle yet) and stuck in the room. Fortunately, you can just quit and retry even should all those conditions apply.
    • In the First Quest, the game is pretty good about providing you with more than enough keys to unlock any door you come across, except in the final dungeon, which assumes you have the Magical Key (which acts as infinite keys). While it's possible to complete all the goals of the dungeon (get the map and compass, both powerups, kill the Big Bad, and rescue the Distressed Damsel) without either the Magical Key or buying extra regular keys, wandering around without keys can potentially leave you in a room with no exit, except to immolate yourself and respawn at the entrance. And if you've somehow managed to get that far without either the Red Candle or the Magic Book....
  • Updated Re-release: The GBA "NES Classics" edition touched up the translation in spots, notably in the introduction.
  • Useless Useful Spell: Part of what makes the second quest so difficult is that certain "useless" items get a lot more mileage on their next go around, as they become essential to finding many helpful power-ups. The only indication you receive of this is finding said items much earlier in the game than before.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: Level 9 - Death Mountain. You know you're there: "Spectacle Rock" is the overground architecture in the first quest (and the map, a skull, is by far the largest in the game). The music is much creepier than that used in the first eight dungeons, there are much stronger enemies that only appear in Level 9 in either quest, and these levels are much more mazelike than their predecessors. In addition, if you don't have all eight Triforce pieces, a guardian awaits in the first room beyond the entrance with some gratuitous Engrish.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: If you attack the old men in the dungeons, they respond by having their campfires shoot fireballs at you until you go away. The ones encountered on the surface simply can't be hit.
    • Bombing certain walls or burning certain bushes can reveal a secret room. Some of the rooms are actually homes of an old man who will demand that you pay him for the door repairs.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind: In the first quest, Aquamentus, boss of level one, returns as the boss of level seven with no improvements whatsoever. Two hits is all it takes and the Magic Shield can block its beams.
    • Averted in the second quest with originally weak enemies such as Stalfos, who can now throw swords, and the Rope snakes, who now take more hits (and flash).
  • Wall Master: The Trope Namer.
  • Warp Whistle: The Whistle. Link can also use the Power Bracelet to access Warp Zones between four areas.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: Quite possibly the Ur Example. One of the reasons the game was so well liked was that you could go pretty much anywhere from the start.


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