The Legend of Zelda: The 30 Year Evolution

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Since the first entry in Nintendo’s iconic role playing games series was released all the way back in 1986, The Legend Of Zelda has gone from strength to strength. Over the last 29 years, it’s become one the most beloved and revered gaming franchises, praised as much for its evolving visuals as it is its groundbreaking gameplay. We take a look at how this iconic game has evolved over nearly three decades.
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The Legend of Zelda


Console: NES aka the Nintendo Entertainment System

When it’s compared to contemporary games – in both its structure and visuals – the original release in the Legend of Zelda series looks like something of an ancient artefact. Still, at the time, The Legend Of Zelda which first appeared on the Nintendo Family Computer Disc System - a peripheral for the classic NES - seemed positively magical.

Even though it had a limited colour palette, it presented a highly detailed and engrossing world and, in Link, it created one of the most enduring and iconic characters in game history (his appearance, incidentally, has hardly changed in 29 years). It may feel a little to primitive to revisit, but this title laid the groundwork for one of Nintendo’s biggest game series. 
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The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past


Console: SNES aka the Super Nintendo

The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past is perhaps the best game of the 8-bit era and even Nintendo head-honcho Shigeru Miyamoto considers it the true sequel to original The Legend Of Zelda.

Beyond the improved visuals, which evolved the land of Hyrule as a living, breathing fantasy kingdom, A Link To The Past had a much grittier, darker story that sucked players straight into the game. Easily the best 2D Zelda game ever made and one of the best games in this series.

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time


Console: Nintendo 64

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time deepened both the world of Hyrule and the way players experienced and interacted with it. Bringing the action down to ground level, Ocarina Of Time’s third-person view took The Legend Of Zelda widescreen. Link and the other characters and creatures in the game took on a less cartoon-like look and between its gorgeous soundtrack, layered story and the ton of activities open to players, Ocarina Of Time felt more like a movie you were the star of, rather than a video game. This was the point where The Legend Of Zelda evolved from a decent gaming series into and experience that could only be described as transcendental.  
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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess


Console: Nintendo Wii

Twilight Princess followed what was, at the time, one of the more controversial Zelda games, Wind Waker, which met with a mixed reception due to its cel-shaded cartoon graphics. Perhaps to bring the naysayers back on board, Nintendo opted to present Twilight Princess as the darkest and most grown-up entry in the series to date. Gone were the cute models and light-hearted atmosphere of previous entries; Link and Hyrule looked more realistic than ever and the dark pallor of the game’s visuals was reflected in the tone of its story.  
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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword


Console:  Nintendo Wii

The latest Zelda entry Skyward Sword is like an amalgamation of all the visual style that the series has played with up until now. Link is far more real looking, but the colour scheme is less dour and far more bright and inviting. The story too is more inviting and lighter in spirit even if it does still contain plenty of dangers for the player to stand up to. It may have perhaps the most annoying sidekick in the series in Fi, but it’s still essential for any Zelda fans.
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The Legend Of Zelda 2016


Console: Wii

What does the future hold for Link and Hyrule? Originally scheduled for this year, The Legend Of Zelda has been pushed back to 2016. Details about the games plot are tightly guarded, but Nintendo has revealed that this instalment will have a lot to do with size.

The Legend Of Zelda will contain the largest open world a game in this franchise has ever seen – its sheer scope will reportedly push the WiiU hardware to its very limits. Link, for his part looks a little more grown up – no elven hat and his tunic has changed colour – but after nearly 30 years in gaming, that’s to be expected, no?
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