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25 years of Zelda and Nintendo systems (photos)

Here's a look back at a quarter century's worth of innovations in game design and Nintendo gear brought to life by The Legend of Zelda franchise.
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By Gloria Sin, Inactive on
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Happy 25th, Link!

In celebration of the Zelda franchise's silver anniversary with the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Nintendo Wii today, it's worth revisiting all the gaming "firsts" -- both in software and hardware -- that Link and Nintendo introduced through the years...

Also read: Nintendo launches Zelda bundle with gold Wii controller, $69.99

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo

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2 of 17 Gloria Sin/ZDNet

The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System, 1987

"It's dangerous to go alone! Take this...." With these famous words, the epic world of Link and the Zelda franchise was born on the Nintendo Entertainment System. This was the first game that players could save their adventures and resume saved games at a later time, thanks to the (watch) battery-powered memory built into the chunky NES game cartridges.

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo

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3 of 17 Gloria Sin/ZDNet

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link for the Nintendo Entertainment System, 1988

Although Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was a sequel to the original Zelda, gameplay-wise it was a complete departure from its predecessor. Link was actually one of the first console-based role playing games with side-scrolling "platforming" action, overworld map view, statistical systems, weapons, as well as metered magic and spells. It also marked the first time players met the Triforce of Courage, its unification with the "Golden Triangle" would become a driving force in the series.

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past  for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, 1992

As the first SNES cartridge with 8-megabit (1MB) of memory rather than just 4, The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past was particularly rich in graphics and mechanics in this prequel to the franchise.Although the game reverted back to the overhead perspective of the original, this iteration pioneered Link's ability to travel between parallel universes (Hyrule was the Light World; the Sacred Realm became the Dark World once Ganon got hold of the Triforce), and debuted helpful items like the hookshot.

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo

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The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening for the Game Boy, 1993

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was the franchise's first foray into portable gaming with the Game Boy. In this experimental title, Link learnt to jump, trade, fish and play music on the ocarina (a vital skill that reappears in the Ocarina of Time) to wake the Wind Fish which would be able to bring him home to Hyrule.

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

 

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time  for the Nintendo 64, 1998

Revered by gamers and critics as one of the best video games ever made, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time showed what's possible with a 256-megabit (32MB) game cartridge -- Nintendo's highest capacity to date. Unsurprisingly, this title featured a number of firsts: 3D graphics from a third-person perspective, film-like art direction and a complex storyline expressed through time-traveling/shifting gameplay.

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

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7 of 17 Gloria Sin/ZDNet

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask  for the Nintendo 64, 2000

As one of only two N64 titles that required the Expansion Pak that boosted the console's internal 4MB of RAM to 8MB, the hardware upgrade made extra graphical textures, characters and effects in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask possible. Considered the darkest title in the canon, Link is stuck in a 3-day time warp in Majora's Mask, where, unless he finds a way to stop the Moon from crashing into Termina, he will lose all progress and have to start from scratch (again) on Day 1.

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

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8 of 17 Gloria Sin/ZDNet

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons  for the Game Boy Color, 2001

For the first time, the Zelda franchise could be enjoyed in its full color glory on a handheld console, thanks to the Game Boy Color and the simultaenously released titles, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons. The puzzle-oriented Ages and action-oriented Seasons are serial titles that when connected with a Game Link Cable, can share passwords that unlock new items -- and even a new ending.

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

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9 of 17 Gloria Sin/ZDNet

The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past + Four Swords  for the Game Boy Advance, 2002

This title is actually a port of the SNES' A Link To The Past with the added multi-player dimension of Four Swords for the handheld Game Boy Advance. Up to four GBA players can link up to collect rupees while fighting through dungeons together in Four Swords.

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker  for the GameCube, 2003

If Link became a man by the end of the widely popular Ocarina of Time, then our protagonist reverted back to being a boy in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for the GameCube. With a conscious decision to appeal to younger gamers, Link was given "cel-shading" and larger, more expressive eyes. That's why some refer to this installment in the franchise as "Celda."

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

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The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures  for the GameCube & Game Boy Advance, 2004

Expanding on the multi-player cooperative play first introduced in the Game Boy Advance's Four Swords, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures evolved into a full-blown console title for the GameCube where up to four GBAs can be used as controllers with secondary screens. This innovation would inspire the second-gen Wii U console seven years later, which was announced at E3 2011.

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

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12 of 17 Gloria Sin/ZDNet

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap  for the Game Boy Advance, 2005

As the first original Zelda title for the Game Boy Advance, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap took advantage of the platform's console-like computing power. It showed more ground level details with its lowered camera angle, and transferred some of Link's more intricate moves from the N64's Ocarina of Time and Majora's Maskto the GBA. .

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

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13 of 17 Gloria Sin/ZDNet

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess  for the GameCube & Nintendo Wii, 2006

Originally slated for just the GameCube, the motion controlled actions enabled by the Nintendo Wii and the Wii-mote convinced Nintendo to release The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for both consoles at the same time. While the Wii port was the first Zelda game that debuted as a launch title for a console, the GameCube version was the last official first-party title for that system.

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

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14 of 17 Gloria Sin/ZDNet

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass  for the DS/DS Lite, 2007

This was the first Zelda game designed for the DS/DS Lite's dual-screens, stylus-controlled interface and Wi-Fi connectivity for multiplayer gameplay. The Legend of Zelda, Phantom Hourglass used shapes drawn on the touchscreen to open doors and direct Link's boomerang, and allowed players to battle each other wirelessly over the Internet. No more Game Link Cables required!

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

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15 of 17 Gloria Sin/ZDNet

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks  for the DS/DS Lite, 2009

Though the Phantom Hourglass and The Legend of Zelda: Spirt Tracks share the same basic game mechanics (use the stylus to direct Link on his journey), the 2009 DS/DS Lite no longer includes wireless online battling. Instead, either four players with their own NDSes and just 1 game cartridge could compete as different Links, or they could play tag or trade with local players via Bluetooth.

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

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16 of 17 Gloria Sin/ZDNet

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D  for the 3DS, 2011

Seven years after bringing three-dimension graphics to the N64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D can finally render Hyrule and the epic adventures of Link in stereoscopic 3D. Not only does this remake use the 3DS'  touchscreen to switch between items and to play the ocarina, it also gives the player more game control flexibility: both the built-in gyroscope and analog stick can help Link target his weapons. But could it replicate the thrills of the original on a handheld?

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

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17 of 17 Gloria Sin/ZDNet

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword  for the Nintendo Wii, 2011

25 years after releasing the first Zelda title on the NES, Nintendo comes full circle with the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Wii, the swan song for this motion-oriented console. With the precision the  Wii MotionPlus attachment brings to the original Wii controller (or a Wii-mote with MotionPlus built-in), Skyward Sword features one-to-one sword fights from the perspective of Link for an extra immersive gaming experience. 

What would the next 25 years of Zelda bring?

Also read: Nintendo launches Zelda bundle with gold Wii controller, $69.99

Caption: Gloria Sin
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Wikipedia

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