It’s incredibly odd to think that the console that had the most profound impact on my gaming career was also one I never actually owned: the NES. Back in the mid-80s, my parents figured that we already had a video game system (the Atari 2600) and we didn’t need another one — even though the NES (to us) was leaps and bounds better.
It was okay in the end, however — not having an NES forced me to get out of the house and make a lot more friends, all of whom owned one. And because I didn’t have constant access to an NES, whatever time I could grab with it became special, almost magical.
And there was hardly a more magical package than the glittering gold Legend of Zelda cartridge — which, to our amazement, could actually save your games! Hey, back then, this was a big thing; the best most video games could do was deliver a lengthy password when you were done playing to allow you to pick up roughly where you left off. No more with Zelda, tho!
While Legend of Zelda was really an action title with light RPG elements, it still goes down as the first graphic RPG I’ve ever played. After my first session with it, I was transfixed not just by the world and the adventure, but the acquisition of gear (boomerangs! bombs! swords!) that would help Link get through his quest. I mean, when you think about it in MMO terms, a lot of the pieces were there: killing mobs for money to buy gear, exploring several themed zones which had different levels of mob difficulties, and getting a quest from a senile old man who never left his cave.
My first NPC. /wipes away a tear
Zelda was a hit because all of its parts worked beautifully together — the theme music, the ability to shoot your sword if you had full life, the diversity of enemies, the dungeon crawls, the puzzles, and your inventory full of tricks and tools. I eagerly ate up the SNES Link to the Past when it came out, but after that I lost a lot of interest in the franchise (and was thus saved the annoyance of Navi).
There were few NES games that drew me into a world so completely as Zelda did, which is probably a very, very good thing I didn’t own a copy.