Happy 35th Birthday, The Legend Of Zelda

Illustration for article titled Happy 35th Birthday, The Legend Of Zelda
Screenshot: Jake Clark
Total RecallTotal RecallTotal Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

On February 21, 1986, the original Legend of Zelda was released on the Famicom in Japan. It did OK, Nintendo made some more Zelda games, and we’ve all been having some good times ever since.

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It’s easy to turn these kind of posts into general retrospectives, a checklist look back at some of the biggest and most important video games in the history of the medium, but for that kind of thing you can just scan this list that Jason wrote which does much of that heavy lifting already.

Instead I think I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank the series, and one game in particular.

I grew up in Australia in the 80s and 90s, and doing so meant I wasn’t indoctrinated on Nintendo stuff like most American kids of the same age seem to have been. Sega was disproportionally more successful Down Under in the 8-bit era, and I spent a lot of my time on a Commodore 64 and PC, so aside from a few games of Mario here and there, some Street Fighter II and Super Star Wars a bit later on a friend’s SNES, then some Smash on N64, I managed to make it all the way to adulthood without having much of a Nintendo experience.

That changed in my early 20s when I moved in with my buddy Kevin, who was far more versed in Nintendo than I, and who at the time had just got hold of both a brand new Nintendo GameCube and a copy of the The Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker.

As a grizzled PC gamer (and an unbearable asshole about it, to be honest), initially snobbish at the idea of playing a Nintendo game, I quickly discovered I had never seen anything like it. This game was alive, a perfect marriage of timeless art design and rhythmic combat action, and I was more in love with it than anything I’d played before or since. Indeed I was so in love that I was often just happy to sit and watch others play it.

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So was Kev, and so too was another friend of ours, Geez, and so what very quickly happened as we sat and watched each other play is that we worked out a way to play through this very singleplayer game game co-operatively. We didn’t use clocks or timers or anything so precise, we’d just play it cool and get a feel for when it was time to pass the controller around. Maybe it’d be after a death in a dungeon, maybe after some sailing, maybe after getting stuck on a puzzle, maybe because you had to go take a shit. Whatever!

This was before the age of YouTube tips videos, and so whenever we’d run into any of this game’s innumerable roadblocks, instead of raging alone or resorting to GameFAQs, we’d just shoot the shit and collaborate, putting our heads together to try to out-think the game’s puzzles. When one player’s stubby thumbs failed them, we could team up and see which of us could beat Wind Waker’s more active challenges as well.

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It’s a magical game, but playing it together made it something even more. I know this sounds stupid to you, a normal person, who probably played through and enjoyed this game alone, but Wind Waker—which in no way was designed for this—still ranks as my favourite co-op experience of all time.

By the time we finished it, I was in tears at the majesty of it all, something I’ve written about here previously. I still think, to this day, that Wind Waker is my favourite game of all time, and most times when I’m asked why I’ll give very predictable responses: that it’s the game’s visuals, or its post-apocalyptic setting, or its dangerously under-valued combat, or that it’s just the most vibey beach game every made.

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But really, deep down, while I love it for all those reasons, I probably also love it because the time I spent playing it was so memorable. That to think about Wind Waker now, as a married man with kids and a mortgage, sends me back in time, to when the most pressing concern I had in life was getting together with friends, ordering some pizza, drinking some beers and going on one hell of an adventure.

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Memories like those are some of the best we can ever hope to have and hang onto in this increasingly shitty world, so today is as good as any to thank Zelda—and Wind Waker in particular—for mine.

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

DISCUSSION

I’m still so bummed that Nintendo hasn’t announced a Zelda collection like they did with Mario. Like, they don’t owe me anything, but also the money is just sitting there!

At least re-release WW. I don’t know how involved the process is for getting it working on Switch, but I was hoping they’d be able to use the HD Wii U port.