February 14, 2007 - It was 1988, I was seven years old. I was spending the night at my friend Drew's house – Drew, who owned an NES. Drew, who owned [Register or Login to view links]. Having easily passed through the game's First Quest, Drew and I relentlessly attacked the Second. The hours pressed on. It was well past midnight. Our skillful play achieved us victory in six of the eight doubly dangerous dungeons, but the last two labyrinths proved too much for us. Defeated, we unfurled our sleeping bags, drifting into dreamless rest.
We woke, determined, at the rise of the sun, resolved to complete the journey we'd begun. Drew took the controller in hand and played, countless hours spent watching Link lose his life again and again. But he never quit, friends. His was a steadfastness never before seen in the eyes of a seven-year-old, and through his persistence he found it. Success. Prosperity. Triumph. The final two pieces of the Triforce were claimed.
"YES!" he exclaimed, in a state of excitement. (Excitement only achievable through the unique combination of playing Nintendo and eating cold pizza.) "I did it!" he said. "I finally did it!"
But, in his joy, Drew made a grievous mistake. The controller was still in his hands as he hopped happily around the room. The controller, still connected to the system, and the system now hurtling, yanked, through the air. About to make impact with the floor.
We had not saved the game.
After one of those rare slow-motion moments in which both of us threw ourselves bodily across the room, trying, unsuccessfully, to catch the falling console, the NES slammed into the ground with a sickening thud. The power failed, but just for a moment. We found ourselves staring again at the title screen.
A sideways glance we exchanged, only silence between us as Drew gingerly pressed Start. And there it was. Drew's noble save file, complete with all the pieces of the Triforce we'd earned in that terrible Second Quest!
Except for two.
Though I'd advise against testing the theory, it's likely that even a high-speed collision between machine and flooring wouldn't cause the Wii to lose your progress in The Legend of Zelda's Virtual Console edition. The new console's more reliable memory system is just one of many upgrades supporting the classic adventure, one of many reasons why this version of The Legend of Zelda is the best version of The Legend of Zelda ever made.
But first, the game. You should know it well, but if you don't The Legend of Zelda on the NES was the first installment in Nintendo's now-famous Zelda franchise. Created by Shigeru Miyamoto, it's an open-ended action-adventure game the likes of which had never been seen before, back in 1987. You play as Link, a young man, garbed in green, setting off on a quest to retrieve the eight fragments of the shattered Triforce of Wisdom. Searching through the land of Hyrule and its massive go-anywhere overworld, you'll find entrances to underground dungeons – and within those dungeons, hidden items, powerful monsters and the individual Triforce shards.
Link begins the adventure with next to nothing – a life meter of only three hearts, and a small shield his only equipment. But by the time you've reassembled the broken Triforce and are challenging the villainous Ganon to save the kidnapped Princess Zelda, he'll have become a walking arsenal. Boomerangs, bombs, bows and arrows. Magic wands and magic rings. Even a chunk of enemy-attracting meat – The Legend of Zelda offers a huge world to explore, but also a vast array of toys and items to use in interacting with and playing in that world.
The game's environment was so large that Nintendo of America feared players would get lost. They counteracted that concern by packing the cartridge package full with an informative, full-color manual, a sheet of tips and tricks, and a giant, fold-out map of the Hyrulian overworld. Opening The Legend of Zelda was like opening a treasure chest, an image of imagination furthered by the glowing, golden color of the cartridge itself. Zelda was one of a kind.
Here on the Wii, you'll get no map. No tips and tricks sheet, no golden plastic game cart. The physical, tangible elements that made The Legend of Zelda great are missing – but in their place, improvements in the game itself. The security of a more modern save system was mentioned above, but you'll also find the Virtual Console's capacity for save states to be uniquely suited to playing Zelda. You could always save your game in The Legend of Zelda, using battery-backed data recording units in the old-school NES cartridge. But doing so and stopping your game sent you back, back to the starting area in the overworld, depleting your life meter back down to three hearts. That was always a bit annoying – but here, it's gone. Simply use the Home Button to pause the emulation whenever you want to take a break, and your progress will be restored to the exact point where you left off, the next time you call the game up from your channel array.
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