The Legend of Zelda, the 35th anniversary: ​​our best wishes

The Legend of Zelda, the 35th anniversary: ​​our best wishes

The Legend of Zelda, the 35th anniversary

Today The Legend of Zelda turns thirty-five, having been released for the Famicom Disc System on February 21, 1986. There is no right way to write a special about an anniversary, but there is probably a wrong one, and that is to retrace the historical stages of a specific series. We cannot ignore telling the past, but what interests us most today is to tell you how The Legend of Zelda is. And why?

Without fear of contradiction, we can safely write that the golden Nintendo saga is much, much in better shape than it was ten years ago: it is more agile and brilliant at thirty-five than at twenty-five years, she rejuvenated, flew out of the chrysalis that had sewn around herself. In 2011, in fact, The Legend of Zelda was an old lady who remembered past glories, brooding on the splendor of her achieved as a young man; ten years later, she is a prodigious teenager again. After all, it is the same fate that touches Purah, the scientist of Breath of the Wild.

But why did it happen, why was she aged, and why is she rejuvenated now? How did these metamorphoses happen? A few months ago, we attempted to understand the essence of Zelda, meticulously breaking down her main ingredients: action, exploration, puzzles and, a little below, communication with non-player characters.

There was a period, culminating in 2011, in which The Legend of Zelda had ceased to be itself: she had become a precious ring on the pinky of the industry, rather than her own princess . All this in less than fifteen years: from the apex of Ocarina of Time, to the niche of Skyward Sword, which featured a tunnel world, and too segmented advances to compete with the adventurous and immersive inspiration of Skyrim.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: one of the extraordinary panoramas of the game. So Aonuma, who never loved the first The Legend of Zelda, and we talked about at length yesterday, looked around: what had happened? Why did the mirror show an old lady without a crown on her head?

In their obsession with improving Ocarina of Time, the Zelda team had been overtaken left and right by so many companies - in many respects but one. Attention to detail.

The Legend of Zelda, 1986

We cannot avoid talking about the almost mythological birth of The Legend of Zelda, which, according to Miyamoto himself, would be an interactive representation of his childish wandering through the woods of Sonobe, his homeland: walks in which he encountered unexpected surprises, in lakes never seen before, in frightening caves where one had to be brave - yes, brave, not wise or powerful, but brave - to enter . From the beginning, in Miyamoto's mind, The Legend of Zelda was therefore, above all else, exploration, courage and discovery.

This at an ideal level; from a practical point of view, the game was born as a series of dungeons to cross and overcome, with objects to be collected to overcome the most difficult points. Hyrule arrived only later, but it has become the most distinctive feature of the adventure: it is she who dissociates, more than anything else (together with the shot, from the top rather than the side), this game from the same age Super Mario. One free and exploratory, the other linear.

The Legend of Zelda: the home screen. The Legend of Zelda map was drawn straight away. Starting from the center, Miyamoto (left-handed) and Tezuka (right-handed) traced all the dials with pencil, marker and white-out.

As Aonuma claimed in 2014, presenting Breath of the Wild for the first time, this game was already open world. But, exactly like Breath of the Wild in the three-dimensional era, it was certainly not the first. And the action-RPGs, unlike how you sometimes read, already existed; especially on PC. Here, the publication of The Legend of Zelda had a great importance for the industry in general, but for the console market it was even a mammoth event. At the time, and until then, the NES library was full - above all - of linear and purely arcade games. The Legend of Zelda was distracting, engaging, difficult, exploratory, full of hidden objects and paths. In the West, for the first time in the history of the console market, it gave the possibility to save one's progress.

It was the miraculous union of the arcade soul of arcades, and the complex and reasoning spirit of computer RPGs (a genre that, not coincidentally, after The Legend of Zelda would also proliferate on consoles). But all this would not have been enough if, to amalgamate these two characteristics, there had not been a superfine technical realization: on an interactive level, if compared to everything similar that had come before, The Legend of Zelda belonged to a higher category. For fluidity, controls and general cohesion of the work.

The Legend of Zelda: one of the first quadrants, with the Octoroks. If the golden cartridge was not enough to highlight its extraordinary nature (and how many times the writer has rented it for it, and how many times he hated it because he did not know where to go), Miyamoto baptized it by borrowing the name of Francis Scott Fitzgerald's wife ( author, among the most famous works, of "The Great Gatsby" and of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), Zelda Sayre: writer too, even a painter, alas an alcoholic, sadly died in a fire. She is a brilliant, unique woman, a perfect name and a high cultural reference.

The Legend of Zelda should have exhibited its royalty even more blatantly; her dominant musical theme, until a few days before the release, should have been Ravel's Bolero. Nintendo realized late that, to use it, it would have to pay the royalties (still in force at the time); so Koji Kondo went to work and, in just one night, he composed the melody that we all know (this one).

Legend, from A Link to the Past to Ocarina of Time (1991 -1998)

We wrote at the beginning that the worst way to celebrate an anniversary is just to slavishly narrate the events of a series; we immediately contradicted ourselves, in fact, but it was necessary. After all, for such an anniversary, it was essential to remember the birth of the saga: it would have been anyway, but in this case it was really essential, because it is precisely from those concepts there that The Legend of Zelda has recently been reborn.

Now, however, we need to talk about how he has aged. And how a myth is kept alive for thirty-five years, in an industry that undergoes enormous changes every five years.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: the map of the Dark World. The second milestone of the series arrives in 1991, and is called A Link to the Past: directed by Tezuka and produced by Miyamoto, it comes out for Super Nintendo. It is a less difficult game than the previous one, softer and more harmonious, with a less dispersive progression and a more cartoonish aspect, not only thanks to the technological advancement. Dungeons become more elaborate and well-designed, multi-storey, focused on the use of a single tool hidden inside; the map, always open, is split into two parallel realities, magically intersected. A colossal title, introducing what would become the classic Zelda formula. In Eiji Aonuma's parlance, "the convention".

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Link playing his ocarina. A structure that would flourish and explode in the next chapter for home consoles, published in 1998, twelve years after the original: a dream team works there, probably the best team that has ever existed in the entire history of the company. Miyamoto is running the project, and right below him are Tezuka, Koizumi and Aonuma. Together they give life to the first three-dimensional The Legend of Zelda, the legendary Ocarina of Time: it is probably here, in 1998, that the saga is definitively projected into myth. This masterpiece gives depth and substance to its being "Legend": with this title, which even discloses the Z-Targeting (the lock-on), the series once again rewrites the history of the industry, a goal that very few other sagas can to boast.

The structure, therefore, even if taken in three dimensions, is that of A Link to the Past. With a great differentiation: the map is more segmented, no longer totally interconnected, but held together by a large central prairie. Given the possibilities of the time, and given the general magnificence, few pay attention to it. Ocarina of Time is not only an adventure with extraordinary mechanics, but also an immense fantasy world in which to get lost: entering Hyrule Field after the first dungeon, the Deku Tree, opens up in front of Link - and the player - a universe of possibilities, immersed in a day / night cycle never so credible and consistent.

Old age, from The Wind Waker to Skyward Sword (2002-2011)

The Wind Waker (2002) it's not a fundamental The Legend of Zelda like those mentioned so far; but it is however the one that, compared to the direct successors, has more dialogue with the founding DNA of the saga. Compared to the length of the development, just two years, he achieved exceptional results: to reach perfection he would have needed more time, and in structural mechanics he was too conservative, too devoted to Ocarina of Time.

However, The Wind Waker has brought a new engine, which would last, with more or less extensive changes, for ten years. An excellent engine, which perhaps for the first time made The Legend of Zelda pleasant and soft to touch, in terms of controls, almost as much as Super Mario. The quality of the interaction was very high. At the same time it was the last, before Breath of the Wild, to conceptually advance the overworld: a gigantic open world, with few islands, but essentially free to explore. You could go, as in the first chapters, to the wrong place at the wrong time. In that cartoonish world inspired by Greek and Celtic myths, you could get lost in the wonders of the ocean.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: the main artwork of the Wii U remake. Something that cannot be said for the following episodes. The "classic formula" introduced by A Link to the Past was a means to an end: making a huge world explorable, while also making it extraordinary to play. Twilight Princes s, and especially Skyward Sword, have lost sight of that ultimate goal, focusing only on perfecting the structure.

Over the years, the day / night cycle has become almost irrelevant. It was no longer possible to get lost. The Legend of Zelda has never given up on quality, interaction, detail; but, perhaps also due to the technological stasis in which, for various reasons, Nintendo had locked itself up, the series had abandoned some of its key concepts. Skyward Sword had beautiful dungeons and a world full of puzzles, but had almost entirely lost the adventurous curiosity of discovery. While narrating the genesis of Hyrule, and the Supreme Sword, that game was very far from the spirit that had generated the progenitor of the series. At twenty-five, as we said at the beginning, The Legend of Zelda was an old lady who remembered her youth, explaining her origins. Beautifully, but it now seemed more living history than legend.

The Resurrection, Breath of the Wild (2017)

We know how things went. In an obsession with overcoming Ocarina of Time, in order to improve its dungeons and puzzles, Nintendo had lost sight of the focus of the series: which is not in cutting the grass or signs, in lighting a torch, or in ' admire the extraordinary details. Aonuma, as an intelligent person as he is, dictates the coordinates to resurrect: to return to those concepts that made the progenitor great, and bring them into three dimensions.

The Legend of Zelda, at the dawn of thirty, resumes the abandoned path with The Wind Waker: it re-embraces the open world, with an extraordinary poietic enthusiasm. Finally there are the technological possibilities to face an open environment in three dimensions, without, at the same time, giving up the beloved quality of the interaction.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: the panorama from the Plateau. The open world has been the dominant theme of the AAA productions of the past decade; how could the Legend of Zelda be placed in such a context, without condemning it to anonymity? The answer was found, once again, in detail: no longer a purpose, but, as in the beginning, a means to tell an extraordinary adventure in a huge world. The project directors are men born in the 70s and 80s: they are the ones who develop the new engine, and put it at the base of the work. An amazing physics, atmospheric and chemical engine, which supports a game in which trees can be cut, in which if it rains, puddles are generated and you cannot climb rock walls, a game in which metal attracts lightning. A microstructure that illuminates the immensity of Hyrule.

Walking through the pulsating world of Breath of the Wild feels amazing, unlike any other three-dimensional open world I've experienced before. In this way, The Legend of Zelda has taken back the crown. Exploration, interaction, discovery. The same ingredients as the NES episode, thirty years later.

The future

The Hyrule from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel. And here we are: thirty-five years, a saga hailed as in the best of times, and sold like never before. The future of The Legend of Zelda is bright, and we are waiting to know the details: they will arrive this year, unlike - perhaps - the sequel to Breath of the Wild.

We don't want to dampen your enthusiasm, but the impact of the next chapter is very unlikely to be comparable to the major iterations of the series. There is not a single title that has managed to write history (not of the series, but of the entire video game industry) that at the same time has not brought with it a renewed engine.

Who knows how long it will be before we have another Ocarina of Time, or another Breath of the Wild. Growing up with The Legend of Zelda was great; she at twenty-five she was older than her peers, at thirty-five she is younger than her. One of the mysteries of art.

Among other thirty-five, whoever was born in her same year - like the writer - will be, at best, a sprightly seventy-year-old, set off at the sunset of her existence. On the contrary, you will be able to continue to renew yourself, to shape and grow videogames, showing more and more complex and structured Hyrules, other endless prairies on which to get lost listening to the sound of the wind.

In thirty-five years, in 2056, there will be another person who will write, we hope for the saga, an article like this. A person who maybe will play with Neuralink implanted in the cerebral cortex, who will interface with neural stimulations to the adventure, who will be able to see Hyrule without screens and hear its music without speakers, or headphones. That he will even be able to smell, and pick up, the flowers.

There will be a journalist who, in search of inspiration, will read this article, preserved somewhere in a virtual archive of some nerd, and wonder what it was like to wait for The Legend of Zelda when Miyamoto was still alive. Who will wonder if Breath of the Wild, at the time of release, was really as special as it was told.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: Link and Zelda. Why not. This could be the case. Hyrule, like Michael Ende's Fantàsia, is constantly looking for a Hero, a Bastian who will save her from the advance of Nothingness. She has always found him so far. Looking forward to the next anniversary, so ... happy birthday, princess. Indeed, queen.

Powered by Blogger.