Thursday, May 31, 2007

Legend of Zelda, First Quest, Part 1

Well, I'm back with some progress to report. I was able to get the emulator and SNES controller talking nicely with each other (even though I played Zelda originally with the square NES controller, the SNES controller holds a spot near and dear to my hear), and with that, I launched my return journey to the land of Hyrule, in the Legend of Zelda. By the way, please bear with me as I struggle to master the art of working with this blog and the screenshots I've taken. I'm sure that the layout and structure will look a bit clunky for a while, until I really get the hang of it, but I am trying, honest!

I struggled with how to begin the game, for a couple of reasons. Zelda was definitely a game that you played differently the second and subsequent times through, as opposed to your first time. This is due to the fact that, unlike more modern titles, once you learn the secret locations of many items, places, etc. you have access to them from the outset. There are exceptions to this, such as heart containers reachable only by raft or ladder, but there are several heart containers that you can get essentially from the beginning, simply by being lucky enough to have a bomb drop by a vanquished foe. I resisted the urge to go this route for the first dungeon, opting to venture forth armed only with the Wooden Sword the kind old man gave me at the outset. The picture to the right should be extremely familiar (hopefully) to many of you, and I tossed it in for nostalgia purposes.

Defeating the first dungeon, which saw my little Link acquire the starter boomerang and the bow, was relatively uneventful. I was pleasantly surprised to realize how much I did remember, at least of this particular location in the game. It was nice to see good old Aquamentus again, although he probably wasn't too excited to see me. Several well-placed swords tossed from across the room felled him quickly, and with that I claimed my reward, the first piece of the Triforce.

After exiting the dungeon, the urge to be as powerful as possible, got the better of me, and I went out in search of the items I knew I could grab with very little difficulty. The heart container near the desert (on the screen with the brown spiders, with a bomb required to open the entrance), the heart container in the lower portion of Hyrule, about 4 screens to the right of where you start the game (also requiring a bomb to open the entrance), and the White Sword were soon within my little elven grasp. During my travels through the first dungeon and the subsequent trips to gather heart containers, I realized I had earned enough rupees to purchase the blue candle from the shop 1 screen up and one screen left from the start point. This opened up another heart container location (pictured at the right), and also the hidden shop one screen to the left of this heart container that has the cheapest price on the large shield in the game. Being freshly poor from the blue candle acquisition, this item would have to wait a bit.

Next I was off to the second dungeon, this one being moon-shaped in its layout. The major treasure to be gained in this dungeon was the upgraded boomerang. This is something I never understood about the game; why give us an item in one dungeon and then upgrade it the next? Why not have the upgrade in the third dungeon instead? Oh well, those are questions that may never be answered (not that they're all that important anyway). My date with Dodongo went as planned: he ate something that didn't agree with him, a couple of things actually, and had to leave. He was kind enough to leave behind a heart container and the second piece of the Triforce. The one thing I really enjoy about this dungeon is the appearance of Moldorm (pictured), one of only two appearances in the first quest of these little beasties. Don't ask me why I like them, I just do. :)

The trip into the second dungeon was profitable enough for me to buy both the large shield and arrows to go with my bow (at a grand total of 170 rupees), after which I ventured to the third dungeon. The trip to this place netted me the raft (necessary to get to the fourth dungeon and a heart container) and the third piece of Triforce. The boss of this dungeon, Manhandla, could have been a bit of an issue for me, as I arrived at his room a bit low on hearts. I was lucky enough to have him wander directly over a bomb I placed, and eliminated all four 'mouths' with one blast. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

After completion of the third dungeon, I took some time to visit a few points of interest in the overworld. I used the raft to get another heart container, I visited the old man by the sea who happened to have a letter for an old woman (who, upon receipt of this letter, sells medicine), and I visited some of those 'It's a secret to everybody!' places scattered about the map. I did remember to venture to the one that is accessible only by the secret passage (near where you get the letter for the old woman), which netted me 100 rupees. By killing everything I saw, and visiting a few of those rupee caves, I was able to earn enough to buy the blue ring, available from a hidden vendor 3 screens north of the old woman's cave, underneath a statue you bring to life by touching. The ring cost 250 rupees, but as veterans of the game know it's completely worth it, as it halves the damage you receive.

After this little jaunt, I hopped on the raft over to the fourth dungeon. I consider this dungeon a pain in the butt, because it is the first dungeon to have dark rooms that can be lit with the candle, and the main enemies you encounter are the incredibly annoying Vire. I dread this dungeon because of them. Otherwise, dealing with the annoyances allowed me to find the ladder, and meet the first incarnation of Gleeock, this one of the 2-headed variety. He was quickly dispatched, and I received a heart container and the fourth piece of the Triforce for my troubles.

Now things were getting interesting. Having the ladder allowed me to acquire the last available heart container in the overworld (on the eastern coast, on a dock of sorts), and brought my heart total to 12. This magic number meant that I was now elligible to wield the Master Sword, which lay in the graveyard on the western side of Hyrule. On the way to the graveyard, I stopped to grab the Power Bracelet, hidden under a statue a few screens away. Then it was on to the Master Sword, which I held above my head triumphantly after a few frantic moments of figuring out which grave concealed the stairway to the old man.

It was at this point that I hung up the game for the evening, as I had household chores and a lovely wife to attend to. Next time, I'll work my way through the latter half of the first quest, and hopefully have a tale of victory to tell after a meeting with Ganon deep inside Death Mountain.

Thank you for reading so far, I hope you've enjoyed it. I'll be back soon with more on my journeys!

General Musings and Speculations

Since I'll be out this evening (celebrating the 30th birthday of a friend), I thought I'd take some time at lunch to bring up some random thoughts and comments I have after just a play session or two with the original Zelda.

One of the biggest things I've come to realize is how much game design has changed over the years. In Zelda (for the rest of this post, I'll refer to the NES Legend of Zelda simply as Zelda), once you've completed the game once, you have a huge leg up in successive attempts at the game. I touched on this point in my previous post, but I think it bears mentioning again. The reason I mention game design is that, for many of the Zelda secrets, you really have to know where they are to find them, or just happen to stumble upon them by accident. For example, the heart container you find by using a bomb, which resides 4 screens to the right from your starting point, there is no pointer in the game that sends you to that point. Unless you spend obscene amounts of time searching for secret entrances like this (which I have, once upon a time), or consult a friend or other reference material for its location (both of which are abundant in this day and age), you'd probably never stumble upon that particular heart container. This is true for several things in the game, which while none of them are crucial to completing the game do make the game a bit easier.

Another interesting fact, which I myself wrestled with when beginning this particular Zelda game, was how to use this knowledge of secret items, locations, techniques, etc. while still trying to preserve an 'organic' gaming experience. I'm trying very hard to play these games as they were intended to be played (i.e. the first time you put the game in the console and know nothing about the game itself), but, in some ways, that's nearly impossible. In modern games, often there are hints or directions given to you within the context of the game that direct you toward things such as the heart containers or the blue ring (which is another item you may never stumble upon in Zelda unless you know where to look), but in Zelda, there are no such hints. Another game design decision that is often made (and partially employed in Zelda) is artifically limiting access to some items, allowing access only after acquistion of a certain item or power (in Zelda's case, using the ladder and raft to access heart containers and/or new locations).

I'm sure all of this is evident to many of you, who have extensive experience playing video games throughout the different incarnations of video game systems and changing ideas in game design, but I find them fascinating. There's also the possiblity, if one were to look hard enough (and I'm sure someone out there has), that the changing landscape of video game design mirrors the change in the world culture since the first release of games until now. I'm not just talking about fancier graphics or faster machines, I'm looking more at the underlying game mechanics. Anyway, that's a topic for another time, and another blog! :P

Back to Zelda...Another striking change between then and now (sometimes for the better, and sometimes not) is the fact that Zelda has the overarching storyline (young boy out to save the princess from Ganon) and that's about it. There are no real side quests or twists and turns to the story. Is this because of the lack of memory and processing power, or is it because we, as video game consumers, have demanded this evolution of story to be more engrossing, sophisticated, and 'fleshed out'? Even later titles in this very series, such as Twilight Princess, contain plot twists, surprises and side quests that have little to no impact on the main story. I'd like to think it's because consumers have become more sophisticated and demand a better story to go with their gameplay, but I'm not sure. If anyone has a comment on this, I'd be interested in your thoughts.

With all of this being said, I don't want to give the impression that I don't enjoy Zelda, or think it's a bad game. To the contrary, I still love it for everything it does provide, and given the context of the gaming landscape at the time of its release, it was groundbreaking. The reason for this post is more to explore the contrasts between what I see now in video games, and what I'm experiencing from a game that was released twenty years ago.

Once again, I appreciate you reading this blog, and I hope this slight detour from the Zelda journey doesn't cause to you leave entirely. I promise to have more entries up this weekend, as I find some time to complete the first quest and jump into the second quest. That should be an interesting adventure, because while I completed the second quest, I didn't play it half as much as the first quest, and my memory will be challenged to find the relocated heart containers, items and such. At that time, I'm sure there will be some fumbling around for long-lost memories.

Until then, however, take care and I'll see you soon!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007



Hello and welcome to my journey through time and the land of Hyrule (hopefully many times) as I tackle the entire series of the legendary game franchise The Legend of Zelda. This is truly one of the most memorable and popular series in the history of video games, and one that truly influenced me. I still remember that glorious Christmas day when I opened my very first video game platform, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and how happy it made me. My parents were also kind enough to get me the Legend of Zelda (the original gold cartridge) to go along with my new pride and joy. I spent hours tackling the forces of evil in Hyrule, completing both the first and second quests over and over. I would revisit the game from time to time, just to enjoy the journey all over again.

Further entries into the series followed, and I played many of them with relish. I must admit that I fell away from the series during college and the start of 'real life,' and that's something I truly regret. I have only scratched the surface of The Wind Waker and Majora's Mask, and have no experience whatsoever with The Four Swords and The Minnish Cap, just to name a few. Having not owned a Game Boy, Game Boy Color, or Game Boy Advance (until recently), I have also not partaken of Link's Awakening or either of the Oracle titles, Seasons and Ages. As you can see, while the early entries in the series had a profound effect on me, I have not given the later games their just due.

While on a long car ride this weekend, an idea came to me. The entire premise of this blog can be found in a post on my other blog (a link to that post can be found here), so I won't reiterate what I said there. The gist of that entry was such: I will endeavor (as my life and schedule allow) to start from the beginning of this venerable franchise, and experience the journey in the chronological order of the games' releases. The challenge I undertake for myself here is just as much a journey of discovery (for the games I have yet to play and/or complete) as it is a journey of nostalgia (a chance to go back to my favorite moments in the older games), and I sincerely hope that you'll enjoy this undertaking as much as I will.

I'll do my best to insert pictures as I have them, but since I'm not really much of a whiz when it comes to coding or even screen capturing (you may find more screen caps in the beginning of my journey, as I'm going to start with at least the first couple of NES titles on an emulator, due to lack of a TV to connect the NES to in the house), you'll have to put up with me and probably some relatively sparse illustrations and pictures.

The Start of the Journey

As I mentioned in passing above, at least the first two entries in the series (the original Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link) will be played on an emulator with ROMs. I know, I know, there are legal issues to consider with this method, but in all fairness I do own both cartridges, and I'm only going this route out of necessity. As the technology in today's TVs have improved, the connection methods have as well, and the TV I have available for game playing doesn't have a coaxial input! The use of the emulator (Nestopia in this case) and a Super Smart Joy SNES controller-to-USB converter module will allow me to recreate, to an extent, the atmosphere of the original game.

Setting up the controller took longer than expected, because the first SNES controller I connected to the PC in this method had a faulty Start button. There were several frustrating minutes, as I attempted to figure out the problem, and finally resorting to switching out that controller in favor of a fully functioning one. With that minor setback out of the way, I was ready to launch into the journey...

Please check back as I update you as regularly as possible on my progress, and post screenshots of my accomplishments. Many people will be able to see the pictures and say, "Hey, I remember that. What a great time that was!" Others may not have experienced the particular game that I'm working on at the moment, and maybe, just maybe I'll inspire others to go back and try some of the really great titles in this series for themselves. No matter what happens, I hope you enjoy my accounts. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, whatever, as I'd love some feedback.

I'll sign off for now, but I'll return soon with updates!

Getting Started

Starting the Game

Starting a New Game

Selection screen
Before you begin, you must first enter your name in one of the three save slots. Press Select until the heart is next to "REGISTER YOUR NAME" and press Start. Use the Select button to line up the heart with the Link that you wish to name. Enter a name of up to eight letters using the control pad to select a letter and the A button to enter it. Once you have registered your name, line up the heart with "REGISTER END" and press Start.

Erasing an Old Game

Press Select until the heart is next to "ELIMINATION MODE" and press Start. Use Select to move the heart next to the Link that you wish to erase and press the Start button. This will erase that name. Move the heart to "ELIMINATION END" and press Start again. This permanently erases all the data for the Link selected so use with caution.

Continue a Saved Game

On the selection screen, you can select a saved game to continue. Certain information can be seen from the selection screen. This information includes the save file's name, the total number of heart containers collected so far, which ring, if any, that save file's Link is wearing, and the number of times Link has died for that save file. If Link is holding a sword, it means the save file in question is in the middle of the second quest.

Game Over Options

If you want to continue the game, choose "CONTINUE" with the Select button and press Start. You will begin with three full heart containers, either at the starting point of the Overworld, or the entrance to the particular dungeon that you died in in the Underworld, with all of your possessions in tact.
If you are done for the time being, choose "SAVE" with the Select button and press Start. All information about your accomplishments will be stored and retained until the next time you play.
If you want to forget about all of your accomplishments since the last time you saved the game, choose "RETRY" with the Select button and press Start. When you continue next, you will continue exactly the same way you continued last time.

The Screen


The top portion of the screen can only be seen when you pause the game using the Start button. When you press the Start button, the screen will scroll up and the normal portion of the screen will drop away. On the sub-screen, you can see which items you currently possess in your inventory. Items which appear above the blue box are use automatically. Only one item in the blue box can be assigned for use with the B button, and you can only change this assignment by switching to the sub-screen. In the Overworld, the lower portion of the sub-screen shows you how many pieces of the Triforce you have collected so far. In the Underworld, you are shown a map of your current progress through a dungeon. Only rooms which you have visited are indicated on the sub-screen map, even if you have collected the dungeon map item.

 Status Bar

The status bar can be seen in both modes, at the bottom of the sub-screen, and the top of the normal view. On the left, you will see your general position in the Overworld, or your position in the Underworld against a map if you have collected the dungeon map item. You can also see how many rupees, keys, and bombs you currently possess. You can see which item is currently assigned to the B button, as well as which power of sword you are using with the A button. Lastly, you can see your total remaining life as well as the total number of heart containers you have collected.

Normal View

Below the status bar is where the action of the game takes place. You can view the area in the Overworld that you are currently located in, or the room of the dungeon that you are currently located in the Underworld.