Zelda:This is the Triforce of Wisdom, Link. The evil wizard, Ganon, has the Triforce of Power. Whoever gets both Triforces will rule this land forever! You must help me, Link! Link:Hey, for you, Zelda, anything!
— Opening sequence exposition
In 1989, right around the time of airing of the The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, DiC had also produced a short series of cartoons based on the NES Zelda games (including elements of both, The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link). Like the games, the animated series features Link's continuing adventures in the kingdom of Hyrule, battling the evil forces of Ganon alongside Princess Zelda and a Fairy Companion named Spryte. It shared a number of details in common with the comic book series produced by Valiant Comics around the same time.Thirteen cartoons were aired in total, and they would usually run during the Friday afternoon episodes. There presumably would have been more, but when SMBSS was cancelled, the Zelda segments went with it. The characters of Link and Zelda, along with their respective voice actors, were then adopted into the cast of Captain N: The Game Master, where Link had a rivalry-turned-friendship with the titular Captain.The thirteen original episodes can be purchased in a DVD box set.
The Legend of Zelda cartoon provides examples of the following tropes:
Accidental Aiming Skills/Pinball Projectile: In "The Missing Link", Ganon uses a special wand that zaps humans to the underworld with the intent of taking Zelda with him. She uses Link's shield to deflect the wand's magic fireball, which ricochets off the castle walls while Link watches, until it falls onto its potential accidental target; he tries getting out of the fireball's way, but because of the magic being weakened, parts of the fireball hit him, zapping his body to the underworld and putting new meaning to the idiom "getting the spirit knocked out of you". Nice job sending your hero's body into the underworld, Princess!
Adaptational Wimp: Compared to the Ganon of the games, Ganon here is pretty incompetent.
Almost Kiss: Link can never get a kiss from Zelda. Whenever she accepts, they're always interrupted.
Anachronism Stew: Hyrule is generally presented as the Medieval Stasis world from the games; however, in "Stinging a Stinger," the peddler offers Ganon's mooks a remote-controlled device in exchange for his freedom. Most of the female characters are depicted as wearing Day-Glo makeup. In "Fairies in the Spring," Link wears a bathing suit reminiscent of The Forties, while Zelda's suit is a modern pink one-piece.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Spryte frequently complains to Link that Zelda is a "snot" and "you should stick with me." She also prevents Link from getting his requested kiss on two different occasions.
Clingy MacGuffin: When Zelda needs to take the Triforce of Wisdom with her someplace, she attaches it to her belt with a rope and it floats along behind her like a balloon. It will only do this for her, as proven in the episode with the Evil Twin.
Continuity Nod: In the first episode of the series, "The Ringer," there is a portrait in Link's bedroom of Zelda wearing what looks to be the same red gown she wore in the game.
Cursed with Awesome: Link is turned into a frog and gains the ability to crawl on walls and ceilings, allowing him to infiltrate Ganon's lair. Also, when Ganon sends two football-sized spiders against him, Link eats them with his frog tongue.
Damsel in Distress: Zelda is occasionally captured but just as often fighting with Link. One time, when Link ditched a promise to go riding with Zelda, she sees a damsel, and decides to do the rescuing, for both the fun of it and because Link would be sorry he missed it.
Demoted to Extra: Spryte more or less became this, getting at least a certain amount of screentime early on. In later episodes, she is sometimes completely absent, with no explanation at all. One of the episodes that doesn't feature her explains her absence with her being on vacation.
Ganon employs an entire army of ditzes, as proven in "The Moblins Are Revolting." The mooks are so hopelessly incompetent that Link and Zelda don't even need to defend Hyrule Castle when they attack — they wipe each other out.
King Harkinian often has moments like this. See Absent Minded Soverign.
Dude, Where's My Respect?: When things are quiet in Hyrule, Zelda forces Link to earn his keep by doing chores and maintenance around the castle.
Everything's Better with Spinning: Link has a habit of twirling his sword around in his hand. In "The Missing Link," when he's non-corporeal and can't hold the sword, Zelda uses it — and does the exact same thing.
Evil Plan: As seen in the page quote, Ganon wants the Triforce of Wisdom so he can take over Hyrule.
Evil Twin: In the episode "Doppelganger," Ganon creates an identical copy of Zelda, whose job is to seduce Link into helping her steal the Triforce of Wisdom.
Failure Is the Only Option: Link's quest for a kiss always ends in failure.Even when he makes an effort to be romantic and Zelda is willing, something will interfere.
Fairy Companion: Spryte was the first character to serve as a fairy companion to Link, predating Navi by very nearly a decade.Interestingly, the inclusion of a Fairy Companion was popular, as it showed up both in an ALttP manga and a LA manga, as well as in the Valiant Comic. Navi was at best the fifth Fairy Companion Link had, though the first in-game one.
Fanfare: The Hyrule overworld theme got played as a full fanfare for the first time here.
Family-Unfriendly Violence: Normally the show's fights are pretty safe, but in one episode, Link kicks two snakes, and blood spurts out of their mouths.
Fun with Acronyms: When Ganon's mooks kick him out and try to take Hyrule on their own, they identify themselves as the Brotherhood of Underworld Monsters (B.U.M.)
Fully Absorbed Finale: Link and Zelda would appear in several episodes of Captain N: The Game Master after the cancellation of their own show. One episode involved them trying to prevent the resurrection of Ganon. In one of those episodes Link finally got his long-awaited kiss from Princess Zelda.
Hammerspace: The cartoon is the one of the few times in the whole of Zelda history that an attempt is made to show just how Link carries around so much equipment. He has a pouch of holding on his belt which can store just about anything. This has more or less been adopted by fans as canon, and entered canon to a certain degree as of Wind Waker, though Link in that has more than one Bag of Holding.
Heavy Sleeper: Link ties a rope to an arrow, shoots it from his own tower to Zelda's, and tightrope-walks over to her balcony — in his sleep.
He Is Not My Boyfriend: Invoked by Zelda in "The White Knight," when meeting Prince Facade for the first time. She introduces Link as a string of titles, causing his status to deteriorate down to "someone I know slightly." Later in the same episode, she forgets he exists while talking to Facade.
Heroic Mime: Averted by this incarnation of Link, who is by far the most chatty of the three main characters. He even talks to himself if there's no one else around.
Hypnotize the Princess: In "A Hitch in the Works," Ganon captures Zelda and puts a necklace on her which allows him to manipulate her mind. His plan is a simple one — marry the princess and get her Triforce.
Instant Expert: Averted. When Zelda has to use Link's sword, she has a lot of difficultly with it since she's never used it before.
Intangibility: Link suffers from this in "The Missing Link", when he tries picking up the sword he has left, only to find that he is a ghost and can't pick it up.
Interrupted Kiss: Spryte interrupts a kiss between Link and Zelda at the end of the pilot.
Interspecies Romance: Spryte has a huge crush on Link, and has no qualms about letting it be known. She even kisses him to turn him back from frog status at one point. Some of Link's dialogue suggests he would go for Spryte if she weren't two inches tall.
Ironic Echo: In "The Missing Link", Zelda borrows Link's shield and leaves him to fight off Ganon's invasion alone:
Zelda: You hold them here! Link: Hey! Thanks heaps, Princess!
Later, after moblins are sent after the duo in the underworld...
Link's Ghost: Just hold them a while! Zelda: Thanks heaps!
Lame Pun Reaction: Frequently; one example occurs in "Stinging a Stinger," after they've used a beehive to trick Ganon:
Zelda: Kiss me.
Link: I'd bee happy to, honey!
Zelda: Ugh! I hate bad puns!
The Lancer: Zelda is more like Linka's battle partner in this verse than a Damsel in Distress he has to save or The Herald that points him toward Ganon. Her haughty princess demeanor provides a contrast to the over-confidence hero.
Loves Me Not: Link does this at the start of the episode "Stinging The Stinger" and blames the flower on the poor result.
Meaningful Name: Prince Facade, in "The White Knight." He's all about appearances.
Mistaken for Granite: In "Sing For The Unicorn," Link and Zelda encounter and accidentally awaken giant Armos statues in the Underworld. To his credit, Link knew better than to touch them, but didn't explain the reason to Zelda before she touched one's base, innocently asking, "Why?" Cue Facepalm.
Modest Royalty: Averted with King Harkinian; played straight with Zelda, who is normally indistinguishable as a princess except for her circlet.
Moment Killer: On those occasions when Zelda consents to kiss Link, something always interrupts. Lampshaded more than once in a few episodes when Link complains, "This always happens!"
Mundane Utility: Ganon finds walking beneath him so he teleports to get anywhere, even to the other side of a room.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "The Moblins Are Revolting", Link and Zelda could have gotten away with the Triforce of Power if the former hadn't decided to play around with Ganon, who was trapped in a magic bubble that was impervious to anything but said Triforce. He tosses the Ganon-Bubble to Zelda, who tries to knock it away, but it lands on the Triforce behind her and pops the bubble.
Opening Narration: Each episode begins with a sequence in which Zelda explains to Link (and thus, the viewer) what Ganon's hoping to accomplish.
Orcus on His Throne: Ganon frequently prefers to send his (largely useless) minions to do his dirty work. Justified becuse he mentions at least once that his powers wane in Hyrule proper and that he is only at full power in the Underworld.
Out-Gambitted: Zelda outscams a conman at the end of "Stinging The Stinger".
Pants-Free: Averted in the daytime; whenever Link is shown after he's gone to bed or just gotten up, he's only seen wearing a nightshirt.
Pimped-Out Dress: Zelda has a few, such as a yellow dress with gold trim, when she dines with the visiting Prince Facade.
Playing Sick: Link pulls this in "Cold Spells" to get out of helping with the spring cleaning around the castle. It works for a little while, although Zelda isn't really fooled.
Post-Kiss Catatonia: Link experiences this briefly, after getting kissed by the fake Zelda in "Doppelganger."
The Power of Love: Ganon remarks that Link's love for Zelda is his greatest weakness. It also has to be rather strong, considering the amount of abuse Link takes from his would-be Love Interest. In "Missing Link" her love for him allows her to see his spirit when it has been separated from his body.
Prince Charmless: In the episode "The White Knight," Zelda is charmed by one of these, Prince Facade of Arcadia. She thinks he's Prince Charming but his True Colors are revealed when he won't rescue her from Ganon's minions... because they're in the mud and he doesn't want to get his clothes dirty.
Pun-Based Title: More often than not, the individual episodes have rather punny or descriptive names. The episode "Sing for the Unicorn" features a character named Sing who is trying to rescue her unicorn. "A Hitch In the Works" is about Ganon kidnapping Zelda to force her to marry him. And then there's "The Moblins Are Revolting"...why yes, yes they are.
Purple Is Powerful / Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Zelda's dark purple shirt and light purple tights. Not only does it fit her royal status, but also fits her being an action girl in this series. Her pink nightgown is also trimmed with purple feathers.
Red and Black and Evil All Over: Ganon makes an evil doppelganger of Zelda, and the only visible difference is that her top is black with a red vest instead of purple with a light blue vest.
Respawning Enemies: Given an in-universe explanation by the Evil Jar. Both the mooks and Ganon himself respawn there after Link zaps them.
Rhymes on a Dime: When the Triforce of Wisdom speaks, it always does so in rhyme, although sometimes the rhymes are a bit of a reach; for instance, "wise" and "advice." In "Cold Spells," Zelda responds with a sarcastic rhyme of her own.
Prince Facade is an adventurer, and is just as competent as Link as a fighter and arguably superior in close combat despite having a crossbow as his chosen weapon. He's just so vain that he puts his looks above the lives of others.
Running Gag: Link getting smacked in the face any time Zelda opens and closes a door.
Sword Beam: Part of the reason for Link's enduring success is his ability to fire these at distant enemies. He declares a different sword to be useless because it can't shoot beams.
Teleport Spam: Ganon does this all the time, while monologuing out loud to himself.
10-Minute Retirement: For a good portion of "The White Knight," Zelda ignores Link and fawns over Prince Facade, making Link extremely jealous. Her laughing at Link's klutz attack after he tries to impress her with his Impractically Fancy Outfit is the last straw; he calls it quits as the Triforce's protector and leaves the castle without telling her. But when he hears her screaming after Ganon's minions have taken her, he hesitates for only a few moments before racing back to the rescue. ("I'm such a sucker!")
Zelda is grabbed by an octorok in "The White Knight".
Zelda and Link both get snatched by large plant roots in "Cold Spells", although one at a time, with one able to save the other.
Throw the Dog a Bone: Link finally gets his long-awaited kiss from Princess Zelda in an episode of Captain N: The Video Game Master which aired after the cancellation of The Legend of Zelda animated series.
Title Drop: A number of episodes manage to work the individual episode title into the dialogue.
Tomboy Princess: Zelda, even more so than her video game counterpart, because of her style of clothing and greater combat time.
Took a Level in Badass: Octoroks. In The Legend Of Zelda they were The Goomba and in Zelda II they weren't much tougher. They only appeared a few times in the cartoon and were powerful, dangerous adversaries when they did.
Zelda as well is more of an action hero in this series than in either of the NES games.
Tsundere: Zelda (Type A/Tsun tsun) loves Link but denies it and gives him a hard time — usually resulting in the catchphrase we all know and love.
You Can See Me?: "The Missing Link" has Link's spirit knocked out of his body, which is then stolen by Ganon. The only one who can see Link's ghostlike form is Zelda because, as Ganon points out, she's secretly in love with him. Interestingly, Spryte can't see him, despite being far more open and forward with her feelings toward Link. One only assume it's more Lust than love.