I don't need much of a preface, do I? I've a kickin' graveyard sword, a lovely lilac tunic and a completed Triforce in my pocket. I don't think anything's stopping me from marching right up to the final dungeon and kicking Ganon's patoot. Let's get going!
The old man's not blocking my way, so... I guess I'm free to enter, huh?
... I admit I was hoping Ganon would just be behind this door, but that'd hardly be fair. I've still a whole extra dungeon to go through.
WIZROBES!! Can't stand 'em! And I'm not awarded anything for defeating them! Why did I bother coming in?!
Three rooms of those bozos and I've had to chug the last of my potion. That's not a good sign.
Haha, oh dear. Long, winding, narrow paths with Likelikes in the way. This is going to be fun to go through again and again every time I die.
Wah, a new enemy! It's some sort of cycloptic bug with smaller circling bugs acting as its shield! Those bugs have near full-screen range when they fly outwards, and I can't find a way to get past them! I managed to defeat one with a sword slash or two, but my wand does naught and they're clobbering me something fierce.
Aaaaand I'm dead. Good start, good start.
Well, first of all, let's get that potion back and hit the fairy fountain for a top-up. Kind of a bummer they're not an automated part of selecting Continue, but them's the breaks.
I'm thinking his time I'll go left-- NOT MORE GOSHDANGED WIZROBES
... and it leads me back to this chamber where I first got bodied by Wizrobes. Well, curiosity satisfied, I guess.
The big problem is having to squeeze through that corridor of roving Wizrobes. Surely there's gotta be more bomb-able walls around here, right? I mean, that's my takeaway from the last dungeon, just bomb every dang thing until the ceiling caves in on top of me.
... it doesn't look like there's any here. Well, guess I have to accept my inevitable beating and waste another potion!
Aha, here's a passage!
... and now I have a key problem. Well, I've got four of them on me. That'll be enough, surely?
... or there'll be a locked door in every new room I enter. Well, crumbs, this could get hairy.
Welp, I spent my last key to find a disco hall for blobs and Likelikes. This shit's growing whiskers. I've 11 bombs, though, so they might be a good enough substitute.
I tried to give that bug another bash, but I can't seem to hurt it at all. Bombs do nothing, my sword slashes zilch, and it's not even fazed by the recorder. What a toughie!
Every new room I find has plenty of enemies to kill, but doing so only rewards me in rupees. I've long lost the need for money, man, what I need is keys! Stacks and stacks of keys! Or a bulldozer, whatever works!
And even when I find a new passage with a bomb, it comes across as startlingly useless.
Especially when they lead to what I always wanted: MORE WIZROBES!!!
And what do I get for defeating them? A compass! The most helpful of all items!
I'm down to two bombs and I think I'm out of rooms with viable secrets to uncover. Now what do I do?
I think it's that time again, folks - I've got to scrounge up enough money to buy a key, like a goddamned sucker.
god I hate doing this. god I hate doing this. god I hate doing this.
Now totally penniless and with a fresh new key jangling on my belt, I have to ask the dreaded question: what door shall I open?
Well, before I can even find the locked doors first I'm gonna have to sneak past these Likelikes and Wizrobes again. I'm running out of sarcastic responses to clearly loathsome situations!
Ugh, I haven't even entered the passage to the main dungeon yet and I've lost half my health. This sucks.
Maybe I can pull a risky move and unlock the door behind this deadly bug?
Restarting this dungeon with only three hearts is the absolute pits. Trying to wriggle past these Wizrobes when one touch of their wrinkled old hands would spell my death had me close to sweating. Not quite sweating bullets or shitting bricks, but there could be time for that in future.
Ah, this conspicuous chamber of black blobs looks like an ideal place to hide a really important door!
... or it'll lead to a fucking dead end.
And there's not even anything to be found after you defeat all the enemies.
God, I'm the biggest freakin' dope. 100 rupees down the chute!
Time to rob a lonely old man of his money to fund my ridiculous key addiction, because gosh dang has this game suddenly gotten stupid! Who builds a dungeon with locked doors in every room?! How are the baddies meant to commute!?
Doing this routine through the Wizrobes again!!!!!
See this bug guy? Screw this bug guy. I really want to know what's so important behind this door that he's guarding it so ferociously.
An old man telling me to knock the wall down. I am so glad I had bombs on-hand, because boy it'd suck if I didn't!
Aha! Beating another batch of Wizrobes reveals a staircase to a new part of the dungeon...
... which has three locked doors to contend with. Oh man. Oh jeez. I didn't ask for this.
Well, judging by the map, I can at least rule out some options. I bet going down will just be a dead end, since it's right on the border. Going up might lead somewhere, but not far without a roadblock, I imagine. Going left... well, who's to say? Let's go up.
My heart skipped a beat. I thought this was another dead end. I beat the enemies and it gave me nothing, and those fireball-spewing statues couldn't be budged. Good thing there was a bomb-able wall to the north!
... with a dead end behind it. Well, I've one bomb left, here's hoping it strikes gold!
Okay, I'll fess up. I knew I was missing an item, a so-called "Almighty Key" that would unlock any door without the need to throw away 100 smackeroos every single time. I could have kept up this routine of grinding away to get the cash to buy two keys at a time ad infinitum... and while I am mildly disappointed I wasn't the star of a hilarious "look at what this idiot did to complete The Legend of Zelda!" thinkpiece on Kotaku, I did want to complete the game sometime this year and in high spirits.
So I looked it up. The Almighty Key is somewhere in dungeon 8, and it's right behind this--
Shit, it's not there.
And it's not there either.
Does this Manhandla have it???
Er, no, it's got the map. And whaddaya know, it also looks like E.T.! If he were standing on his head and his head deflated, I guess.
Um, now I'm at the end of the dungeon. I did research this, right?
... don't tell me it's behind this locked door. GUESS WHAT I HAVE TO GET AGAIN!!!
That's right, a fresh potion. BABBS has gotta treat himself once in a while.
And play the money making game, because this poor sod hasn't been fleeced enough. To be fair, this one man is financing the saving of the kingdom. He deserves a reward as much as BABBS does.
One last key for the road, and my final walk of shame through these doors. Thanks, shopkeep, for your endless supply of keys for sale. I could talk shit about you selling keys to enemy dungeons in the first place, but who am I to knock a good racket?
And behind that locked door is... the spindly-legged eyeball man!
And behind that locked door is... more knights!
And behind the knights is... er, nothing. I went in the wrong door.
This is the door I was meant to go through! This extra batch of knights are protecting a staircase, and for good reason! Because down that staircase is...
The Almighty Key! It unlocks all doors, doncha know. I'm sorry I had to spoil the surprise getting here, but I'm glad I never know of its adorable little stuffed lion head until now. That's made this whole journey worth its while.
Oh, and before I go: secret cash-money chamber. I've no need for rupees at this point, but don't mind if I do.
Well, back to the grind again. Dungeon 9, here I come.
Time to repeat this bloody entrance procedure for the who-knows-how-many-th time!!!
I will say, I am a touch more confident now that I'm packing, like, a gazillion keys in my pocket. It don't matter how many doors this dungeon throws at me, they're all going down. Just watch me. It's going to be like an onslaught of locks. Locks are gonna be telling their grandkids about this one key that took them all down without even disappearing from my inventory. Perhaps it'll lead to healthier lock relations in future where we can communicate our intentions with words and feelings rather than cold bureaucracy, but one battle at a time, buddy.
I have fought these bloody Wizrobes four times by now and I apparently keep forgetting there's nothing down here. For goodness sake.
And these enemies! I keep blasting them expecting a reward, and there is none! WISE UP, ME!!
Aha, here's an unsuspecting door to test out my newfound key of the gods. It'll never know what hit it.
... erm. Apparently I never suspected it'd lead me to the room I was just complaining about.
Nor did I suspect there was a door leading downwards that also led to a dead end.
On one hand, boy, am I a great big dope. On the other hand, boy, am I glad I didn't spend 200 rupees for an excuse to to slap myself.
After a few scrapes I've found my way to the room that broke my spirit in the first place. As nosey as I am about what's down, I might as well go the direction that sounds the most fruitful. Let's go left!
Nothing more fruitful than a bat party. Party on, dudes.
Aggh, it's Patra! This isn't just a copy of the last encounter, the smaller bugs forming a barrier behave differently this time, circling in 3-dimensional patterns rather than extending outwards. It looks nifty, and it's also exceptionally easier to avoid. Thanks for the mercy, pal.
That bottom door took me to yet another part of the dungeon, where I'm terrorised by roaming snake things - they're blue, they're zippy, and they're showing no mercy!
If I didn't know any better, I'd think this room was building up to something. Those Wizrobes wearing me down before a certain dangerous fight. Those disco balls making me skittish, to make me rush through the north door totally unprepared. The blocks... well, you remember a room when it's got furnishings, y'know? Not that the dungeons are setting a high standard of interior decorating but I'll cut them some slack.
Or I'll have built myself up to discovering I've walked in a big dumb circle. Fuck this world.
So I've no choice but to get past this bug fella. I, er, am still clueless on what weaknesses it's got. I'm stil reeling from the fact that the recorder does nothing. I wasn't joking when playing Chopsticks on recorder should be an all-purpose solution to problems. If dogs don't start howling or bowels begin clenching then you know you're not playing bad enough.
I snuck past it safely, along with a few Likelikes and other bad eggs, to find a dead end full of Wizrobes and spike traps. And it's got a hidden staircase and everything! I'd start building myself up again but you've seen the track record I've got. At this rate I'd be expecting the postman to be dropping off bars of gold at my door any day now.
Well, it's taking me new places, but they all look exactly the same and have the same waves of enemies. Can't reiterate enough that they're taking me new places, though!
Okay, this looks promising. A chamber with only one door, guarded by another angry Patra. And, er, it won't open until I defeat it.
This could be a problem.
Well, I can defeat a few of its shield bugs wth opportune sword slashes, but not without taking a wallop in the process. Can I do it?
Aha! It cost yet another potion, but the main bug is vulnerable without its cannon fodder. A few whacks against the defenceless pest and the door opens!
... well, no interpretation is needed here. BABBS is holding the Triforce aloft, illuminating the dark chamber...
... and there's Ganon, the ugly brute! Come down here and fight me, you big blue bastard!
OI STOP FIRING FIREBALLS WHILE YOU'RE INVISIBLE
IT'S REALLY UNFAIR
So... uh, this isn't the final fight I expected. Did I read somewhere that you're meant to pierce him with magic arrows first, or am I just mixing that up with Ocarina of Time? I've got two hundred arrows to spare, so here goes ntohing.
god I feel like an ignoramus.
Cheers Ganon, I couldn't take much more of it either.
Time to backtrack the whole dang way to Ganon...!
Or, actually, I could keep an eye out for paths I've yet to take. There could be surprises I have yet to see. Like, apparently Patra is actually really cooperative if you stand just outside the range of his micro-bugs and chip away at them? Dude went down like he was doing it to make me feel better. Cheers, mate.
Inside a secret passage down the way lies another Patra, this one unfortunately a mite more agressive. Taking it down did net me the map, revealing it looks like a skull. Now that's cute.
And just a couple of rooms below that is - get this - a key sitting out in the open. Isn't that just darling!
Up the way hides another secret staircase with a surprise beneath! A new item! At this stage of the game?
Well, why not - it's a brand new tunic! This gives BABBS an even more superior damage defence, though it is rather unsightly. The brown and orange and red is not a good look. It turn poor BABBS' sprite into an unrecognisable mush. Oh well. Sacrifices need to be made. I just hope when I save the kingdom there's time to leave town before the fashion police is reinstated.
... I can't ask for much more than that then, can I? Onto Ganon, then!
TIME TO DO THIS WHOLE DANG STUPID-ASS TRIP AGAIN FROM THE START!!!
With my new defence, I decided to clobber some of those spare Patras and found myself in new rooms, filled with new enemies. Just kidding. It's the same old obnoxious Wizrobes that I'm getting real tired of seeing everywhere I look.
Though they are protecting yet another new item: the blue arrows! I didn't even bother to test it out because, buddy, do arrows make an adorable byooo~ sound? Can arrows set things on fire? Not for another ten years they won't. I'll stick with the wand, thank you very much.
Here's a fun fact! From the start of the dungeon to Ganon's chamber, there are at least six points where you have to stop and kill all enemies to either open the door or activate the secret staircase. That's discounting the Patras (which stay dead until you leave the dungeon) and rooms that just have nasty enemy placement. Having to tread through those while retracing your steps every time you die is a barrel of laughs, innit?
Anyway, let's go clobber Ganon.
So that porky son of a bitch teleports around, firing projectiles and never showing his face - though you can still bump into him and hurt yourself, which is terrific. Also these arrows are worthless, I haven't hit a dang thing with them yet.
There you are, you unseeable shit! You couldn't escape my completely blind swinging forever!
After a surprisingly few amount of slashes (and arrows, maybe? i was just mashing buttons by this point), Ganon is defeated. His evil reign over the Hyrule Kingdom is at an end, and his body crumbles into red ash which is totally sick (the "awesome" definition) and also mega gross (the "totally sick" definition).
Also I have to reclaim the Triforce from Ganon's ashes? Did he steal it from me when I came in, or something? It's hard to follow last minute plot twists like this when the best method the NES had of conveying such things was by making the screen flash.
Well, Ganon's dead, and I've got the Triforce back. I might as well go home and--
... crumbs, that's right, there's a princess who needs saving!
There she is! Hold on princess, I'm comin'!
Sit tight, I'm on my way!
Nah, just kidding. BABBS' sword suddenly has flame-quenching powers now, and is reunited with Hyrule's princess.
Er, no, it's BABBS. B-A-B-B-- oh, forget it.
The game took the words right out of my mouth.
Well, that was an unflattering way of finally finishing the game.
The Legend of Zelda is pretty dang neato! I'm sure I didn't need seven years of incompetent playing to come to that conclusion, but despite all the roadblocks and headaches and stupid friggin' Wizrobes, it's a game I'm glad to have played.
It was definitely overwhelming on my first time playing, but the sheer open-endedness is a real draw. The whole game feels like a puzzle, hunting down where the next dungeon is and working out the purpose of each new item you acquire. The game's limitations help establish a structure to how you work things out - doors are only ever found in the middle of a dungeon's wall, some enemies are vulnerable only during certain animation states (when peahats stop, when gohma opens its eye). You have a very clear toolset for problem solving, both in regards to your in-game inventory and how the world behaves.
The non-linearity is daunting, but it also gives the player a much better taste of what's to come, and presents the whole game as a puzzle. Those enemies in dungeon 5 are tough, how am I ever gonna beat them?! However will I access those floating islands on the east coast? Admittedly it's all puzzles that are invariably answered by "you'll find a new item later on", but it's more enticing to find these problems scattered throughout the overworld long before you find the solution... instead of entering a room with targets on the walls, and in the next room is a slingshot waiting to be used.
The game's simplicity is a real boon as despite the sheer lack of direction, it's easy to pick up and play. The size of the overworld is just big enough to hide nooks and crannies you wouldn't think of stumbling upon, but small enough to remain easily traversible and know where landmarks are.
... this is way more politely written than the rest of this adventure ever was, but it's just a game worth acknowledging, y'know! I could grumble about the money situation, the 4-directional movement and how the dungeons got a bit too bloated for my liking towards the end of the game, but that's just me picking nits. For a game approaching thirty years old The Legend of Zelda holds up really dang well; heck, it's got a whole second quest crammed into its tiny little cartridge! Name me another Zelda game that did that, buddy!
The Legend of Zelda's just a good-ass game and it's great to know it's still getting love in the form of tributes, ROM hacks and other ways of getting more out of the game. I can't say I feel like a more accomplished gamer for having completed it, but that was a stupid, naive goal in the first place.
Will I ever try the second quest? Buddy, did you see this playthrough and what an embarrassing trainwreck it was?
Well, maybe, who knows. Not in a rush, that's for sure.
Until that time comes, BABBS can enjoy some well-deserved R&R. Savour it, friend! The next adventure will probably be a doozy!