Mysterious, colourful, full of character, and difficult enough to drive you insane is probably how I would describe the first Zelda game (damn those rooms full of Wizzrobes!). At a glance, it’s a game intended to evoke child-like curiosity and exploration, specifically the childhood memories of its creator Shigeru Miyamoto and his ventures around the forests, lakes and villages and caves of Sonobe, Japan. Since its inception though, The Legend of Zelda has developed into a saga of much larger proportion; a story of three great and powerful forces destined to be joined together for all of eternity, as symbolised by the Triforce. Those three forces are: the hero Link, a boy or man with courageous spirit, the princess Zelda, a girl or woman with great wisdom as well as the ancestry of a goddess, and the demon king, Ganon, an immensely powerful, destructive force of evil. For me, this will always be the perfect set-up for an adventure story. Like a fairytale, the story can be told in many different ways, and the three characters may be linked together in many different settings and eras – (take a look at Hyrule Historia, if you get a chance, to see just how profound and detailed the world of Zelda has now become).
Like many of the other games in the series, The Legend of Zelda is set in the land of Hyrule. By this point in the the timeline, Hyrule has already endured many disasters. Infact, all of its residents have taken to living in caves and setting up shops which sell potions, candles, arrows, bombs, shields and (rather bewilderingly) slabs of meat for hungry monsters. This is all very useful for Link, a young boy who has been recruited by Impa to search Hyrule for the eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom and then rescue Princess Zelda who has been captured by Ganon. It’s a daunting task; pieces of the Triforce are scattered across the land in dungeons guarded by hordes of monsters. Now that the internet exists, there are maps that a player can use to try and locate some of the game’s more unfathomable locations… which is manageable, but tough. Back in 1986, of course, no maps were provided so players were left rather more in the dark.
In terms of the game’s music, the composer Koji Kondo provides us with five main compositions: The Title Screen music, the Overworld theme, the Dungeon theme, the Death Mountain music (used for the last dungeon) and the Ending music.
Here’s the dungeon theme, used for all eight of the dungeons before the player reaches the ninth – Ganon’s lair. The loop is only seven bars long. The melody, in the bass, moves downwards in a chromatic sequence from the tonic to the dominant, until the the last bar – which is a diminished 7th, arpeggiated over a bar of 5/4. This is an unexpected length of phrase which keeps the player on edge at all times.