Famously based on Shigeru Miyamoto’s childhood adventures through the forests and caves near his home, The Legend of Zelda is a dense, sprawling adventure unlike any console video game that came before it.
The Legend the Zelda
Japanese Title: ゼルダの伝説 Zeruda no Densetsu
Title Translation: Zelda no Densetsu: The Hyrule Fantasy
English Release: The Legend of Zelda (NES, 1987)
Release Date: February 21, 1986 (Launch)
Developer: Nintendo R&D4
Genre: Action Adventure
Product Code: FMC-ZEL
Disk Format: Double-sided
Notable Credits: Produced by Shigeru Miyamoto. Directed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. Programmed by Toshihiko Nakago, Yasunari Soejima and I. Marui. Written by Takashi Tezuka. Music Composed by Koji Kondo.
The first original title released for new add-on, The Legend of Zelda is truly a game that could have only existed on the Disk System; a proof of concept that utilized all of the features that made the Disk Card advantageous over the original Famicom cartridge. A game save feature, a first for home consoles, was implemented and serves to provide the player with a greater sense of immersion. You weren’t just entering a password and picking up where you left off; you were continuing your adventure! You were Link!
The sheer size of Zelda necessitated the use of both sides of the Disk Card, taking full advantage of the expanded program and sprite memory. At the time of its release, the average cart topped off at around 32KB, but Zelda used both sides of the Disk Cards mammoth 112KB storage. The Legend of Zelda was a game that certainly could not have fit on any cartridge.
The Legend of Zelda was also the first Disk System game to utilize the extra sound channel made possible via the on-board synthesizer within the RAM adaptor. Strange and beautiful, the haunting music of the title screen successfully set the tone for the adventure to follow; something no one had ever experienced before.
With the Legend of Zelda came a sense of freedom and wonder. Zelda heralded a ground breaking design philosophy, where-by the player was given full access to the entire world at the beginning of the quest. Few games in Zelda’s wake attempted such a feat, and the concept was even banished from nearly every subsequent game in the Zelda series.
Even by 1987 it had become apparent to Nintendo that the Famicom Disk System was not going to be exported to the rest of the world, but regions outside of Japan would not be deprived of The Legend of Zelda for long. While other Disk System created games, like Metroid and Kid Icarus were stuck with a clumsy password system, The Legend of Zelda was lovingly given the first on-cart battery back-up to retain the save feature from the disk. Miyamoto’s original vision of immersion would remain intact in for North America, and create a juggernaut that is still revered even today.