Sunday, February 21, 2016

Replaying The Legend of Zelda on the 3DS

Happy 30th Anniversary, The Legend of Zelda!!!

To celebrate I played through the entire game again on my Nintendo 3DS. And for the first time ever I completed the game without dying:

Saving in the game also counts as a Game Over, so I never attempted this in the past, because I don't like to play this game in one sitting. While it is as short as Link's Awakening, it's also a lot harder and I like to take pauses here and there. Now, on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console you have both Return and Restore Points to help you out, so there was no excuse of not trying a deathless run for the first time.

In addition I also wanted it to be a thorough and complete 100% run. Leave no stone unturned. The goals for such a 100% run were the following:

  • Get all items and upgrades (duh)
  • Get full 16 Heart Containers
  • Open every cave on the overworld
  • Get map and compass in every dungeon
  • Explore every dungeon room to complete the Start menu map
  • Clear every dungeon room with rewards (Keys, Rupees, Bombs)

It's quite the task and I did, however, use solution maps pretty much the entire time, as I've already talked about with the Zelda Randomizer. This saved me the frustration of checking every tree and wall, but it also took away part of the challenge and exploration. I still have a blank copy of the game on my Wii U Virtual Console and I've decided for the next time, where I play through this game, that I will do it without any maps. But then I will most likely settle for getting all the important items and upgrades, instead of doing a thorough 100% run again

It's not that rewarding anyway, since you don't get to keep your savegames. It will always go to the beginning of the 2nd Quest, as soon as you beat the game. Your only option is stopping right before Zelda, if you want to keep your savegame as it is...

With later Zelda games I enjoy having a 100% savegame around. You can return there, if you want to travel through the game world, try out all the things, replay minigames and so on. It's a nice thing to have and to show off. With NES Zelda games on the other hand there's nothing much to do in a completed savegame. But they make up for it by having immense replay value.

And I enjoyed playing through The Legend of Zelda a lot! I'm not only saying this, because it is its birthday. I'm not too fond of most NES games, but this one I've always liked. I originally played it on the NES back in 1999 and at the time I was fascinated by what gameplay elements, items and enemies already existed in the first game. Before that I only knew the game from Club Nintendo magazine articles... So, there's some nostalgia involved, but I also feel like it has the right level of challenge without ever becoming too frustrating, unlike Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. (I would never attempt a deathless run in that game. I even calculate exactly, how far I can get with my three lives and what I can achieve before the inevitable "Game Over - Return of Ganon" screen.)

Anyway, while replaying I've also noticed some things that I want to return in Zelda. One is the boss breath - whenever you're next to the boss chamber, it makes that heavy breathing sound. It's atmospheric and something that didn't return in any later Zelda game. It's also just a part of a bigger picture, where the dungeons are mazes and not constructed step by step puzzle chores. The puzzle was getting to the boss, especially in the 2nd Quest, where the path to the boss could be very well hidden. And without a compass the boss breath was a nice indicator that you're getting close to your goal.

Another thing are interchangeable keys. Starting with A Link to the Past keys became only usable in the dungeons, where you found them. But in the NES classics you have this interesting mechanic, where you can just take a key from one dungeon and use it in another. This can be useful to retrieve a dungeon item earlier. It lets you explore more difficult dungeons for a bit without the need to fight strong enemies for keys. You could even buy keys, if you want some paid shortcuts, though I never did this. However, it's something I would like to see Nintendo try again in a future Zelda game... Maybe even Zelda U might be doing this...

What Zelda U might also do again, is using powerful enemies as obstacles instead of artificial obstacles, where you need an item to progress. With the exception of two islands the entire overworld in The Legend of Zelda can be explored right from the start. There are some shortcuts, which are created by the Power Bracelet and the Ladder, but overall there are no real boundaries. Still, you get a good feeling for where you belong early on, because areas like Death Mountain are so difficult that your chances of survival are very low, unless you're really good at the game. It would be interesting to see Zelda U do something similar. The further you go, the more often you get hunted down by mighty creatures...

Also, sword beams are essential in this game, not just a nice bonus of a stronger sword. You can shoot beams with every sword in the game at full health and the beams will deal the same damage as your sword and not just the minimum. Without the distance attacks the game becomes a lot more difficult, since your sword has short reach and it's easy to get hit by the enemies, especially the devastating Darknuts. Sword beams make fighting so much easier, which is why you want to keep full health as long as possible.

In the remaining post I will talk about my approach on a deathless run. It's not rocket science, since it's not a swordless run or any similar challenge, but mainly with the 2nd Quest I felt it would be interesting to take note of my steps.

1st Quest

Well, this is rather trivial, so I would cut things short. Right in the start of the game you can already become very powerful. Before you enter Level 1 or any other dungeon, you can find three more Heart Containers, get the White Sword, get the Letter, buy Medicine, buy the Blue Candle, the Blue Ring, the Magical Shield, the Arrow and more.

All these items already turn you into quite the powerful force. I then just went for the dungeons in their intended order. Nothing too special here.

2nd Quest

Now, the 2nd Quest is a little bit more interesting. You can't just go and grab three Heart Containers plus the White Sword right away, since most Heart Containers require some item to get them. The only Heart Container that is free to get lies on the graveyard, but good luck with getting there alive. And the dungeons are a lot tougher than in the 1st Quest, so you want to be prepared as much as possible.

Keep in mind that this was supposed to be a deathless run. So, I couldn't just storm in somewhere, go for the desired item, save the game (or get killed) and repeat. I also had to return alive! You always have to plan your next steps.

One essential strategy in the 2nd Quest is "item scooping". Instead of going through the entire dungeon at once, you only go for its main item and then return later, after you've become more powerful. This works well, because many of the dungeons in the 2nd Quest offer their item very early on, sometimes even in the first few rooms. As soon as you've collected enough items, you can start actually beating the dungeon.

In the beginning there isn't much that you can do:

  • buy Blue Candle
  • collect 100 Rupees in the west forest
  • buy Magical Shield
  • get Boomerang in Level 1
  • collect and grind Rupees for Blue Ring
  • buy Blue Ring
  • complete Level 1 (+1 Heart Container)

The Boomerang in Level 1 is in the room right next to the entrance, so it's easy enough to get and it helps you with grinding Rupees and Bombs in the woods, because you can stun the Moblins. As soon as you got Bombs and the Blue Ring, you can complete the rest of Level 1 and collect your first additional Heart Container. The following step in Level 2 is probably one of the more difficult ones and you certainly want all the health for that:

  • get Flute in Level 2
  • collect Heart Container from desert
  • buy Arrow
  • collect White Sword
  • buy Food
  • get Magical Boomerang in Level 3
  • complete Level 3 (+1 Heart Container)

The 2nd Quest's Level 3 is one of the easier dungeons in the entire game, so this is the next dungeon for completion. You have to beat some Triple Dodongos to score, but with some practice they are not too bad and you want that Heart Container, because the next steps bring you on dangerous Death Mountain grounds...

  • cross the Lost Woods (never had to do this in 1st Quest)
  • collect Heart Container at Graveyard
  • get Power Bracelet
  • collect Heart Container near Spectacle Rock
  • get the Letter
  • teleport to safety
  • buy Medicine

This is the turn point. Getting the Letter in the 2nd Quest is like getting the Hammer in Zelda II. Suddenly the world feels open to you and you have many more options, because the big increase in health lets you travel a lot further and even face some more dangers. And as I've already said, many of the dungeons in the 2nd Quest offer their item very early on, which is why I just go in the dungeon, get the item, leave the dungeon and focus on something else, while using the advantages of the new item. So, these are the next steps:

  • get Stepladder from Level 6
  • collect Heart Container at East Coast
  • get Magical Rod from Level 8
  • complete Level 2 (+1 Heart Container)
  • get Book of Magic in Level 4
  • collect Bomb upgrade in Level 4
  • beat Level 4 boss (+1 Heart Container)
  • get the Raft in Level 4

The Raft part is a little bit tricky. If you don't have enough bombs left before Digdogger, you can't get to the Raft, since the Dodongos will block your way. But the dungeon also traps you in its upper half and since I couldn't kill myself to get out of there, I had no choice but to fight Digdogger. And if you return there later to get the raft, you can't simply use the Triforce to warp yourself out. But there is a one-way walkthrough wall in the Triforce room, which puts you back in the 1st half, but you also have to survive a room full of Blue Darknuts to get out... yikes.

  • get Heart Container on island
  • get Magical Sword
  • get Red Candle in Level 7

I also wanted to beat Level 7 at this point, but there's a Gohma in the way, so you need to play Level 5 first. Also, Blue Darknuts are not my friends, even though they are easier to deal with the Magical Sword. But it's best to have some more bombs ready. And both Level 5 and Level 6 have a Wizzrobe infestation problem, which can be deadly as well, though I personally hate (Blue) Darknuts the most.

Level 8 on the other hand mostly has Goriyas, which are the easiest to deal with of all these candidates. This dungeon still used to be challenging with its Triple Dodongos and the evil rooms filled with only Red Bubbles to take your sword away until you touch a Blue Bubble in some other room, but Restore Points really make that tolerable. In addition it has some more useful upgrades to get. And this is why I played Level 8 next and my remaining course looked like this:

  • get the Magic Key in Level 8
  • collect the Bomb Upgrade in Level 8
  • complete Level 8 (+1 Heart Container)
  • get the Bow in Level 5
  • complete Level 5 (+1 Heart Container)
  • complete Level 6 (+1 Heart Container)
  • complete Level 7 (+1 Heart Container)
  • complete Level 9

In any case this felt like the right order. Level 8 was certainly the easiest out of the remaining dungeons and Level 7 the hardest. But it's interesting, how the Bow ended up to be one of the last items that I got during my run, while in the 1st Quest you get the Bow quite early on in Level 1.

But this is it. Happy 30th Anniversary, everyone!! I can only suggest to play this game today.


Eren Jaeger said...

Nothing made me feel as defeated when I was 7 then completing The Eagle, going up the hill where the White Sword's cave is located, and getting utterly destroyed as the Lynel. Zelda, you cruel, cruel mistress.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

I played this game countless times. I've pretty much memorized both overworlds, the dungeons and every single secret shop location.

However, in terms of achieving 100%, are you opening the unwanted tenants and paying for the door repair fee? In my view, that ought to be avoided. I know where every one of them is located, and I get to save some rupees as well as protecting their foundations. I wouldn't want some adventurer blowing up my home's doorway.

I wish I'd memorized the maps for the Oracle games as well as I did this one. I still stumble upon the door repair fee guys on the Gameboy Color games.

TourianTourist said...

Well, you can still open them, you just don't have to enter.