The Legend of Zelda Collector's Edition review
A Legendary Collection Indeed
There was only one reason I actually went to get this collection, and that was Majora's Mask. At the time I hadn't played it before and really wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Having the chance to also sample Adventures of Link for the first time was a nice bonus. While getting hold of this title isn't as simple as other games on the Gamecube I still managed it. So how does each game hold up?
Legend of Zelda.
The first of the two NES games and the one that started it all. Obviously at ths point the graphics look pretty ugly, with bland pixelly images composing what is meant to be Hyrule and its various inhabitants (friendly and hostile alike). Animations and effects are very basic by the standards you're probably used to by now. Of course, this is ranking 8 bit era graphics against games several generations later. To its credit, the designers worked well with the technical limitations to give various elements their distinctive appearances. But whatever, we're not playing a NES game for its looks.
The music in the game is quite good. Despite the limits of its era they were still able to create tracks that could convey the majestic epicness of the series theme. Even if there weren't a whole lot of different tracks on offer. Sound effects are kinda meh but they worked I guess.
The story is one thing that people often mock the game for and generally with good reason. The story is generally about the evil Ganon trying to steal the Triforce of Wisdom, only for Princess Zelda to shatter it into pieces and hide them in various dungeons. So Link was picked to be the hero of Hyrule for reasons that aren't actually explained. It's certainly barebones and amounts to an excuse plot, but what got people more was the bad translation. While you could still make out the story to a degree, the actual wording used is hilariously bad. What hurts more is how the translation affected the ingame dialogue. Sometimes you will be given clues that make absolutely no sense at all because the translation was off.
So anyway, Legend of Zelda is a top-down adventure game where you go around slashing monsters, solving puzzles and collecting items. The gameplay is split largely between the overworld of Hyrule where you spend most of your time finding and entering various dungeons, where the triforce shards are located and comprises the other side of the gameplay.
From the moment you start exploring the overworld the immediate thing to strike you is how the game often doesn't bother to help you. Very few NPCs exist and those that do are often unhelpful, either trying to take your rubies off you in various ways or spouting clues that are extremely vague or gibberish. There's no real map system either, with the closest thing being that square block in the corner of the screen that vaguely gives you a rough idea of your position but without it showing any landmarks it might as well show nothing for all the use it is.
This can be a little frustrating at times, as uncovering a dungeon entrance can boil down to simply trying all sorts of random crap until something actually works. On the other hand, it does well to actually encourage the exploration side of the games. If you want to enter the seventh dungeon you damn well better look hard for it. The game's also fairly open-ended. No, you can't choose any order you like to do the dungeons but there is a degree of flexibility to them, like leaving the second dungeon for later on. It's also easily possible to explore almost all of Hyrule from the beginning, with only a few areas requiring a specific item to reach. That does have some merit.
Shops and "games" are scattered around Hyrule. I use the term games loosely since what they amount to is a guessing game where you pay an amount for a random chance of getting more back in return (but more likely you'll end up losing money). The shops offer to sell various goods like a shield upgrade, potions and bombs. Money in the game actually means something too, so this system works nicely and can act as encouragement to explore. As can the full heart containers hidden around the overworld, extending your health gauge by a heart. Sadly, this is about the extent of Hyrule's interesting features. So much of it is just areas with monsters that, outside of uncovering a new shop or heart container, there isn't much reason to look around the place.
Combat set the standards for future Zelda games and still holds up reasonably well, even if somewhat dated now. The sword (of which there are three of increasing power to earn) will be the main combat item to use, where Link will thrust it at enemies to attack. Nothing fancy, that's really it. You can make use of other items as well to help, like flinging a boomerang to strike distant targets or dropping bombs to destroy tougher opponents. Your shield acts automatically by deflecting weak attacks as long as you're facing it and aren't performing any other actions. Zelda gamers more used to the later titles in the series may be a bit confused by the setup but it only takes a minor amount of getting used to. A variety of enemies that have become mainstays exist to fight you, whether it's bats, skeletons or armoured knights. Each type has their own style of movement and attack and presents an interesting enemy force for you to deal with.
As for those items, Legend of Zelda gives you quite a collection. Some are quite useful, such as a bow (which consumes money to fire instead of actually having arrow ammo) or a candle that can spit out fire. A few aren't quite as useful, such as the master key that comes too late to be anywhere close to useful. For the most part though you'll enjoy collecting and using them.
Progress through the dungeons is measured by defeating monsters and figuring out how to get to the boss room. Obstacles in your path can involve moving blocks, unlocking doors, clambering over blocks or blasting open passageways. The path in these areas is rarely clear and will require some thinking and exploring to figure it out. Curiously, the game designers didn't really check to make sure that you collect enough keys early enough to not get trapped behind a locked door, but you can buy keys from shops if you do get stuck so there's that.
This is certainly a challenge game. Healing items are limited, enemies are tough and it's a lot of work just to figure out what to do. If you're up for a it, a second quest also exists that's even harder but comes with rearranged dungeon layouts. Fortunately, the game stays on the right side of "doable" and there's a fair amount to do. Just be aware that the game is very dated at this point and a lot of what it does has since been done far better, so consider this a nostalgic look at the starting point of the series rather than treating it as a game.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
The second Zelda game that comes from the NES and it drastically changes the style to the point that it's almost Zelda in name only. Much like the first game, the graphics are hardly a good selling point. The change in perspective has allowed for them to put in more detail than the first game and the animation is a little better. Unfortunately, the improvements aren't major advances and so if you found the NES LoZ graphics bad (the correct answer here is yes) then you won't be impressed here either.
The music, while still good, seems to lack the same feeling of scale found in the first game. It's still impressive to find how they've worked the technical limits of the era to such a degree but it is less memorable.
The story is a little better this time though. Shortly after the events of the first game, a wizard puts Zelda into a coma and Link must find the Triforce of Courage to save her. Meanwhile, what remains of Ganon's forces have found a way to revive their master and require your blood to do it. Still barebones and all, although at least the translation is a little better. Still not ideal though as you'll still run into vagueness and gibberish from time to time when NPCs seem utterly confused.
The thing that marks Zelda as so drastically different from any other entry in the series is the gameplay side, playing out a lot more like an action RPG than an adventure game. Link still travels around an overworld map with a topdown perspective and the general gist of exploring dungeons/temples in order to collect the special items needed is largely intact. However, when in a town, dungeon or battle scene the perspective shifts to a side-on view where Link can move left and right while fighting off all sorts of enemies.
First let's talk about the good stuff. As briefly mentioned, there are now towns in the game, so less relying on sketchy old men hiding in caves for your obscure clues. These help to create a better sense of community instead of the world feeling like it had long been abandoned and gives you the satisfaction of interacting with a wider cast of characters who may or may not be helpful. Certain features, like a place to fully restore your health, are now in easily recognisable landmarks so towns serve as handy safe points during the adventure. You can certainly expect some of your adventuring to be here as you try to open the way to the next temple.
A basic RPG level up system is also in place and it works quite well. Link has three stats he can upgrade: health, magic and attack power. Each of these require varying amounts of experience, and you can hold off on upgrading a lower cost stat in order to save up for a more costly one. This gives you a good degree of choice in how you boost your hero and is a nice addition to the game. Magic also debuts in the game. Link can acquire a variety of spells, ranging from stuff like increasing jump power, reducing damage taken or killing stuff with fire. Each spell drains some points from Link's magic gauge so it's important to balance the use of these. This was a fun system to play around with.
However, Zelda 2 is often cited as the worst entry in the series (discounting the CDi games that even Nintendo won't acknowledge) and there's good reasons for this.
One problem is that the game has largely ditched the more puzzle-focused elements of its predecessor. Dungeons are much more about simply walking from the entrance to the boss room while killing anything stupid enough to be in the way, with very little regard in actually trying to impede the player with puzzles or other obstacles. If it's in the way then stab it until it no longer is. Actually opening dungeons does require a little more from the player than simply brute-forcing their way through, but this is largely about "collect item/spell here to progress". If anything, most of the challenge that exists outside of combat pretty much comes from the carry over idea that being incredibly vague and unhelpful is a good gameplay mechanic, forcing the player to wander about trying anything just to get something to happen.
That kinda leads to the returning problem that the world isn't very interesting to explore. You might find a few hidden areas holding bonus experience or health, but otherwise there's not a whole lot to see off the beaten path. Dungeons now suffer this same fate too, being a lot more simplistic and thus less interesting as a result.
Then comes to difficulty of the combat, as in it's even harder than the first game. When Link has to fight enemies you'll be in one of those side scrolling scenes. Baddies can come from either direction and you'll rely heavily on your sword with either standing or crouching strikes. As you progress you can pick up a few aerial attacks and you do have some offensive spells eventually. Sadly, the range of combat options is much more limiting than the first game, but it's sufficient. The kinds of enemies you'll face do at least present variety in their approaches, but after a while it gets a little old. But still hard, as enemies dive at you from all angles and some defend a lot against your attacks. The game offers a life system, and even losing all your lives and continuing only loses you the experience you hadn't spent yet.
For these reasons, Zelda 2 is only a game to play if you're curious and not actually expecting much. The problem isn't that it's different. The problem is that it does a few of its core elements poorly and the game suffers for it.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Alright, so now we're jumping two generations to the Nintendo 64 and to one of the most recognisable games ever. I've already played Ocarina of Time to death on the original release and the previous Zelda bonus disc, but I've no issue in singing the game's praises once again. It's no secret that this is a fantastic game that you should experience at least once in your life.
N64 standards means dealing with slightly dated graphics, though obviously miles ahead of the NES games. This game marked the series first foray into 3D and the designers did well to accurately convey Hyrule in the new style. A lot of detail went into crafting the kingdom and its people, giving it a fantasy level sense of life. It's truly a joy to reach new areas and see the majestic sights for yourself. From the moment you emerge from Link's house into the forest village of the Kokiri you know you're in for a treat. This sense of awe remains as you reach the impressive Hyrule Castle, explore the depths of the active volcano that is Death Mountain and reach the bridge that extends across Gerudo Valley.
Link's got some impressive animations to back up his looks. Sword swings execute in various ways, Link moves around fluidly and he reacts well to whatever he comes across. Clever onscreen icons and indicators help keep you well informed of anything you need without cluttering the screen space. The draw distance is definitely impressive, letting you see some way into the distance and allowing you to fully appreciate the game world around you.
The music selection is good, composing of various tracks like serene melodies to high energy tracks depending on the location. The ocarina songs too fit in nicely and give something neat to listen to.
The story goes back to the beginning of the legend in order to show us exactly how things started. Link lives in Kokiri Forest and finally has a fairy partner join him, with the message to see the Great Deku Tree. His journey will eventually lead him to meet the fabled princess and then onward to stop the evil Gannondorf from seizing the power of the Sacred Realm and taking over Hyrule. It's a well done fleshed out story that's a pleasure to play through.
So moving into 3D, the entire way the player interacts with the fictional world is changed. Combat still has a lot of the familiar items in use, like the trusty sword, sturdy shield and a variety of offensive items. However, the game makes use of a lock-on system to make combat smoother in the 3D realm. By holding the left shoulder button Link can lock onto an enemy and keep them in his sights at all times. While it seems like such a minor thing, it's an important element that allows combat to work as well as it does. Good job, as there is quite the enemy cast in the game too. You'll start off with simple monsters like the deku baba plants and the wall clinging skullwalltulas. As you progress the enemies will get harder, like the bat-like Keese that swoop out from the shadows and the skeletal warriors Stalfoes who try to block and parry your attacks.
The general challenge of combat isn't as good as it could be though. Enemies just don't seem as strong or come in such numbers as before. Even bosses, despite the cool tricks they can pull and the special approaches needed to defeat them, rarely seem all that threatening. The existence of a three heart challenge - a self imposed challenge where players intentionally avoid picking up heart containers in order to play through the whole game on just three hearts - pretty much shows how easy the game is in this regard.
Speaking of items, Ocarina of Time has an extensive item system in place. First there's equipment, like the aforementioned sword and shield. Some of these you choose to equip, while others act as upgrades and are automatically applied. Quest items which are necessary for story progression are simply stored in an inventory screen. The C button items are basically the assignable items, which can be set to C Left, C Down and C Right (and also X, Z and Y if you prefer to use the buttons). These items include the likes of a bow, hammer and bombs and will prove vital to gameplay. Many of the challenges you face will require an item of some sort and being able to have up to three assigned at once reduces the amount of item management needed. The ocarina, as per the game title, deserves a special mention. As well as a cool item you can randomly jam out on, Link will pick up special songs during his adventure that yield special results. You can prove your connection to royalty, change the time of day or contact a distant friend for help, all through this wonderful item. It's a clever way to expand on the possible list of choices to try when tackling a given problem. Management of everything Link is also made easy with the pause subscreens. All of it is split up by category, separating your map, equipment, assignable items and quest items into their own screens and easier flipped between using the L and R buttons.
Location design plays heavily into this. Like other Zelda games, the game is split between the overworld of Hyrule and the underbelly that is the dungeons. The overworld is split into numerous locations such as the Kokiri Forest where you begin the game, the bustling market town near Hyrule Castle and the serene waters of Lake Hylia. Each area holds its own secrets, features and unique traits for you to find and it's a wonderful joy to explore to see what you can uncover. Often your efforts will not go unrewarded either, as various things like piece of heart containers, skulltula tokens, rupees or special upgrades are scattered all over the place. The only overworld area that feels a bit too big and barren is Hyrule Field that sits in the middle of the kingdom. While some stuff is scattered about here too, a lot of this location feels empty and it takes some time to cross by foot. The people that fill the game world also give it a sense of life. There are a number of different races across Hyrule and each one has a general attitude towards a fairy boy talking to them. You can chat to them for items, hints or random chatter. It's all quite interesting.
This overworld is affected by time. The game has a clock to determine if it is day or night. Strangely, time moves in some locations and not in others, although I'm not at all sure why this is. Regardless, this system does alter the world around you, like most shops are closed during the night while certain characters won't show themselves during the day.
One element that has suffered is the money system. Put simply, rupees feel quite worthless now. Shops do exist but rarely sell anything that you can't pick up for free somewhere or find a free substitute. In addition the game just seems to throw money at you all the time so that the only thing really getting in your way is the low cap on the amount of money you can hold at any given time.
Once you do reach a dungeon you can expect the game to give a reasonably decent challenge in terms of puzzles. A lot of them are familiar Zelda style tasks translated into 3D, such as moving blocks, igniting torches and hitting switches. The switch to 3D does allow for the game to really play around with these, like putting switches you must shoot in places you have to look around to spot or a clever one involving falling velocity. Exploration plays an important role too as you work out just how you're going to get to that boss chamber. Each dungeon typically has its own theme and works around that. One dungeon might have webbing and overgrown vines to deal with, while another puts a lot of focus on fire and explosives. This helps define each experience and gives players a fresh sense each time. Most of these dungeons are also well designed, balancing elements quite well. The only exception here would be the Water Temple. This place is frustrating due to the gameplay mechanic where you are often in and out of water and must use the iron boots in places. This requires many visits to the equipment subscreen to keep switching footwear, which gets tiring fast.
Aside from the main quest you have loads of sidequests to complete, which extends the already long lifespan a lot. One long ongoing example is the Gold Skulltula hunt, where you kill these special creatures hidden all around Hyrule and claim the tokens in order to break a curse. Others include rounding up cuccos (Hyrule's version of chickens), taking part in some target practice or even just a spot of fishing. There's so much variety even in these little side activities in addition to general exploration and the main quest that you're bound to love at least something in the game.
So yeah, there's a reason Ocarina of Time is so loved. It is rather on the easy side in terms of combat, but it's hard to fault it for anything else when it offers so much.
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
The second Zelda game to hit the Nintendo 64. This was one of the few games that required the expansion pak to even run. Visually it is a little hard to see why this was. Graphically the game is very similar to Ocarina of Time, going so far as to reuse many of that game's assets in new ways. Of course, this does mean that MM is rather good to look at. Termina is crafted very well and each area is given its own distinctive themes that are portrayed well, such as the murky swamplands or the frosty mountains. Link and co still are animated very well with movement and actions, making the whole scene all that much better.
It's not entirely a copy and paste job of course. MM deals with some notably larger objects like the moon and certain creatures. Clock Town is also a lot more filled with people than any location in Ocarina of Time. There's also a few tweaks here and there, like a few new jumping animations for Link. While these differences are not massive, they are worth noting. There are some frame rate issues though, mostly around the more densely packed areas of the game.
The music selection is again good, giving us some nice new and remixed tracks to play along with, including a much awaited new version of the classic Zelda theme from LoZ. The ocarina once again makes a return with some familiar and new songs to use.
The story here picks up where Ocarina of Time left off, with Link searching in the Lost Woods for a dear friend of his (somehow he has Epona now too). However, he is startled by someone in a strange mask, who managed to steal Link's ocarina and horse before disappearing into the woods. Link gives chase, only to be victim to a curse that transforms him into a deku scrub. If that wasn't bad enough, the world of Termina he finds himself in is about to be smashed by a very angry moon in 3 days. It's certainly nice to have a new plotline that veers away from the Triforce saga and MM manages to also present a more personal insight into the worries and concerns of the people of the kingdom. That's certainly a nice touch.
So yeah, Majora's Mask is largely built upon the engine of Ocarina of Time. The combat system is pretty much the same at the core, letting you target enemies with lock-on, unleash sword and shield techniques as hylian Link and pull out a variety of assignable items in addition. Some of those items are also carried over from OOT, letting you fire arrows, throws explosives and use magical items as you want. What MM does bring is a selection of new enemies alongside the old, like the slimy Chuchus that bounce towards you or the tricky Wizzrobes that teleport are the place while firing spells at you. The ocarina makes its return too with various special songs granting their powers, although its worth noting that the various warping songs of OOT are now effectively bundled into a single song here, letting you select from a number of unlocked points to warp to.
The game retains a similar layout for its pause subscreens as before too, but here you notice a major difference too. The equipment screen is gone. Link's equipment is now all automatically equipped and stored on the Quest Status subscreen. In its place is the new mask screen. Effectively, these are an entire category of items that can be assigned to C given their own screen and are the entire focus of the game. Link will collect all sorts of masks during his journey. Many are optional but almost all of them have some kind of use. The bunny hood increases running speed while the stone mask can help you be invisible to certain enemies. Others are less useful, like one that lets you do a dance or one that has you constantly crying (don't ask). There are plenty to get, that's for sure.
The most notable ones are the transformation masks. At the beginning of the game you're transformed into a deku scrub. Once that curse is lifted you gain a mask that lets to change into one at any time. Later on you gain goron and zora masks with the same magical properties. This gives Link a total of four forms he can take on, each with their own unique traits. Deku Link is weak to deep water and fire, but can hop across water and use flower launchers to fly up and glide along. Goron Link can't handle water but is very strong and isn't that bothered by fire. It's an extended version of the changeable tunics from the previous game. What's amazing is just how much they affect the game. Each form plays out differently from one another and the challenges you face are often built around their use. In addition, as well as having the transformations tied to C buttons items (thus no awkward repeated visits to the subscreens in quick succession) the game tends to space things out well enough so that you're not forced to use too many forms in a given area.
The time system is also changed up. Like OOT, there is a day and night system and time ticks away. Unlike OOT, time is constantly moving unless the game is paused or you are in a scenario that pauses the action in some way and that ticking clock now has a purpose relating to the story. Remember that snippet about the moon smashing the planet in three days? Yeah, that. Fail to do anything about it in three days and you can say goodbye. Of course, saving Termina in three ingame days is asking a bit much, but soon into the game you do gain the ability to revert time back to the beginning of the first day. Doing this undoes a lot of things, like robbing you of any consumable items (but not other items - like you'll lose all your arrows but will keep the bow) and making it so none of the NPCs remember you. The idea is that you use acquired items and opened warp points to gain quick access back to where you were before. This has both a positive and negative effect. On the plus side, it adds an element of pressure where you have to manage time effectively in order to make the most of it. Last thing you want is to be in the middle of a dungeon with time running around, for example. This time system also allows NPCs to have more indepth schedules. Instead of a NPC appearing at a certain spot at a set time every single day, they might only appear there on day one and be somewhere else at the same time on day two. That creates a real sense of immersion OOT simple couldn't manage. On the downside, this ticking clock makes it a little harder to go explore, since events are constantly being reset and you're having to abandon expeditions sometimes to go back in time. This system also has the downside of making rupees even more worthless. Any rupees on you are lost when you go back in time, but you can store them at a bank and retrieve them even once you've gone back. However, any rupees you've collected before will reappear, thus allowing you to rack up thousands of rupees without even trying.
Termina is generally a bit more compact than Hyrule. You start in Clock Town in the middle of everything, which is the only human town in the game but is also bigger and split into several sections. From there Termina Field surrounds it, which uses its space a lot better than Hyrule Field did, and then the game world extends out in four directions to each of the distinct locations where the temples wait. Part of the game's challenge is opening the way to these temples, often by interacting with NPCs, collecting items and working your way along paths to the entrances. Once again, there is a lot to see and do if you take the time to explore. As mentioned, you'll have to manage your time if you want to do this but it's often well worth it.
Once in the temples themselves you can expect a good challenge. Puzzles make a return in the typical Zelda fashion, although now featuring a wider variety that will call upon the special abilities of the forms you can change into. There are also other new takes of puzzle challenges like using a song to create dummy replicas to weight down switches. Even this game's version of the Water Temple is enjoyable, thanks partly to being able to switch in and out of zora form at the press of a button. Thankfully, MM also provides its challenge with the enemies too. Bosses especially will prove difficult and give you a reason to stock up on healing items, but even generic enemies can test your combat skills as you progress.
Sadly, the main quest is a lot shorter than OOT's was. This game features a mere four temples and then a final optional set of dungeon areas before the final boss. Compared to the eight main dungeons and numerous mini dungeons, that's a lot less. MM tries to make up for this with significantly more content in its sidequest side. The Bomber's Notebook - an item you can get early on - plays well into this, documenting twenty potential sidequests and highlighting opportunities to work on them. Not that the game stops at twenty of course. You can take part in a variety of minigames, take part in special challenges around Termina, explore the surrounding environment for goodies and otherwise help NPCs with their troubles. It's just that, while they have increased the amount here, it doesn't quite feel like it's enough to make up for the shorter main quest.
Majora's Mask is an excellent game. Despite reusing assets from OOT, it's ultimately a very different experience and gives us the challenge we need.
This collection also contains a few other bonuses. There is a playable demo of Wind Waker that lets you sample a variety of different scenarios in the game. It's quite indepth for a demo, so if by some chance you are still trying to decide if you want to buy that game, this is a good chance to give it a try. There's also things like a retrospective of the series.
Overall? Yeah, might be worth it depending on which games you want to sample. Ocarina of Time is excellent, although the absence of Master Quest is a shame. Majora's Mask is excellent too. The NES games should, at most, be considered extras and not the primary reason to get the game. As a whole it's been a good experience.
About the author
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