The Legend of Zelda series has sold over 52 million copies since the release of the first game, The Legend of Zelda, and continues to be successful worldwide. The series consists of fourteen official games on all of Nintendo's major consoles, as well as several spin-offs. An animated series based on the games aired in 1989, and individual manga adaptions which are officially endorsed and commissioned by Nintendo have been produced in Japan since 1997.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is either a prequel or a sequel to the original NES games. This is debated because the back of its packaging states that A Link to the Past comes before the original NES game, but Shigeru Miyamoto has said in one interview that the original Legend of Zelda comes before A Link to the Past. The Nintendo 64 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was also a prequel, going even further back and showing the origins of certain aspects of the previous games. The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker takes place hundreds of years after the events of Ocarina of Time. The game explicitly references the "Hero of Time" from that game, and states that due to the hero's absence, it was necessary to flood Hyrule in order to stop Ganon. The Minish Cap, Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures include references to other titles and are known to be a part of the timeline, but their exact relationships with other games have not officially been made clear. Connections between the world and story of Four Swords Adventures and A Link to the Past may suggest that the Four Sword games come before A Link to the Past.
In an interview conducted by Nintendo Dream with Eiji Aonuma in December 2006, it was revealed that there are two parallel universes in the Zelda chronology. The timeline is split at the end of Ocarina of Time, when Link is sent back in time by Princess Zelda to live through his childhood, while the original events of Ocarina of Time continue on a different path. Once returned to his original time, Link leaves the Master Sword in its place, preventing Ganondorf's plan from coming to fruition, and goes to see Zelda again, resulting in the "Child Timeline" in which the villain Ganondorf is arrested and tried by the ancient sages. They attempt to execute him, but he overpowers them, and the sages are instead forced to banish him to the Twilight Realm. Twilight Princess then occurs over one hundred years later, after Link's role as a child in the events of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Meanwhile, The Wind Waker occurs in the "Adult Timeline", hundreds of years after the Hero of Time saved Hyrule in Ocarina of Time, and it is directly followed by Phantom Hourglass.
Hearing of F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife Zelda, Miyamoto thought the name sounded "pleasant and significant. Paying tribute, he chose to name the Princess after her, and titled his creation The Legend of Zelda.
DateFormat = yyyy Period = from:1986 till:2007 TimeAxis = orientation:vertical order:reverse ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:1 start:1986 ScaleMinor = unit:year increment:1 start:1986
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at:1986 text:"The Legend of Zelda"
at:1987 text:"The Adventure of Link"
at:1991 text:"A Link to the Past"
at:1993 text:"Link's Awakening"
at:1998 text:"Ocarina of Time"
at:2000 text:"Majora's Mask"
at:2001 text:"Oracle of Seasons"
at:2001 shift:($dx,-14) text:"Oracle of Ages"
at:2002 text:"Four Swords"
at:2002 shift:($dx,-14) text:"The Wind Waker"
at:2004 text:"Four Swords Adventures"
at:2004 shift:($dx,-14) text:"The Minish Cap"
at:2006 text:"Twilight Princess"
at:2007 text:"Phantom Hourglass"
The Legend of Zelda, the first game of the series, was first released in Japan on February 21, 1986 on the Famicom-only Disk System. A cartridge version, using battery-backed memory was released in the United States on August 22, 1987 and Europe in 1987. The game features a "Second Quest", accessible upon completing the game, where dungeons and the placement of items are altered, and enemies are more difficult for the player to defeat. In 1994, during the last years of the Famicom, the game was re-released in cartridge format. A modified version known as BS Zelda no Densetsu was released for the Super Famicom's satellite-based expansion, Satellaview, in the mid-1990s in Japan. BS Zelda was then re-released for the Satellaview again a year later, with rearranged dungeons and an altered overworld.
The second game, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, was released in January 1987 for the Famicom Disc System in Japan, a full six months before the first game was released in America. Nintendo would wait almost a full two years from its initial release in Japan to release Zelda II in America on December, 1988. The game sparked controversy among the series' fans, as it exchanged the top-down perspective for side-scrolling (though the top-down point of view was retained for times that Link is wandering the overworld), and introduced RPG elements (e.g., experience points) not found in other Zelda installments. Both this game and its predecessor had gold-colored game cartridges, instead of the system's usual gray cartridges. Both games were later re-released in the final years of the Nintendo Entertainment System, with gray cartridges.
Four years later, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past returned to the top-down view (under a 3/4 perspective), and added the concept of an alternate dimension to explore — a land simply known as Dark World. The game was released for the Super NES in 1991. It was later re-released for the Game Boy Advance on December 9, 2002 in North America, on a cartridge with Four Swords, the first multiplayer Zelda, and then through Nintendo's Virtual Console service on January 22, 2007. In addition, both this game (unchanged, except for being converted into a downloadable format) and an exclusive "loosely-based" sequel (which used the same game engine) called BS Zelda no Densetsu Kodai no Sekiban were released on the Satellaview in Japan.
The next game, Link's Awakening, was the first Zelda for Nintendo's Game Boy handheld, and the first to take place outside of Hyrule, and not to include the Princess Zelda. It was re-released for the Game Boy Color in 1998 as Link's Awakening DX with some additional features, including an extra color-based dungeon and a photo shop that allowed interaction with the Game Boy Printer.
After another hiatus, the series made the transition to 3D with the installment Ocarina of Time, which was released in November 1998. This game, initially known as Zelda 64, retained the core gameplay of the previous 2D games, and was very successful commercially and critically. It ranked highly on IGN and EGM's "greatest games of all time" lists, and scored perfect scores in several video game publications. In February 2006, it was ranked by Nintendo Power as the best game to ever appear on a Nintendo console. The title was originally slated for the ill-fated, Japanese-only Nintendo 64DD, but was ported to a cartridge when the hardware was delayed. Innovations include the use of lock-on targeting, a new gameplay mechanic that focuses the camera on a nearby target, and alters the player's actions to be relative to that target. Such mechanics allow precision-based sword fighting in a 3D space, and were a revolutionary development for the time. Those who preordered the game received a gold-colored cartridge in a limited edition box with a golden plastic card affixed reading "Collector's Edition".
Ocarina of Time was re-released on the Nintendo GameCube in 2002, when it was offered as a pre-order incentive for The Wind Waker in the U.S., Canada, and Japan. Europe continues to receive it free in every copy of The Wind Waker, except for the discounted Player's Choice version. It included a previously unreleased 64DD expansion known as Ura Zelda in Japan and Ocarina of Time Master Quest in North America. Ocarina of Time was included as part of Collector's Edition for the GameCube in 2003. It is now available through the Virtual Console service.
The follow-up title, Majora's Mask, which was released in November 2000, used the same 3D game engine as the previous Nintendo 64 game (dropping the Fixed 3D elements), but added a novel time-based concept, leading to somewhat mixed reactions from series fans. It was originally called Zelda Gaiden, a Japanese title that translates as Zelda Side story. Gameplay changed significantly; in addition to a form of time-limit, Link could use masks to transform into different creatures with unique skills. While Majora's Mask retained the graphical style of the landmark Ocarina of Time, it was also a departure, particularly in terms of its overall atmosphere. It also featured motion-blur, unlike its predecessor, Ocarina of Time. The game is much darker, dealing with death and tragedy in a manner not previously seen in the series, and has a sense of impending doom, as a large moon slowly descends upon the land of Termina. All copies of Majora's Mask are gold cartridges. Instead, a "Limited Collector's Edition" lenticular cartridge label was offered as the pre-order incentive. Copies of the game that weren't collector's editions featured a more traditional sticker cartridge label.
The next two games, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, were released simultaneously for the Game Boy Color, and interact using passwords or a Game Link Cable. After one game has been completed, the player is given a password that allows the other game to be played as a sequel. They were developed by Flagship in conjunction with Nintendo, with supervision from Miyamoto. After the team experimented with porting the original Legend of Zelda to the Game Boy Color, they decided to make an original trilogy to be called the "Triforce Series". When the password system linking the three games proved too troublesome, the concept was reduced to two titles at Miyamoto's suggestion. These two titles became Oracle of Ages, which is more puzzle-based, and Oracle of Seasons, which is more action-oriented.
When Nintendo revealed the Nintendo GameCube on August 24, 2000, the day before Nintendo's SpaceWorld 2000 exposition, one software demonstration showed a realistically-styled real-time duel between Ganon and Link. Fans and the media speculated that the battle might be from a Zelda game under development. At Spaceworld 2001 Nintendo showed a cel-shaded Zelda title, later released as The Wind Waker, which Miyamoto felt would "extend Zelda's reach to all ages". The media reported that Zelda was shifting to a younger audience, to Miyamoto's surprise. Nothing further was shown until a playable demonstration was ready, which was well-received. The gameplay centers on controlling wind with a baton called the "Wind Waker", and sailing a small boat around a massive, island-filled ocean.
Next in the series came Four Swords Adventures for the GameCube, which was released in the first half of 2004 in Japan and America, and in January 2005 in Europe. Based on the handheld Four Swords, Four Swords Adventures was another deviation from previous Zelda gameplay, focusing on multiplayer gameplay and "level-based" action (like many Super Mario Bros. titles). The game contains 24 individual stages and a map screen; there is no connecting overworld. For the multiplayer features of the game, each player is required to use a Game Boy Advance system linked to the Nintendo GameCube via a GBA-GCN cable. Although it focuses on multiplayer, the game also features a single-player campaign, in which using a Game Boy Advance is optional.
Four Swords Adventures is really two games in one: Hyrulean Adventure (with a storyline and action somewhat similar to a traditional Zelda adventure) and Shadow Battle (a free-for-all mêlée "battle mode", which pits Links against each other as the players struggle for dominance in Hyrulean arenas). The Japanese version includes a third segment, known as Navi Trackers (originally designed as the stand-alone game Tetra's Trackers), which is not included in any other incarnation of the title. Navi Trackers contains spoken dialog for most of the characters, a first for the Zelda series.
In November 2004 in Japan and Europe, and in January 2005 in America, Nintendo released a new game for the Game Boy Advance, The Minish Cap. The central concept of The Minish Cap is Link's ability to shrink in size with the aid of a mystical sentient hat named Ezlo. While tiny, Link can see previously-explored parts of a dungeon from a new perspective, and enter new areas through otherwise-impassable openings. Link is able to switch from big to small at special portals throughout the land, once again giving Link two "worlds" to play in.
In November 2006, Twilight Princess arrived as the first Zelda game on the Wii, and later, in December 2006, on the Nintendo GameCube, the system for which it was originally developed. The game once again strives for a realistic look, improved even beyond the aforementioned SpaceWorld demo. It chronicles the struggle of a more mature Link to rid Hyrule of the "Twilight Realm", a mysterious force plaguing the land. When he enters this realm, he is transformed into a wolf, and the gameplay shifts radically. Twilight Princess also relies heavily on horseback transportation and mounted battle scenarios, including boss battles.
"Zelda DS" was once rumored to be a new Four Swords game, but Nintendo later retracted those statements. Instead, at the 2006 Game Developers Conference, a trailer for Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS was shown. The trailer revealed traditional top-down Zelda gameplay optimized for the DS' features, with a cel-shaded graphical style similar to The Wind Waker. At E3 2006, Nintendo confirmed its status as a direct sequel to The Wind Waker, and debuted an extensive playable demo, including a multiplayer mode reminiscent of Pac-Man Vs. with "capture the flag" elements. Phantom Hourglass was released on June 23, 2007 in Japan, October 1, 2007 in North America, and October 19, 2007 in Europe.
While not during Nintendo's keynote address during E3 2008, Shigeru Miyamoto did officially confirm that new Zelda titles are being developed for both the DS and Wii, though no other details or release date were mentioned.
According to the in-game backstories, long ago, three goddesses descended and created the land of Hyrule. Din, the goddess of power, with her powerful, flaming arms, cultivated the empty space, and created the red earth. Nayru, the goddess of wisdom, bestowed her divine wisdom upon the land, and created the world's laws to give a sense of justice and order to the world, and to guide the people in the goddesses' absence. Farore, the goddess of courage, endowed Hyrule with her powers, creating life to follow this justice.
After their work was completed, the goddesses left a divine artifact called the Triforce, which could grant the wishes of the user. It consisted of three golden triangles (each also called a "Triforce" — one of Wisdom, one of Power, and one of Courage). However, because the Triforce was not divine, and could not judge between good and evil, the goddesses placed the Triforce in an alternate world called the "Sacred Realm" or the "Golden Land", hoping that a worthy person would one day seek it.
According to legend, if the discoverer of the Triforce has a balance of power, wisdom, and courage, the Sacred Realm will become a paradise, and they will receive the Triforce as a whole, along with the true force to govern all. If they are unbalanced, the Sacred Realm will become a world of evil, and they will receive the part of the Triforce that represents the characteristic they most demonstrate, with the remaining parts of the whole transferring into the people in Hyrule who most exemplify the other two traits. The Triforce was first distributed as such starting in Ocarina of Time, as the Triforces of Power, Wisdom and Courage were each held by Ganondorf, Princess Zelda, and Link, respectively. While the Triforce of Power and Wisdom have been part of the series since the original The Legend of Zelda, it was only in The Adventure of Link that the Triforce of Courage was first introduced, being obtained by Link at the end of his quest. A Link to the Past, released after The Adventure of Link, but before Ocarina of Time, featured the Triforce, but made no mention of where it came from. It did however possess the power to grant the holder's wish.
Eventually, dark interlopers, later to be called "Twili", attempted to steal the Triforce and establish dominion over the Sacred Realm. In response, the goddesses sent the light spirits Eldin, Lanayru, Ordona, and Faron to seal away their dark magic within the Fused Shadows. The interlopers themselves were banished to the shadowy world of the Twilight Realm (with only the Mirror of Twilight linking the two worlds), where they would become the Twili race. The Mirror was left in the protection of ancient sages.
Eventually, evil rose once again. A hero would not appear to repel the evil, and in response, the goddesses flooded Hyrule. The citizens were able to flee to the mountaintops, while Ganon and his army were trapped under the sea. The kingdom below was frozen in time to assure Ganon would not utilize his powers to escape, with the Master Sword as its key. The world above would be known as the Great Sea, and the memory of Hyrule was lost with time.
The fictional universe established by the Zelda games sets the stage for each adventure. Many games take place in lands with their own back-stories. Termina, for example, is a parallel world accidentally formed as a side effect of the goddesses' creation of Hyrule.
In April 2008, Miyamoto stated that "the Zelda team is forming again to work on new games". Miyamoto clarified in July that the Zelda team has been working on a new Zelda game for the Wii.
The creators maintain that the series has a set timeline, however due to debates over the available information the timeline continues to be disputed. Miyamoto stated in a 2003 interview that there is a master document detailing the timeline. Eiji Aonuma has also stated in a July 2007 video interview that there is such a document on his PC, and that this document is considered confidential. According to this interview, development of a Zelda title can commence without the team knowing in advance where exactly the title will fit into the timeline; but by the time the title is finished, its placement in the timeline will be determined.
The games in the Legend of Zelda series have also tended to make strong use of musical instruments, in particular in the development of musical puzzles, which have been widespread. Often the instruments have served as triggers to game events: for example, triggering the recorder in the original Legend of Zelda will result in the revelation of "secret" areas. Application in these situations involved little more effort than selecting the instrument at the appropriate time. However, with the release of Ocarina of Time, mastering the instruments became a core part of the game, with the player required to learn to play the instrument through the use of the game controller in order to succeed. Ocarina of Time was "the [one of the] first contemporary nondance title[s] to feature music-making as part of its gameplay", employing music as a heuristic device and requiring the player to memorize songs in order to proceed through the game - a game mechanic that reappeared in Majora's Mask and, in different forms, The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.
X-Play has given it the award for having the best musical soundtrack of any game series.
Link does not usually speak, and only produces grunts, yells, and other such sounds. One exception to this is The Wind Waker. In the English-language game, the audible phrase "Come on!" is used in dungeons to call either special statues or other characters (Medli or Makar) to follow Link. In prior games, such as A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, players can answer questions by choosing options from a list; no voice acting accompanies Link's answers. More typically, the character uses facial expressions to indicate mood; particular emphasis is placed on this in The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.
Arguably, Link also speaks in the cartoon series and the games produced by Philips, though these sources are considered to not be canonical. He also "speaks" two lines in The Adventure of Link. When he locates a mirror under a table, the text, "I found a mirror under the table" appears on screen. Later, if Link examines a fireplace that he can enter, "Looks like I can get in the fireplace" is displayed. In Link's Awakening he speaks to let the player know that he cannot pick up certain objects at the time.
Although the character's accepted name is Link, the player can name him before the start of most games, and characters will address him by that name in the text. The reason given for his silence is so that the player can envision themselves as the hero..
The Legend of Zelda was made into an animated series as a "show within a show" in the semi-live-action Super Mario Bros. Super Show TV series produced by DiC and distributed by Viacom. The animated Zelda shorts were aired each Friday, instead of the usual Super Mario Bros. cartoon that aired during the rest of the week. The series loosely followed the NES Zelda games, mixing settings and characters from those games with original creations. Thirteen animated Zelda shorts were featured within the show's 65-episode run. The show's incarnations of Link and Zelda also appeared in various episodes of Captain N: The Game Master during its second season.
Ocarina of Time and its use of melodic themes to identify different game regions has been called a reverse of Richard Wagner's use of leitmotifs to identify characters and themes. Ocarina of Time was so well received that sales increased for real ocarinas. IGN praised the music of Majora's Mask for its brilliance despite its heavy use of MIDI.
The success of The Legend of Zelda series has resulted in Guinness World Records awarding it five world records in Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008. These records include "Highest-Rated Game of All Time", "First Game with a Battery Powered Save Feature" and "Longest Running Action-Adventure Series".
The worldwide success and popularity of The Legend of Zelda series has led to many influences within popular culture. The series has also been parodied, including an episode of The Powerpuff Girls which features the Mayor of Townsville playing a spoof of Ocarina of Time. and a season 3 episode of Robot Chicken in which there is a skit based on The Legend of Zelda which references many aspects of the series, including the existence of multiple Links, the Triforce, Rupees and rescuing Princess Zelda. Furthermore, Xandir from Drawn Together is an over-the-top homosexual parody of Link himself. Many references to the series also exist in other video games such as in some versions of Final Fantasy, which contains a tombstone with the inscription: "Here lies Link". Link cameos in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars where he appears sleeping in a bed at the Rose Town Inn, and he remains in bed throughout the game. Attempting to speak to him triggers a sound effect from the original Legend of Zelda. The WarioWare series features micro-games throughout each of the games that are based on games throughout The Legend of Zelda series. Ōkami director Hideki Kamiya states that he has been influenced by The Legend of Zelda series in developing the title. The developers of the game Dark Sector have stated they have been heavily influenced by The Legend of Zelda series, and that the structure of the game is much like a Zelda game. Other games which reference the series are Donkey Kong Country 3, the Animal Crossing series and World of Warcraft.