The lights are on
A new Zelda game is nearly within our grasp. As excited as we are to explore The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, we have to remember that every Zelda game has a required introduction that seems to get longer, and longer with each release.
There is a point in every Zelda game where you feel like you are finally on your way. That moment changes from game to game, but usually, it’s the moment that you are finally making your way to the game’s first official dungeon. You’ve got your sword and shield, for the most part you know what you are doing with them, and you are ready to see where the game takes you.
For the purpose of this feature, we looked at all of Zelda’s big console releases to see at what point this moment occurs, and see how long it took to get there from the moment you hit the start button. These times are general approximations based on my recent personal experiments, as there is always plenty to get you off track in Zelda, even in each of the game’s opening scenarios.
The Legend of Zelda (NES, 1987) – 50 seconds
Hardly a minute passes in the The Legend of Zelda from the moment you hit the start button, create your save file, and begin exploring the open world. There is one requirement before setting off into the world, which is into enter the cave and endure the dialogue, “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”
It actually may have taken even less time, but I lost a few seconds realizing that in order to select your save file, you have to use the select button instead of the d-pad.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES, 1988) – 27 seconds
Thanks in part to my renewed understanding of how to use the select button to create a save file, Zelda II proved to be the quickest game to get moving. You begin with a sword and shield in hand, see a sleeping princess in the background, quietly mutter to yourself, “Okay, I got it,” and start heading either right or left. It doesn’t matter which, because you’re immediately outside and your journey has begun.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1992) – 22 minutes 14 seconds
A Link to the Past was the first Zelda game to have something resembling the proper Zelda introduction that we recognize today. Link is asleep in bed hearing the distant call of a troubled princess in his dreams. Link’s uncle wakes him up to tell him not to follow him, so that’s the first thing you do. You meet your uncle in the castle as he mutters his final words. A quick survey reveals that there are no enemies or traps in the immediate vicinity so you are confused as to what killed him, but you move on borrowing his sword and shield.
What follows is what some might consider the game’s first dungeon, as you find the boomerang and use a map to navigate. The game truly doesn’t feel like it has begun however, until you save Zelda, drop her off with a man you trust for no particular reason, and venture out into the world.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 1998) – 17 Minutes 27 seconds
Ocarina of Time offered Zelda’s first fully-realized 3D world, and it teases it to you during the game’s start screen. You see a fully grown Link riding a horse through an open field, but it takes quite a while to get there. Exploring the game’s open field requires beating the game’s first dungeon, and becoming an adult requires beating the game’s first three dungeons.
Upon revisiting Ocarina of Time, I was surprised it took me less time to make my way to the game’s first true dungeon than Link to the Past’s. There is a lot to learn when jumping into Zelda’s first 3D outing, but all you need to make it to the first dungeon is a sword and a shield, which requires collecting some rupees, and outrunning a boulder. If you’re unfamiliar, I actually explain the whole process (and the rest of the game) to my child in this video.
Read on for Majora's Mask, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword.
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