Review by Ashande

"It's like being 6 again, only portable! ;)"

A beginning note: the scores I'm listing for this game are graded by mid-80s standards. It wouldn't be horribly fair to compare LoZ to the graphics in Golden Sun, for example, since no touch up work has been done to them, so I'm going to rate it in comparison to its peers, if that's alright with everybody. :)

Anyway, as I'm sure most of you know, Nintendo has done a beautiful thing for those of us who miss having an NES that works; rereleased a lot of classic games for the GBA, untouched, and with a nice $19.99 price tag (which isn't really that bad, when you consider some places are still asking for $30 for some of these games on the original NES cartridges).

Now, for the one piece of bad news: They changed the manuals. I was hoping to get a nifty retro-looking manual, complete with the obscure clues written on the bottom of each page and the cutesy full-color graphics, or perhaps the ever-so-odd map that wasn't much good for anything but was still neat to have; alas, no such luck. The manual that comes with GBA LoZ does have most of the text from those little "hint bars," and has most of the images, but they're black and white and things have been rearranged. Oh well. It can't all be perfect. (And also, in case you were wondering, no, the cartridge is not gold-plated. Bad Nintendo! ;) )

Anyway, on with the review!

Story -
Well, if you've ever seen a Zelda game, you know how the story goes. "Find the 7 (or 8!) pieces of X, save Zelda, kill Gannon (or subservient being that intends to resurrect Gannon, and most often succeeds, leading to the super sekrit boss fight!)" So, this is really nothing new. But as noted, I'm comparing this to games back in the day, in which case it shines out as being one of the few games that actually had a story. :)

The story is simple: Link, a young lad who apparently likes to wander around in Moblin infested woods for no good reason, stumbles upon Impa, the handmaiden of the Princess. She's hurt, so of course Link stops to help her, at which point he hears the sad tale: Princess Zelda was trying to stop the evil sorcerer Gannon from gathering all the pieces of the Triforce - which would allow him absolute power - so Gannon decides to eliminate the middleman and kidnap the Princess. Impa, of course, asks Link to go find the hidden pieces, kick Gannon's bootay, and save the Princess.

Most of this gets explained if you leave the game on the title screen for a moment and watch the short but sweet story explanation that pops up; the rest is from the manual.

Also, in a great change from other games of it's day, people occasionally actually talk to Link! Of course, they're horrible with grammar, but at least "Let's play money making game" and "If you can use it, take this" provide a bit more depth than "Sorry, but our Princess is in another castle!" repeated ad nauseum, and I'm sure people get at least one laugh out of the old man the first time he fines them for burning his "roof." :)

Overall Score: 8. It's simple, it's kinda goofy, and it's nowhere near as involved as they are today, but it was damn good for its time.

Graphics -
The graphics in LoZ are great; the only mild ding to the GBA edition is that, in order to fit the different screen ratio, things occasionally look a little "stretched;" you get over this gripe quickly, and get to flailing on the Oktoroks. The detail is remarkably good - Link has eyes, a mouth, and you can tell he's wearing layered clothes! - and the coloring is perfect. What's fun to note, years later, is that the monsters in Zelda games still follow the look of them here; if you've never played the original, you can still identify 90% of the monsters from their looks in the newer games. That says a lot, to me.

The item graphics are good, and actually look like what they're supposed to; there'll be very little confusion on what exactly you just picked up, with the exception of the Flute, which you might at first think is a yellow stick of some sort.

The locations also look good, and the use of vibrant yellows, blues, greens and whites on much of the overworld contrasts well with the panoply of greens and dark blues in the dungeons; it actually works well to enhance the mood of the game, when you're doing a dungeon crawl.

Only one minor complaint about the graphics, and given the limited palette the NES had to work with, I can't even complain all that much about it; when you get the Red or Blue Rings, a lot more than just Link's overshirt turns Red or Blue. Some items gain a weird cast to them and Link's eyes change, as well. But you can write it off as being a technical issue that couldn't be resolved, or as a freakish plot element - oh no, Link's possessed! I knew the Red Ring was cursed! - as you like.

Final Rating: 10. It still looks damn good. There's some modern GBA games that don't bother to pay attention to little details like characters having mouths, after all.

Sound -
After the regular GBA "DING!" noise, you'll immediately know you're playing Zelda. The theme starts up with the distinctive flute melody, then moves on into a heavy-percussion beat that sounds almost tribal. Again with the overdose of nostalgia... ;)

All the music is decent, and fitting to the parts it plays in, though there's only about 4 songs total. Thankfully, you probably will be alternating a lot, so you won't have much time to get tired of them, and they are rather catchy anyway; great quality music, that doesn't get in the way of the game. Again, a lot of the newer Zelda games use tunes that were pioneered here, and Nintendo is smart enough not to remix them or mess them up too badly; they remain true to the original, and hearing them here proves why. They're just good songs.

Among the sound effects, they serve their purpose; the "wet" "Poo!" noise Link makes when hit, the haunting flute song, even the "secret" noise that lives on even up to Four Swords on GC; it's all here, and it all sounds great. And of course, the ever-so-popular "Fwoosh!" noise the sword makes when you throw it; that's a sound one has to hear to believe, and instantly throws me into renditions of "Memories."

One minor complaint on the sound, though; whoever designed the high-pitched trilling sound that accompanies being healed by fairies or drinking the Water of Life, obviously never got dropped down to half a heart left out of 16. It goes on and on, taking probably 7-8 seconds (but seeming much longer), while it fills up each Heart individually, then goes on a second or two longer for good measure. When it's done, you'll want to tear your eyes out. A word to the wise: Mute the GBA before using Water or going to see the Fairy. And DEFINITELY don't do that with earphones in and the volume all the way up, unless you desire to be deaf.

Overall Rating: 8. The music is excellent, the sound effects good, but it suffers compared to the original since it has to go through a tiny little speaker, and the "healing" noise is still annoyance worthy.

Gameplay -
What can I say? It's here, baby. It's here. Zelda is very easy to just pick up and go with it. Link reacts quickly to your commands, and generally goes where you want him to. The variety of monsters and the tactics you need to beat them prevents it from becoming a "Mash the A button until everything's dead, next screen" marathon.

One thing Nintendo did change in this addition is the save screen; while still requiring a less-than-intuitive set of button presses to bring up the menu (and a misprint in the manual regarding one of the other menus), pushing Up and Select is a lot better than having to press buttons on both control pads at once, as it was back on the NES. And the manual at least mentions how to do it, correctly, on a later page.

Overall Rating: 10. Easy to get into, easy to play, variety to keep you from getting bored.

Replayability -
Well, if the first quest wasn't quite long and exciting enough for you, Nintendo decided to give you the chance to play through a second time, but moved everything around on you. Hah! Hope you kept that Nintendo Power #1; you might need it. Seriously, though, once Gannon's been defeated, there's plenty of reason (8 whole new dungeons worth of reasons, as a matter of fact) to go through one more time. (For a free tip, if you want to skip the preliminaries and go straight to the Second Quest, enter "Zelda" as your name on the Registration screen.)

Other than the Second Quest, though, the game doesn't have much to offer in the way of replayability and secrets. There's a few things you may have missed - the Rings, the Magic Key, and extra Bomb capacity come to mind - but not really enough to warrant a whole other playthrough, if you've already beaten both quests. What Zelda does offer for replayability though, are the self-made challenges. Can you get to Gannon without a sword? Beat the game without dying once (both quests)? No bombs (Except on Dodongo, who requires them)? No Magic Shield? No extra Hearts? Lots of little challenges (there's quite a few posted on the Boards around here, as well as tips for managing them) add up to a drive to do better, if you're that kind of personality, so Zelda isn't overly bad in this department.

Overall Rating: 6. Once the Second Quest is over, there's nothing in the game itself to replay for, but self challenging restrictions put on item usage and such can stretch out the fun a little while longer.

Final -
Overall, like the title of this review says, it's like being 6 again. From the moment you put the game in to the time you best Gannon the second time, you'll be having a blast, if you remember the old days of the NES. If you aren't one of the original gamers, there's still plenty of value here, since it's a simple, fun, reasonably priced game that shows where much of the gameplay of today's Zelda's comes from.

All in all, it's easily worth the $20 bucks, and everyone should run out and buy it. ;) This is a game that shouldn't be "a secret to everybody." :)

Final Score: 9/10. Dropped a bit from annoying sound effect (healing), the misprint in the manual, and the lack of retro-style manual and map, but otherwise flawless.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/26/04

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