- "Boomerangs, bombs, dungeons, magic swords, puzzles, and green tunics. Welcome to the Legend of Zelda."
- — GameTrailers.com - The Legend of Zelda Retrospective
The Legend of Zelda (ゼルダの伝説 Zeruda no Densetsu?) is a high fantasy action-adventure video game series developed and published by Nintendo and created by the famous game designer Shigeru Miyamoto. The gameplay consists of a mixture of action, adventure, puzzle solving, and role-playing, with occasional platforming, stealth, and racing elements. The series centers around Link, the sole playable character and hero. Link is often given the task of rescuing Princess Zelda and the most common setting of the series, Hyrule, from Ganondorf who is the primary villain of the series. However other settings and antagonists have appeared throughout the games, with Vaati having become the series' secondary antagonist. The story commonly involves a relic known as the Triforce, a set of three golden triangles of omnipotence. The hero in each game is not always the same iteration of Link, although the same Link sometimes appears across multiple games.
The Legend of Zelda series is widely considered one of the most influential video game series in history. The series consists of sixteen official games across multiple platforms as well as several spin-offs. Most games in the series have been met with critical acclaim and commercial success. As of August 2009, The Legend of Zelda series has sold over 52 million copies in total worldwide.
The Legend of Zelda games feature a mixture of puzzles, strategic action gameplay, and exploration. These elements have remained constant throughout the series, but with refinements and additions featured in each new game. You are frequently rewarded for solving puzzles or exploring areas. Most Zelda games involve locating and exploring dungeons, in which puzzles are solved and enemies fought, then defeating the dungeon's boss. Each dungeon usually has one major item inside, most of which are required to advance to the boss. Some items are found in almost every game (such as the boomerang), while others are exclusive to a single game (such as the ladder). In later games in the series, items found in each dungeon are usually used in some way to fight that dungeon's boss.
The precise chronology of the Zelda universe is commonly debated among fans, although some fans do not feel the games are definitively connected. As the series progressed, and more games were released, the exact order of the games in an overall timeline became complex and heavily disputed.
In the instruction booklet for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, it is revealed that this particular Link is an ancestor of the Link from the NES games. The Nintendo 64 game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time does the same thing in relation to the SNES Link. Also, in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker it mentions that the flooded Hyrule is a result of "the hero" journeying through the flows of time, referring to the Hero of Time's departure back to his original time at the end of Ocarina of Time. It is not known how much time has passed in Hyrule between each of these games.
In an interview conducted by Nintendo Dream with Eiji Aonuma in December 2006, he mentioned that there exists two different Zelda universes. The split in the timeline occurs during Ocarina of Time, when, at the end of the game, Link is sent back in time by Princess Zelda. Once returned to his original time, Link goes to see her again, and the result of this meeting is an alternate future in which the villain Ganondorf is arrested and tried by the Ancient Sages, which causes him to be banished to the Twilight Realm after a failed execution attempt; The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess then occurs over one hundred years after the Ocarina of Time child Link's era. Meanwhile, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks occurs in the "adult Link" timeline, hundreds of years after the adventure of the adult Link in the future of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
The Legend of Zelda was principally inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto's explorations as a young boy in the hillsides surrounding his childhood home in Kyoto, where he ventured into forests with secluded lakes, caves, and rural villages. According to Miyamoto, one of his most memorable experiences was the discovery of a cave entrance in the middle of the woods. After some hesitation, he apprehensively entered the cave, and explored its depths with the aid of a lantern. This memory has clearly influenced Miyamoto's work, as cave exploration is often a major component of most Zelda games. Other than Miyamoto's childhood, Norse and Japanese mythologies have played a large role influencing the series. Miyamoto has referred to the creation of the Zelda games as an attempt to bring to life a "miniature garden" for players to play with in each game of the series.
According to Shigeru Miyamoto, he wanted to name the game The Legend of something, but he had a hard time deciding what that "something" was going to be. That's when the PR Planner said to Miyamoto, "Why don't you make a storybook for this game?" He proceeded to suggest a story in which Link rescues a princess and also stated that a famous American author's wife's name was Zelda. Miyamoto wasn't spot-on on the book idea, but hearing of F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife Zelda, Mr. Miyamoto thought the name sounded "pleasant and significant." Paying tribute, he chose to name the Princess after her, and titled his creation The Legend of Zelda.
- See also: Hyrule, Distant Nebula, Light World, Sacred Realm, Dark World (A Link to the Past), Koholint Island, Termina, Labrynna, Holodrum, Great Sea, Dark World (Four Swords Adventures), Twilight Realm, World of the Ocean King, Dark Realm, The Sky, Silent Realm
The Zelda series has developed a deep story and wide universe over its many releases. Much of the backstory of the creation of Hyrule was revealed in the games A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword.
According to the in-game backstories, long ago, three goddesses descended and created the land of Hyrule. Din, the goddess of power, with her powerful, flaming arms, cultivated the empty space, and created the red earth. Nayru, the goddess of wisdom, bestowed her divine wisdom upon the land, and created the world's laws to give a sense of justice and order to the world, and to guide the people in the goddesses' absence. Farore, the goddess of courage, endowed Hyrule with her powers, creating life to follow this justice.
After their work was completed, the goddesses left a magical artifact called the Triforce, which could grant the wishes of the user. It consisted of three golden triangles, each also called a "Triforce" — one of Wisdom, one of Power, and one of Courage. However, because the Triforce was not divine, and could not judge between good and evil, the goddesses placed the Triforce in an alternate world called the Sacred Realm or the Golden Land, hoping that a worthy person would one day seek it.
According to legend, if the discoverer of the Triforce has a balance of power, wisdom, and courage, they will receive the Triforce as a whole. If they are unbalanced, they will receive the part of the Triforce that represents the characteristic they most demonstrate, with the remaining parts of the whole transferring into the people in Hyrule who most exemplify the other two traits. The Triforce was first distributed as such starting in Ocarina of Time, as the Triforces of Power, Wisdom and Courage were each held by Ganondorf, Princess Zelda, and Link, respectively. While the Triforce of Power and Wisdom have been part of the series since the original The Legend of Zelda, it was only in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link that the Triforce of Courage was first introduced, being obtained by Link at the end of his quest. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, released after The Adventure of Link, but before Ocarina of Time, featured the Triforce, but made no mention of its three qualities or distribution, beyond Ganondorf obtaining it.
Eventually, Interlopers attempted to steal the Triforce and establish dominion over the Sacred Realm. In response, the goddesses sent the light spirits Eldin, Lanayru, Ordona and Faron to seal away their dark magic within the Fused Shadows. The interlopers themselves were banished to the shadowy world of the Twilight Realm, with only the Mirror of Twilight linking the two worlds. There, they would eventually become the Twili race. The Mirror was left in the protection of ancient sages.
The fictional universe established by the Zelda games sets the stage for each adventure. Many games take place in lands with their own back-stories. Termina, for example, is an alternate dimension that has no knowledge of Hyrule.
- The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo Entertainment System, 1986)
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo Entertainment System, 1987)
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Super Nintendo Entertainment System, 1991)
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Game Boy, 1993)
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64, 1998)
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Nintendo 64, 2000)
- Oracle of Ages/The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (Game Boy Color, 2001)
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords (Game Boy Advance 2002)
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Nintendo GameCube, 2002)
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (Nintendo GfameCube, 2004)
- The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Game Boy Advance, 2004)
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo GameCube/Wii, 2006)
- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo DS, 2007)
- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (Nintendo DS, 2008)
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii, 2011)
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo 3DS, 2013)
Nature of the protagonist
According to the official website, Link is described as humble but brave, attributes appropriate for the bearer of the Triforce of Courage. Sometimes Link will bear a special title, such as "Hero of Time", "Hero of the Winds", "Hero Chosen by the Gods", or "Waker of the Winds". A long-eared Hylian, he is portrayed as being anywhere from 7 to 19 years old, depending on the game. Link always wears a green tunic, an undershirt and a long, floppy green cap for at least part of each adventure. All incarnations of Link are left-handed, the only exceptions to date being the Wii version of Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword in which Link is right-handed due to the "mirroring" used to accommodate the right-handed control scheme, and Skyward Sword being the first canon game where he is right handed. The mirroring effect in Twilight Princess flips the entire game layout from its Nintendo GameCube counterpart.
Link does not usually speak, and only produces grunts, yells, and other such sounds. One exception to this is The Wind Waker. In the English-language release, the audible phrase "Come on!" is used in dungeons to call either special statues or other characters (Medli or Makar) to follow Link. In prior games, such as A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, players can answer questions by choosing options from a list; no voice acting accompanies Link's answers. More typically, the character uses facial expressions to indicate mood; particular emphasis is placed on this in The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.
Arguably, Link "speaks" two lines in The Adventure of Link. When he locates a mirror under a table, the text, "I found a mirror under the table" appears on screen. Later, if Link examines a fireplace that he can enter, "Looks like I can get in the fireplace" is displayed.
Although the character's accepted name is Link, the player can name him before the start of most games, and characters will address him by that name in the text. The reason for his silence is so that the player can envision themselves as the hero.
The Legend of Zelda series has generated many extremely positive reviews within the gaming industry. Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, and Skyward Sword have all received a perfect 40/40 score (10/10 by four reviewers) by Japanese Famitsu magazine, making Zelda the first and currently only series with multiple perfect scores. In addition, A Link to the Past and Phantom Hourglass received an almost-perfect score of 39/40. A Link to the Past was awarded Famitsu's first near-perfect score and Ocarina of Time their first perfect score. The website IGN.com awarded Ocarina of Time, Oracle of Ages, Oracle of Seasons, Link's Awakening and Skyward Sword a score of 10/10 each. GameFAQs has held a contest for the best video game series ever, with The Legend of Zelda claiming the top position. GameFAQs also has a tradition of running an annual "character battle," in which site users vote for their favorite video game character; Link routinely scores in the top ten and is the only character to have claimed the top spot more than once.
In Nintendo Power's Top 200 countdown, Ocarina of Time took first place, and seven other Zelda games placed in the top 40. Moreover, the editors of GameRankings, GameStats, and Metacritic, who compile major numeric reviews given to the game on its release, have all given Ocarina of Time their highest aggregate scores. Nintendo Power named Twilight Princess 2006 Game of the Year, as well as giving it their awards for Best Story/Adventure, Best New Character (Midna), and Game of the Year for both the Nintendo GameCube and the Wii. In 2011, the series won G4tv.com's Videogame Deathmatch: Best Franchise, defeating Starcraft in the final round.
The Legend of Zelda was made into an animated series as a "show within a show" in the live-action/animated Super Mario Bros. Super Show TV series produced by DiC. The animated Zelda shorts were aired each Friday, instead of the usual Super Mario Bros. cartoon that aired during the rest of the week. The series loosely followed the NES Zelda games, mixing settings and characters from those games with original creations. Thirteen animated Zelda shorts were featured within the show's 65-episode run. Somewhat modified versions of the show's incarnations of Link and Zelda, with the same voice actors, also appeared in various episodes of Captain N: The Game Master during its second season.
Comics and manga
Valiant Comics released a short-lived series of comics featuring characters and settings from the Zelda cartoon as part of their Nintendo Comics System line. In addition, mangas have been created based on the many of the series' games, including A Link to the Past, Link's Awakening, Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Oracle of Ages, Oracle of Seasons, The Wind Waker, Four Swords Adventures, The Minish Cap and Phantom Hourglass. The comics and manga are not considered canonical.
A series of video games were developed and released for the Philips CD-i in the early 1990s as a product of a compromise between Philips and Nintendo, after the companies failed to develop a CD-based peripheral for the SNES. Created with no influence from Nintendo, the games are Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, and the live-action Zelda's Adventure. The "trilogy" is a large departure from the rest of the series, and they are generally considered poor efforts by fans and reviewers alike. Nintendo has erased them from the Zelda canon, evidenced by their absence from any of Nintendo's websites and publications. The character designs and personalities used in the games appear to be based heavily on the aforementioned cartoon series of the game.
The worldwide success and popularity of The Legend of Zelda series has influenced popular culture. Elements of the series has been referenced and parodied, both by other video game series, as well as television and movies. In particular, a plethora of other Nintendo games reference the series, often including items or characters from the series as cameos.
Hideki Kamiya, the head of Platinum Games, was the director of Ōkami back during his time at Clover Studio, and stated that he had been influenced by The Legend of Zelda series while developing the title. Both Ōkami and Twilight Princess feature a wolf as a playable character, except Twilight Princesss wolf is Link in the form of a wolf, while Okamis wolf is a wolf to begin with. The developers of the game Dark Sector have stated they have been heavily influenced by The Legend of Zelda series, and that the structure of the game is much like a Zelda game. Additionally, the games Darksiders and 3D Dot Game Heroes are widely regarded as borrowing heavily from the structure and elements of Zelda games. Other games influenced by the series are Donkey Kong Country 3, the Animal Crossing series, and World of Warcraft.