I’ve been addicted to video games since my Gameboy Advance SP, and while I may not be the most dedicated gamer, I’ve definitely been playing for a while. When I was in elementary school, one of the most rewarding noises I could hear, aside from the little victory music after catching a Pokemon, was the chime of a mystery being solved in a LoZ game. LoZ is probably my favorite video game franchise to date, and I’m going to tell you guys a little about what I think of the games.
A Link to the Past
My first ever LoZ game! It was one of the first games we got for our GBA SP and it was long enough ago that I can’t remember the plot, but not so long that I’ve forgotten how much I loved it. It’s weird because I rarely replay games now, but I must have played through this game at least 3 times. While the graphics were lacking (it is a port of the original game on the SNES), I absolutely adored this game. The twist in this game is the Light/Dark world gameplay which was pretty fun, although I have to admit I was pretty easily entertained in elementary school.
The Minish Cap
The second game I ever played! It was a couple of years after I played ALttP and the graphics were certainly a big step up. I really enjoyed playing the game, although I remember the dungeons being pretty simple and the bosses strangely easy…this game is probably one of the most lighthearted and simple ones in the whole series and I would say it’s quite unusually cute for a LoZ game, although I wouldn’t have known at the time. The twist in this game is the shrinking that’s made possibly by the titular Minish Cap! And possibly the cloning. Out of all the LoZ games I would say this one is simultaneously the easiest and the one best oriented towards younger children.
Ocarina of Time and Marjora’s Mask
…I never actually finished these games. I borrowed them from a friend to try on their N64 and right before I got to the Shadow Temple my save file on Ocarina of Time was somehow lost. I was dismayed. (To be more precise, I threw a tantrum.) The whole experience put me off Zelda for years and while I tried Marjora’s Mask the upped difficulty of the game just frustrated me and I returned them to my friend unfinished. I have Ocarina of Time on my Wii now, waiting for me to have time to play it, but as of now it’s not a priority. Which is a shame because Ocarina of Time is really a classic. While the gameplay and graphics on these games are dated it’s not a deal breaker and I highly recommend at least Ocarina of Time, which has also been recently ported to the 3DS! It was the first really long Zelda game I ever played (8 temples!) and the pace was just perfect. It’s really a wonderful game. I’m told frequently that Marjora’s Mask is a brilliant game but the whole “3 days” thing along with its reputation as the “hardest Zelda game” really annoyed me so I didn’t even bother. I may try again someday. I would say Ocarina of Time’s twist was the titular Ocarina, which is a bit strange since an instrument is common in many Zelda games and usually isn’t the sole gimmick. Marjora’s Mask is similar but but I would say its twist is resetting time.
When I say Ocarina of Time put me off Zelda for years, I’m not kidding. It wasn’t until we got our Wii in around 2009 that I picked up Twilight Princess and began playing again. And holy crap was I impressed. Twilight Princess had beautiful graphics and a compelling storyline. While Ocarina of Time also had a pretty dark plot, I didn’t really pick up on it and the plot kind of sailed over my head. By this time I was beginning to actually pay attention to plots, rather than blindly playing through the games, and I honestly think Twilight Princess might be one of the scariest Zelda games yet. It’s certainly the darkest, and the unusually realistic graphics reflect that. This is one of my favorite games in general ever. It had great bosses and fun dungeons, although the Arbiter’s Grounds scared me so bad I couldn’t play at night. (REDEADS AND INVISIBLE RATS??) The twist in this game was the Twilight Realm and werewolf Link.
Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks
I actually played both of these quite recently in 2011, so they’re fairly fresh in my mind. Their graphics are modeled after the 3-D celshaded, cartoony art in Wind Waker, and that makes the games far cuter as a result. (Although not nearly as cute as Minish Cap.) However, they both have what I would call deal-breaking faults that make them what I think are the weakest games in the franchise. Phantom Hourglass had the tedious and ungodly annoying Temple of the Ocean King that I hated with a passion. Spirit Tracks had a really slow and tiresome way of navigating the overworld and while I appreciated the attempt to actually include Zelda in the adventure, it was annoying trying to navigate her around. I ended up liking her less than before. Also, the forced touchscreen use was unnecessary and seemed like the developers trying too hard to incorporate the touch screen portion of the DS into the game. However they weren’t entirely lost causes: the boss battles were fun and made good use of the dual screens, so I enjoyed those. It was just almost everything else that was irritating. The twist for Phantom Hourglass was again, the titular Hourglass and its use in the Temple of the Ocean King (ugh) and the twist in Spirit Tracks was the trains. Those darn trains.
Almost up to date! I completed Skyward Sword during last winter break, and it was incredibly good, even with some bad points. The graphics were a nice midpoint between Twilight Princess’s hyper-realistic look and the cartoonish cel-shading of Wind Waker, which left you with a bright and pretty world that could still be dark and scary (read: the Water Temple), but not as dark and scary as Twilight Princess which I appreciated. However haters gonna hate so I’m going to have to hate a little on this game. The overworld was really annoying to navigate. Flying was fun for about the first minute before it just became annoying, and it seemed like it took forever to reach the portals to Hyrule. The overworld should have been smaller, especially since I couldn’t just set the controller down and wait like I did during Wind Waker. The new and improved sword gameplay would have been wonderful if it could have actually read my motions in time to execute them. I can’t count how many times Link did something I wanted him to do a second ago and got shocked for his efforts. The Wii Motion Plus was cool but the enhanced use of the Wiimote just created more problems. Also the reuse of old secondary overworlds seemed like…a copout…I’ve never seen an area double as the Earth and Water areas…and while it was cool, I’m not sure I like it. Also seriously, making me do a boss battle 3 times? LoZ I let you get away with rereleasing games with only minor tweaks to the Zelda formula…don’t push it by doing the same thing to one fight 3 times in one game. Very annoying and not fun at all. Speaking of annoying, Fi there’s a 100% chance that you need to stop talking. However the graphics were spectacular and colorful, I absolutely loved the boss fights, and all in all it was a solid game that I enjoyed. The twist in this game was the flying.
(I clearly have a lot of feelings about Skyward Sword.)
And now we’re finally up to date: I played Wind Waker during the last spring break. I’ve seen this game heralded as the best Zelda game to date and while I may not entirely agree, I have to say it’s one of the best. The cartoonish graphics of the game made it very very cute…but it worked and didn’t detract from the experience at all. A problem I had with some of the other “cutesy” Zelda games was that it felt less serious and much less compelling, but Wind Waker managed to be adorable and make me want to save the world. The boss fights were again really fun although some were a pain because aiming with a gamecube controller is really slow. The enormous amount of sidequests and things to discover in the overworld made it very fun to explore. However again this game suffered from an overworld that was just too big, although you could just put your controller down here and let the wind do the work. And gathering the Triforce Shards? Letting Tingle steal all my money? Not cool LoZ. However it is still one of the best Zelda games and I continue to highly recommend it. The twist is the Wind Waker and the sailing.
So how do I feel about the series as a whole? Absolute classics. There is a good reason that they keep porting old Zelda games to new consoles. A huge complaint I hear about the series is the lack of innovation: there’s a tried and true Zelda formula and they just add in a new gimmick every game. However that’s what I love about these games. (And that’s kind of the idea behind all the Zelda games…different iterations of Links and Zeldas and villains throughout Hyrule’s history.) I can never wait to see the new angles they approach old concepts with and updated gameplay that make something familiar new. Unlike some other franchises, I don’t think I’ll ever end up saying “oh god, not another Zelda game” because this series is just so great and keeps redefining itself. I love it bunches and if you’ve never played a Zelda game before you’re missing out on a lot.
Best to Worst:
- Twilight Princess
- Ocarina of Time
- Skyward Sword
- Wind Waker
- A Link to the Past
- Marjora’s Mask
- Minish Cap
- Phantom Hourglass
- Spirit Tracks