The Legend of Zelda (ゼルダの伝説 Zeruda no Densetsu) is a high fantasy themed action-adventure game series created by Japanese game designers Shigeru Miyamoto, Takashi Tezuka and Eiji Aonuma. It was developed and published by Nintendo, with some portable installments outsourced to Flagship/Capcom, Vanpool, and Grezzo. Its gameplay is a mixture of action, adventure, and puzzle solving. It is one of Nintendo's most important and popular franchises.
The series centers on Link, the playable character. Link is often given the task of rescuing Princess Zelda and Hyrule from Ganondorf, a Gerudo thief who is the primary antagonist of the series. However, other settings and antagonists have appeared throughout the games, with Vaati being a strong secondary antagonist during the lifespan of the Game Boy Advance. The stories commonly involve a relic known as the Triforce, a set of three omnipotent golden triangles. The protagonist in each game is usually not the same incarnation of Link, but a few exceptions do exist.
The Legend of Zelda series consists of 17 official games on all of Nintendo's major consoles, as well as several spin-offs. An American animated series based on the games aired in 1989, and individual manga adaptations which are officially endorsed and commissioned by Nintendo have been produced in Japan since 1997. As of 2011, the series had sold over 67 million copies.
The Legend of Zelda games feature a mixture of puzzles, action, adventure/battle gameplay, exploration, and questing. These elements have remained constant throughout the series, but with refinements and additions featured in each new game. Later games in the series also include stealth gameplay, where the player must avoid enemies while proceeding through a level, as well as racing elements. Although the games can be beaten with a minimal amount of exploration and side quests, the player is frequently rewarded with helpful items or increased abilities for solving puzzles or exploring hidden areas. Some items are consistent and appear many times throughout the series (such as bombs and bomb flowers, which can be used both as weapons and to open blocked or hidden doorways; boomerangs, which can kill or paralyze enemies; keys for locked doors; magic swords, shields, and bows and arrows), while others are unique to a single game. Though the games contain many role-playing elements (Zelda II was also the only one to include an experience system), they emphasize straightforward hack and slash-style combat over the strategic, turn-based or active time combat of games like Final Fantasy. The game's role-playing elements, however, have led to much debate over whether or not the Zelda games should be classified as action role-playing games, a genre on which the series has had a strong influence.
Every game in the main Zelda series has consisted of three principal areas: an overworld in which movement is multidirectional, allowing the player some degree of freedom of action; areas of interaction with other characters (merely caves or hidden rooms in the first game, but expanding to entire towns and cities in subsequent games) in which the player gains special items or advice; and dungeons, areas of labyrinthine layout, usually underground, comprising a wide range of difficult enemies, bosses, and items. Each dungeon usually has one major item inside, which is usually essential for solving many of the puzzles within that dungeon and often plays a crucial role in defeating that dungeon's boss, as well as progressing through the game. In nearly every Zelda game, navigating a dungeon is aided by locating a map, which reveals its layout, and a magic compass, which reveals the location of significant and smaller items such as keys and equipment. In later games, the series also included a special "big key" that would unlock the door to battle the dungeon's boss enemy.
In most Zelda games, the player's life meter is represented as a line of hearts. The life meter is replenished a number of different ways, including picking up hearts left by some defeated enemies, fairies or springs located in specific locations, or using an item such as a potion. Most games feature "heart containers" as the prize for defeating the final boss of a dungeon and "pieces of heart" for completing certain side quests or found in hidden chests; heart containers extend the life meter by one heart, and receiving a varied amount of pieces of heart (On average four pieces) do the same as a heart container. Both will completely replenish your health.
The games pioneered a number of features that were to become industry standards. The original Legend of Zelda was the first console game with a save function that enabled players to stop playing and then resume later. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time introduced a targeting system that simplified 3D combat.
Music and sound Edit
The series' music composer Koji Kondo in 2007
Koji Kondo (who has been described as the "greatest legend in the video game audio industry" because of his work for Nintendo), has composed much of the music for the series, although the last game for which he was solely responsible for the composition of the soundtrack was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Games in The Legend of Zelda series frequently feature in-game musical instruments, particularly in musical puzzles, which are widespread. Often, instruments trigger game events: for example, the recorder in The Legend of Zelda can reveal "secret" areas, as well as 'warp' Link to the Dungeon entrances. This warping with music feature has also been used in A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening. In Ocarina of Time, playing instruments is a core part of the game, the player needing to play the instrument through the use of the game controller to succeed. Ocarina of Time is "[one of the] first contemporary non-dance title[s] to feature music-making as part of its gameplay", using music as a heuristic device and requiring the player to utilise songs to progress in the game—a game mechanic that is also present in Majora's Mask
"The Legend of Zelda Theme" is a recurring piece of music that was created for the first game of the franchise. The composer, Koji Kondo, initially planned to use Maurice Ravel's Boléro as the game's title theme, but was forced to change it when he learned, late into the game's development cycle, that the copyright for Boléro had not expired yet; therefore he wrote a new arrangement of the overworld theme within one day. The "Zelda Theme" has topped ScrewAttack's "Top Ten Videogame Themes Ever" list.
To date, the Legend of Zelda series has avoided using voice actors in speaking roles, relying instead on written dialogue. The producer of Skyward Sword has said that, as Link is entirely mute, having the other characters speak while Link remains silent would be off-putting.