Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Let me start off with a list of good things about Case West, just to show that I'm not totally biased.
-Survivors don't need escorting once found and made happy.
-Frank quotes Han Solo during one of the missions.
-It's not on PS3 or PC. You guys should be grateful.
...and that's basically it. Beyond that, all I have is a list of gripes. First and foremost, there is no character selection option. This is one of two deal breakers for me with this game. I don't generally presume to speak for all players, but I think it's safe to say that a lot of us were looking forward to playing Frank West again. In order to be Frank, someone else has to be playing the game, and you have to join them in co-op. That's the only way it's doable. Well, what if I don't want to have to go digging on the internet for a partner? What happens three months from now when nobody is playing this crap anymore? No Frank for anybody, that's what, and it's inexcusable.
The other deal breaker is that I can't import my save file. When you start Case West, you're given a Chuck that, though level 40 out of a maximum of 50, is considerably weaker than he should be. There's no reason I should be forced to play a wussy Chuck. If I can import my Case Zero file into Dead Rising 2, I should be able to import my Dead Rising 2 file into Case West. Don't get me wrong. A default level 40 Chuck isn't a bad idea, but it'd be better served as a backup for people who don't have their own files. Combining that with the first problem, why not allow people to import their Frank if they still have a Dead Rising save, then choose to play as him for extra awesomeness? The lesson here is that you should reward your players for playing your games, not punish them!
Those are the worst bits, but there are several minor issues that aren't complete deal breakers, but still merit being complained about. Firstly, the game is boring. You get about two hours of gameplay and not a lot to explore. Admittedly, you're exploring a pharmaceutical lab/warehouse/den of evil, so there's not going to be much variety, but it still feels like a shallow job of area design. Furthermore, the plot is pointless. Aside from the fact that it assumes the second-best ending of Dead Rising 2 to be canon, it doesn't go anywhere. Frank and Chuck are no better off when the game ends than they were when it started, except now they're more pissed off. I can relate. On top of that, the story is utterly predictable. Evil pharmaceutical company is evil, important person from one of the games is working to bring them down from the inside, the player is the opposite of shocked with the complete lack of twists on this plot. Yawn.
So, that's my list of grievances with Dead Rising 2: Case West. However, don't let it be said that I don't provide a service with this blog. As the game is 800 non-refundable Microsoft Points in price, I'm going to list some things that you can purchase that are more worth the cost.
Ikaruga is a superb upward-scrolling shoot 'em up title with a unique and interesting polarity system. You have white ships and black ships, and your ship can alternate between the colors with the push of a button. When you're white, you absorb white shots and do double damage to black ships, and vice versa. Absorbed shots power up a special attack you can do which launches missiles at the enemies. The polarity system adds a nice dose of strategy and extra playability to a very old genre.
2. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
Pac-Man Championship Edition was a huge hit on its release, adding changing mazes and a timing system to the already well-established Pac-Man formula, and it was a lot of fun to play. DX builds upon that by having ghosts throughout the maze wake up and follow you relentlessly, but stay directly behind you whenever possible, and bombs for when you're completely surrounded. Add that to increasing game speed as you progress and several different maze pattern layouts to choose from and you have a formula for great fun. Game Informer named it their Game of the Month for this month, and, seeing as how their parent company, Gamestop, has nothing to gain from that choice, I feel more inclined to believe it.
3. Avatar clothing
Yeah, that's right. I said it. I'd rather have paid money to dress up my little online paper-doll guy than spend it on Case West.
4. DLC for a game you don't have
Sure, why not? At least if you do that you can't be angry at how bad it ends up being.
Don't bother spending the points at all. Something good will be out sooner than later, and wouldn't you rather have the points for that?
6. Anything else not listed here
In short, Dead Rising 2: Case West is a terrible waste of good points, and whatever you want to do with those points apart from buying this would be a better option.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Do you want to hear what I said again?
The late 1990s were an interesting time to be a gamer. Sega had fallen hard after getting peripheral happy during the so-called "console war," and Sony had grown tired of Nintendo's totalitarian policies and splintered off, launching their Playstation. At the time, I could only get one gaming console as a Christmas gift, and, not knowing anything about the Playstation at the time, I chose the Nintendo 64. Why? The new Zelda was coming out for it, of course! I didn't care that some of the best video games ever made were being released for Sony's console; I just wanted my Zelda fix, and I got it. With what were at the time beautifully rendered graphics, incredible gameplay, and a soundtrack that fit the musical theme of the game very well, I was very happy with this latest entry, and I was not alone. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is viewed by most fans as the best game in the franchise's history. I personally disagree with that assessment, as we'll see later, but I can not deny that it is a wonderful game that is deserving of at least some of the accolades it's received over the years.
The story of Ocarina of Time is rather complex, but I'll do my best to give you the short form. Link is assigned a fairy partner named Navi and charged with collecting three Spiritual Stones to keep them safe from Ganondorf. After he gathers them all, he is given the eponymous Ocarina of Time by a fleeing Princess Zelda and uses it to open the Temple of Time where the Master Sword resides. Unfortunately, taking the Master Sword allows Ganondorf to get into the Sacred Realm, claim the Triforce and take over Hyrule. Also, it puts Link into a coma for seven years.
As an adult, Link must collect six Medallions, representing six sages, almost all of whom are people he met in his childhood. The medallions, along with arrows of light and the Master Sword, give him the strength to stab Ganon(dorf) in the face, thus sealing him in the Sacred Realm
As the first of its kind, Ocarina of Time set the standards that would determine the direction of all 3D Zelda games that followed. You have three slots for items from your inventory, giving you more versatility than any game to that point. In addition, swordplay is drastically improved, allowing stabs, slices, and jumping slashes. This system would be improved upon in future games, but that's another post, and it was more than serviceable for the time.
Another advantage of 3D is that dungeon design got a huge step up. Puzzles became more complex simply because they were allowed to be, and there was a greater sense of immersion. You felt like you were Link to an extent in a way that previous entries just didn't enable. Additionally, the environments were striking. From the interior of a tree to inside a monster's belly to the massive tower where Ganondorf reigns, each environment was and still is unique and fun to explore.
Now for the part where I piss off Zelda fanboys (yes, there are bigger fans out there than me): Ocarina of Time is not perfect. In fact, it is fundamentally flawed in ways that, even in the early days of 3D gaming, are completely inexcusable. Firstly, there is next to no camera control. Ocarina of Time was built on the same engine as Super Mario 64, but the buttons that would have controlled the camera are instead used for item usage. That means that, with the exception of first-person view and locking onto targets, the camera moves on its own if it even bothers to move at all. It tries its best to be useful, but you can still get attacked by enemies you can't see and the lack of free camera movement means you will take unfair hits.
Another flaw that isn't as game-wrecking as the above but is still irritating is that some of the most commonly appearing characters in the game are annoying. You can find complaints about Navi's voice and tendency never to shut up anywhere, so I'll gloss over her in favor of ranting about the character that haunted my nightmares for years: Kaepora Gaebora.
Kaepora Gaebora showed up everywhere you went during childhood, dropped unnecessary and boring exposition, then asked if you wanted to hear the dull garbage he said again. Personally, I didn't, but I was so busy slamming the "A" button trying to shut him up that I would hit yes and have to gloss over it a second time. Additionally, while talking, he would randomly turn his head upside down, which scared the crap out of me.
In spite of those flaws, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is still remembered as one of the best games on the Nintendo 64, not that there was a whole lot of competition. It set the standard for 3D games just as A Link to the Past set the tone for the 2D titles. Unlike A Link to the Past, however, nearly every game to follow in its footsteps would improve upon it somehow. So, that, to me, is the fundamental difference between the two: A Link to the Past held up over the years, while Ocarina of Time did not. That doesn't mean it isn't worth your time. It's widely beloved for several good reasons, and is well worth playing if you somehow haven't.
Next time: Majora's Mask!
Friday, October 15, 2010
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
How in the world could anyone screw up a 2D Castlevania title? Well, make it even more impossibly difficult than normal to start off with, then make it ridiculously easy by the time the game ends. You get five characters to choose from, but only a couple get really good gear options, and you're stuck with nearly nothing at the start, making the first time you play the first level the hardest part of the entire game. Unless you have friends who've already gone through all that.
That's right, Castlevania has gone multiplayer, and in doing so it took all the bad parts of a MMORPG and made them the entire game. You fight endlessly for no reason to collect better gear to make fighting endlessly a little faster. You can have up to five other people helping you play, which was a really nice choice on Konami's part. More players than available characters means that there will be some overlap as to who plays what, and that lack of versatility ultimately hurts the experience. There are supposed to be more characters as downloadable content, but that doesn't help when the releases are slower than a snail covered in molasses.
Somehow, in spite of all that, the game manages to be ridiculously fun. You get a real sense of achievement from actually beating the game, because you've seen your characters crawl up from the dregs of platforming protagonists to be so overpowered Dracula himself just sits there while you stab him in the head fifty times in a second. It's one of those games that shouldn't be good, but somehow manages to be anyway.
Dead Rising 2
The instant classic game of zombie killing mayhem got a sequel, which vastly improves on nearly everything that was wrong with the first. Survivors actually have a level of competence, and will generally push their way through the mindless hordes to keep up with you rather than just sit there crying for their mothers while having their brains eaten. Instead of taking pictures, you get extra experience by playing MacGyver and duct taping things together to make weapons of mass destruction. If the game had come out four years ago, George W. Bush would have invaded it.
Not all is for the better, though. As Chuck Greene, your job is to find out who framed you for the latest outbreak while occasionally being stopped from having fun because your daughter is about to turn into a zombie if she doesn't get her medicine. Come on, really? Who thought it would be a good idea to strap a hero in a sandbox game about killing zombies in various entertaining ways with a morality pet? Yes, it's only four times in the entire game, but that's four too many. And with no true sandbox mode to match up to the first game's infinite mode, you don't have a choice in the matter. Find Zombrex or you can't get a decent ending whatever else you do. Real nice, Capcom. Oh, and while we're on the subject, who decided that the only rewards for achievement whoring would be the occasional bit of clothes? Maybe I liked having fun weapons be a reward, rather than having to discover them at random throughout the game.
One more thing: I hope you aren't playing this game on PS3 or PC, because, if you are, you don't get the advantage of having been able to play Case Zero, and thus getting a Chuck that starts at upwards of level 5. Dead Rising 2 is hard. The game's engine allows for many more zombies to be around at once, and the game makes no bones about rubbing that fact in your face. Yes, there's the restart feature, where you save your levels and money at any time and start the game anew. But that doesn't make it fair to people who don't have access to the prequel, now does it?
Still, Dead Rising 2 is fun. There's something to be said for any game that lets you go completely nuts on an infinite number of enemies in creative ways, and, as such, I do recommend the game for anyone who has a widescreen TV or one large enough to be able to read the text. (Really? Couldn't fix the tiny text issues? Thanks a lot!)
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Link checked the chest. Wow! This is a nice chest!
When The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was released for the Nintendo Game Boy in 1993, pretty much all of us who were even remotely interested in the series all thought exactly the same thing: "Holy crap! Zelda on the go!" In the modern era where everything is either portable or online, this isn't anything special, but at the time it was a very big deal. We, the fans, were not disappointed. Featuring as many dungeons as the first game, a story that has yet to be matched in the series, and some of the finest music the Game Boy ever put out, Link's Awakening stands tall as one of the best games on the system, as well as one of the best games in the Zelda series.
Sometime after the events of A Link to the Past, that game's Link goes on a boating trip. After a storm wrecks Link's boat, he wakes up on Koholint Island, in the care of a girl named Marin. He is then directed by an owl to awaken the sleeping "Wind Fish" in order to leave the island and go home. Along the way, he learns more about the island and its inhabitants, and ends up having to decide between them and his desire to go home. It's actually a very sad, heartwrenching story, as opposed to the usual "here's a sword, go stab Ganon in the face" thing.
In order to awaken the Wind Fish, Link must collect the eight Instruments of the Sirens, and use them to play the Ballad of the Wind Fish, taught to Link by Marin early in the game. To do so, he works his way through eight dungeons, each guarded by your typical Zelda enemies, and even some Mario cameos, and beat each dungeon's boss, called "Nightmares" in this case. There are lots of puzzles, and a lot of items to collect. The game also features a massive trading quest, where you start with a Yoshi Doll and end up with a Magnifying Glass. Unlike a lot of games, where the trading quests are optional and randomly shoehorned in, you must progress in the trading to pass certain points at the game, and the Magnifying Glass is required (unless you use a guide) to get through the final dungeon.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the game is that you don't have to use the sword or shield. Indeed, they are set to the A and B buttons like any other item, a tradition that would continue throughout the Game Boy and GBA games, but not into the DS titles. This allowed for unprecedented combinations of items to be used, including a semi-famous "bomb arrow" glitch, which allowed you to, well, fire bomb arrows by combining the bombs with the bow. The only problem is that there are a lot of items in the game, and you find yourself switching among them far too frequently. It ends up being clunky and somewhat poorly executed, but it's a forgivable flaw, given the versatility you're working with.
Another thing that was poorly executed is the translation. I had thought that, with the masterful work done on A Link to the Past, the days of crappy, almost inexcusable translation errors were long gone. Oh, how wrong I was. Just to name one example, did you know that you can "fillip" (flip) enemies with your shield? Thanks for that tidbit, Koholint Library. I mean, it's not like you can't follow what's going on, but it's distracting and really, really should have had more work put into it. The story of Link's Awakening deserved better.
Shifting gears, one fun little quirk in the game was the shop. With a shovel costing 200 Rupees, and later a bow that cost 910(!) and a maximum capacity of 999 Rupees, you might be persuaded to go for a little five-fingered discount action. Well, you can! You can grab what you want, sneak around behind the shopkeeper, and just meander out like you own the thing you just stole. Of course, this is not without its consequences. From that point on, any instance of your character's name will be replaced by "THIEF," and, if you go back into the shop, the shopkeeper kills you with lightning. Do not pass Go, do not collect 200 dollars indeed. So, it's up to you whether it's worth the thievery.
Though I've been trying to get away from embedding music in these retrospective reviews, I would be completely remiss if I didn't include at least one link to the game's lovely Ballad of the Wind Fish theme. So, here. It's the version Marin sings, and demonstrates perfectly how sad and tear-jerking the game's story and theme really is.
All in all, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a very, very good game. It's not perfect, and it is a step down from A Link to the Past, but, given the differences between their systems, this is both unavoidable and easily forgiven. It's really really hard for me not to look back fondly on this game, and it represents one of the true joys of my game-playing life.
Next time (hopefully sooner than later this time): Ocarina of Time!
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Wins three symbols of virtue.
The Master Sword he will then retrieve,
Keeping the Knight's line true.
This game is a masterpiece. To me, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past distills the essence of everything that is The Legend of Zelda into one glorious package. Two massive worlds to explore, 12 dungeons (more than any Zelda game before or after!), secrets everywhere... this is pure 2D, top-down gaming bliss. I've been trying to write these from a neutral, recapping perspective, but not this time. This is one of my very favorite games ever, and I'm going to tell you why.
The Zelda series has a formula that has been around for a long time now: get a set of somethings, get the Master Sword, get a different set of somethings, beat Ganon, roll credits. Well this is where it started. The Master Sword was introduced in this game, along with the motif that would accompany getting it. The first set of somethings are Pendants of Virtue, representing the three parts of the Triforce. The second are crystals, containing maidens descended from a group of sages that sealed off the long-forgotten "Dark World."
Any Zelda game needs a bunch of items to collect, and this game brought them in spades. We get the first appearances of the Hookshot and empty bottles, iconic items that would pop up over and over again, and the Magic Meter from The Adventure of Link was brought back and used to fuel certain items, like the Lantern or the Ice Rod. Not only that, but some items could be upgraded by dropping them into hidden ponds and being honest about doing it. I'll grant you, not every item was a winner. The Cane of Byrne in particular was a waste of time and the Magic Medallions were pointless except that two (Ether and Quake) were required to enter dungeons, but with all the items the game had to find a few were bound to be pointless.
You may be aware that Sony provided the sound chip for the Super Nintendo, since they were working together in the pre-Playstation era. A Link to the Past put that sucker to work with some incredible music. Since this isn't "Soundtracks worth listening to" I won't be providing the songs directly, but a quick Youtube search will let you hear every example I'm about to give. In fact, here. You can thank me in the comments, if you're so inclined.
Anyway, Koji Kondo got the reins back after the Adventure of Link team was done being different (though I'll admit that AoL had pretty good music too), and he brought some fantastic atmosphere to the soundtrack. The Overworld Theme from the original Legend of Zelda is back with a brass-like quality that makes it suitably adventurous, but that's just the beginning. The Dark World has its own march-like theme, the Lost Woods get a mysterious little tune that shamefully goes away once you collect the Master Sword, and both Light World and Dark World get separate dungeon themes, each bringing their own sensibility to the dungeons of their respective worlds. And all that fails to mention the themes introduced in this game that would reappear later. Kakariko Village's theme, Hyrule Castle, Zelda's Rescue, Faerie Fountain... the list goes... no, that would seem to be all of them, Four Swords Adventures notwithstanding.
Visually, the game is a step up from the first two games, but that's no surprise. We're talking about a 16-bit game versus 8-bit games. (What do "bits" even mean in that context? I've always wanted to know.) Anyway, the Light World is all bright and colorful, with a lot of green, while the Dark World is primarily tans and purples. It provides a decent contrast that creates a sense of how different they are. Meanwhile, quick technical note, the game actually uses the same map base for both, but drops in the pallette and the differences in location based on which world you're in, which is a neat trick that saved space on the SNES cart and made room for more dungeons.
The dungeons themselves were a blast to explore. Multiple levels, lots of rooms, and each had its own little design motif that set it apart from the rest. There's a desert level, a water level, an ice level, a lava level... okay, those are all standard. But this was 1992! They weren't standard then! Meanwhile, the bosses were different, and represent some of the more unique bosses in the series, like the thief who hates bright light or the six giant knight statues that come to life and jump on you. They were weird, but they were lots of fun.
All in all, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past stands tall among this wonderful series of games, being the standard-bearer of the 2D series. I really enjoyed letting out my inner fanboy a bit and just raving about how wonderful the game is rather than trying to be fair and at least maintain an air of neutrality. Having said that, if this one is the one I consider the best, then that means it can only go down from here, and I've got about a dozen games to go. Oh boy...
Next time: Link's Awakening!
Sunday, July 25, 2010
If all else fails use fire.
The Legend of Zelda was a critical and financial success; in fact it was the first NES game to sell over one million copies. This made a sequel inevitable, obviously, but Nintendo had been burned with sequels once. Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan was difficult, unrewarding and, as anyone who makes any sort of claim to being a gaming expert will tell you, didn't even get ported to the US at first (we got a reworking of the lesser known Doki Doki Panic instead). In any case, Nintendo, possibly trying to avoid making the same mistakes they'd made with Mario, chose a different team to work on the second Zelda entry, and it shows.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link stands out as the "black sheep" of the Zelda franchise, featuring drastically different gameplay from both the original game and the ones to follow. In fact, the game's mechanics are more reminiscent of a game in the Castlevania series, with an emphasis on side-scrolling platforming. This change in style really didn't go over well with the fans, who were expecting more top-down dungeon crawling. Of course, the game has its defenders, who consider it an underrated gem of classic gaming that needs to have more attention paid to it. So, let's pay attention and find out which of them, if either, is right.
Zelda II tells the story of Link several years after the events of the first game. Ganon (spelled right this time!) is dead, but Link has found a mark on the back of his left hand. He's told of the third part of the Triforce (the one representing Courage), which lies in the Grand Palace. If he places crystals in six other palaces, he can enter the Grand Palace, collect the Triforce of Courage, and awaken an ancestor of Princess Zelda, also named Princess Zelda, who has been cursed into suspended animation. As I write that out, I realize that games of old didn't need to make a lot of sense, as long as they were fun. Whether Zelda II was fun or not is a matter of some debate, but it did have its good and bad qualities.
Looking first at the good, the overworld in Zelda II is huge. Stretching across two continents and a couple smaller islands, the kingdom of Hyrule is shown here in one of its most massive forms. In fact, it's implied that the original game's overworld occupies a small portion at the bottom of the first continent. Now that is a big world. And with a mass of caves, secrets hidden in forests, eight towns and seven dungeons, there is a lot to see and do.
Speaking of towns, the eight towns are home to some interesting NPCs. Though not quite a first for the Zelda series, it was the first time the NPCs did more than sit around in a cave waiting for Link to walk by. In the town of Ruto, for example, a lady wants you to find a stolen trophy and retrieve it. A fetch quest, yay... Admittedly, the use of NPCs would improve as the series went on, but you have to start somewhere. The name Ruto, by the way, will be very familiar to long-time fans of the series. In fact, here is a list of the town names in this game: Rauru, Ruto, Saria, Mido, Nabooru, Darunia, and Old and "Hidden" Kasuto. Except for Kasuto, all those names will pop up again in The Ocarina of Time, but that's another post.
Finally, the gameplay. First, this is the game that introduced the Magic Meter to the series. We'll see it again later, but, in this game, you can level it up with experience points (EXP), along with your life and the power of your sword. Also, this is the only Zelda game that has random encounters. That's right, kids: RPG elements. The overworld is viewed top-down, like classic Zelda, but encounters, towns, palaces, etc. are all displayed in 2-D. Link can walk, jump, attack with his sword, and cast spells, and his shield will automatically defend some attacks when Link isn't attacking. It's a simple, fairly elegant system that is still very much playable today.
Well, except for its flaws, of course. To start with a summary of them, Zelda II is hard. I don't mean "ooh, a challenge. Let's go have fun." In the days of the NES, most good games were difficult, as a carry over from arcade games which had to be difficult so you'd keep pumping quarters into the machine. Even compared to that level of difficulty, though, Zelda II stands apart. There are a couple of very good reasons for this difficulty, and I'll admit that both are pet peeves of mine.
One of the biggest things in platforming when you can take multiple hits is mercy invincibility. You take a hit, you flash for a second or two, and you don't take hits while you flash. This is a necessarily balancing tool to make sure the thing that hit you doesn't score a cheap kill. In Zelda II, you do get mercy invincibility, but you also get knocked backwards. This nearly defeats the purpose of the mercy invincibility, since now the baddie can chase you down and keep hitting you if the invincibility goes away. More importantly, Zelda II is a platformer, which implies platforms and pits. If you take a hit and get knocked back into a pit, you die. Of course, in this game you get three lives, but still. Extra lives are very very rare and don't replenish when you get a game over, so they're not worth collecting until the end of the game. And cheap kills like being knocked back into a pit don't make the game more fun.
Remember those RPG elements from a few paragraphs ago? Well, here's the thing. As is to be expected, you need a certain amount of EXP to level things up, and that amount varies based on what you're trying to level up as well as that thing's current level. This is all well and good, but, when you get a game over, any EXP you've earned that hasn't been applied to a level is lost. When you've got a system whereby you collect points to earn something, those points shouldn't necessarily be reset when you die. Resetting them adds unnecessary grinding to a game that, in this case, already hits you left and right with cheap kills in addition to the danger posed by the enemies themselves.
So, we've got a game that has its fun elements and its impossibly frustrating elements. It's really no wonder that fan opinion is so divided over how good the game is. For my part, I enjoy what's good about it and I dislike what's bad as opposed to having a strong opinion about the game as a whole. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I've never beaten it, and, though I wanted to for this write-up, a combination of the above issues and a very unfriendly control setup on the Zelda Collector's Edition for Gamecube left me unable to do so. One day, though, I will beat it. Captain Ahab will most definitely be getting revenge on his white whale.
Next time: A Link to the Past!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Master using it and you can have this.
Wow. Looking at that title screen, I just realized: 2011 is Zelda's 25th anniversary. I hope Nintendo does something cool to celebrate.
Anyway, replaying the original game showed me how much it has aged and also how breakable it is. On the one hand, it's still very playable and a great deal of fun. On the other hand, it looks and sounds like... well, an early NES title, and a little foreknowledge can go a long way. I managed to get the Blue Ring, White Sword, three extra hearts, a Magical Shield, Arrows before the Bow, a Blue Candle, a Red Potion, a Power Bracelet, and a full stack of bombs... all before the first dungeon. All that stuff makes the early game a whole lot easier.
To be fair to the original, seeing a game with this kind of freeform exploration was huge at the time. People talk about open worlds and sandbox style games, and really The Legend of Zelda is the progenitor of that style of game. You're dropped in front of a cave and told nothing about where to go or what to do, and all you have is a tiny shield. Okay, if you watch the opening demo, you find out that there's a Triforce of Wisdom and it's been broken into eight pieces, and it's your job to find them. Then, you get to beat someone called "Gannon" (only time he's ever called that, end even the manual calls him Ganon instead) in order to save the eponymous Zelda. But there's no tutorial, no NPCs holding your hand and telling you where to go, none of that. You're on your own. More games today need to let the player wander.
Okay, sure, if you look around, you'll find NPCs that drop hints, but this is 1986, and the translations were... well, limited, to say the least. "Eastmost penninsula [sic] is the secret." "Dodongo dislikes smoke." "Patra has the map." (which Patra? And did the manual tell you what Patra is?) But that's the charm of an old game. Half the fun is translating what sounds like crazy ramblings into advice you can actually use.
There were quite a few series traditions started in this game, as would be expected from the first entry. Link getting upgrades in the form of blue and red clothing (in this game given as rings), multiple swords that you have to earn through play, even the collection of things to open the final dungeon all started in this game. Most of the enemies would be reused over and over again, most notably Octoroks, Moblins, Wizzrobes, and Like-Likes. To an extent, the tradition of the dungeon boss having a weakness to the item given in the stage also began with this game, with Aquamentus being killed quickly with the bow, Digdogger being weakened by the magic recorder, and Dodongo famously disliking smoke, in the form of bombs, which are dropped by the enemies right outside the boss room (though you can admittedly get them anywhere).
The only complaints I have about the game are the inconsistent difficulty (level 7 is easier than level 6, for example), the ease of sequence breaking (due to the open world element), and the limit in terms of money. You're given a maximum of 255 Rupees in this game, probably due to programming limitations, and you will fill that maximum at least once. Even with all the money sinks incorporated into the game, it's still too easy to get Rupees, which you'll find in a lot of games in the series, as we'll see in future parts. It's still a flaw in the game, but not a crippling one.
No look at the original Legend of Zelda would be complete without mentioning the music. Koji Kondo is best known in the gaming world for two things: Mario's music and Zelda's music. This game introduced the famous Overworld theme that gamers everywhere recognize pretty much instantly. If nothing else, the first game is worthwhile for that contribution alone. On the off-chance someone doesn't recognize it, here:
Next time: The Adventure of Link!