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The Legend of Zelda (ゼルダの伝説 Zeruda no Densetsu ) is a high fantasy action-adventure video game series created by Japanese game designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. It is developed and published by Nintendo, with some portable installments outsourced to Flagship/Capcom, Vanpool, and Grezzo. Considered one of Nintendo's most important franchises, its gameplay consists of a mixture of action, adventure, and puzzle solving. The series centers primarily on Link, a playable character and the protagonist. Link is often given the task of rescuing Princess Zelda in the most common setting of the series, Hyrule, from Ganon (also known as Ganondorf), a Gerudo chief who is the primaryantagonist of the series. However, other settings and antagonists have appeared throughout the games, with Vaati being a strong secondary antagonist during the lifespan of the Game Boy Advance. The story commonly involves a relic known as the Triforce, which is a set of three omnipotent golden triangles. The protagonist in each game is usually not the same incarnation of Link, but a few exceptions do exist.
As of December 2011, The Legend of Zelda franchise has sold 67.93 million copies since the release of the first game, with the original Legend of Zelda being the fourth best selling NES game of all time. The series consists of 16 official games on all of Nintendo's major consoles, as well as several spin-offs. An American animated series based on the games aired in 1989, and individual manga adaptations which are officially endorsed and commissioned by Nintendo have been produced in Japan since 1997.
The Legend of Zelda franchise is the inaugural recipient of Spike TV's first ever Video Game Hall of Fame award. The franchise was inducted on December 10, 2011 during the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards.
The Legend Of Zelda games feature a mixture of action, puzzles, adventure/battle gameplay, exploration, and questing. These elements have remained constant throughout the series, but with refinements and additions featured in each new game. Later games in the series also comprise stealth gameplay, where the player must avoid enemies while proceeding through a level, as well as racing elements. Although the games can be beaten with a minimal amount of exploration and side quests, the player is frequently rewarded for solving puzzles or exploring hidden areas with helpful items or increased abilities. Some items are consistent and appear many times throughout the series, such as bombs, which can be used both as weapons and to open blocked or hidden doorways, boomerangs, which can kill or paralyze enemies, keys for locked doors, magic swords and shields and bows and arrows, while others are unique to a single game. Though the games contain many role-playing elements (Zelda II was also the only one to include an experience system), they emphasise straightforward hack and slash-style combat over the strategic, turn-based or active time combat of games like Final Fantasy. The game's role-playing elements, however, have led to much debate over whether or not the Zelda games should be classified as action role-playing games, a genre on which the series had a strong influence.
Every game in the main Zelda series has consisted of three principal areas: an overworld in which movement is multidirectional, allowing the player some degree of freedom of action; areas of interaction with other characters (merely caves or hidden rooms in the first game, but expanding to entire towns and cities in subsequent games) in which the player gains special items or advice; and dungeons, areas of labyrinthine layout, usually underground, comprising a wide range of difficult enemies, bosses, and items. Each dungeon usually has one major item inside, which is usually essential for solving many of the puzzles in that dungeon and often plays a crucial role in defeating that dungeon's boss as well as progressing through the game. In nearly every Zelda game, navigating a dungeon is aided by locating a map, which reveals its layout, and a magiccompass, which reveals the location of significant items. In later games, the series also included a special 'boss key', that would unlock the door to battle the dungeon's boss enemy.
In most Zelda games, the player's life meter is represented as a line of hearts. The life meter is replenished a number of different ways, including picking up hearts left by some defeated enemies, fairies or springs located in specific locations, or using an item such as a potion. Most games feature "heart containers" or "a piece of heart" as the prize for defeating the final boss of a dungeon and also for completing certain side quests; these extend the life meter by one heart.
The games pioneered a number of features that were to become industry standards. The original Legend of Zelda was the first console game with a save function that enabled players to stop playing and then resume later. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time introduced a targeting system that simplified 3D combat.
The Legend of Zelda series, like many Nintendo games, has been noted for its use of music. Koji Kondo, who has been described as the "greatest legend in the video game audio industry" because of his work for Nintendo, has composed much of the music for the series, although the last game for which he was solely responsible for the composition of the soundtrack was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Games in The Legend of Zelda series frequently feature in-game musical instruments, particularly in musical puzzles, which are widespread. Often, instruments trigger game events: for example, the recorder in The Legend of Zelda can reveal "secret" areas, as well as 'warp' Link to the Dungeon entrances. This warping with music feature has also been used in A Link to the Past & Link's Awakening. In Ocarina of Time, playing instruments is a core part of the game, the player needing to play the instrument through the use of the game controller to succeed. Ocarina of Time is "[one of the] first contemporary non-dance title[s] to feature music-making as part of its gameplay", using music as a heuristic device and requiring the player to utilise songs to progress in the game—a game mechanic that is also present in Majora's Mask and, in different forms, The Wind Waker, Oracle of Ages, Spirit Tracks, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword.
"The Legend of Zelda Theme" is a recurring piece of music that was created for the first game of the franchise. The composer, Koji Kondo, initially planned to use Maurice Ravel's Boléro as the game's title theme, but was forced to change it when he learned, late into the game's development cycle, that the copyright for Boléro hadn't expired yet; therefore he wrote a new arrangement of the overworld theme within one day. The "Zelda Theme" has topped ScrewAttack's "Top Ten Videogame Themes Ever" list.
To date, the Legend of Zelda series has avoided using voice actors, relying instead on written dialogue. The producer of Skyward Sword has said that, as Link is entirely mute, having the other characters speak while Link remains silent would be off-putting.
The Legend of Zelda was principally inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto's explorations as a young boy in the hillsides surrounding his childhood home in Sonobe, Japan where he ventured into forests with secluded lakes, caves, and rural villages. According to Miyamoto, one of his most memorable experiences was the discovery of a cave entrance in the middle of the woods. After some hesitation, he apprehensively entered the cave, and explored its depths with the aid of a lantern. Miyamoto has referred to the creation of the Zelda games as an attempt to bring to life a "miniature garden" for players to play with in each game of the series.
Hearing of American novelist 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.
According to the in-game backstories, long ago, three golden goddesses descended from a distant nebula to the world of Hyrule and created order and life. 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 sacred 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, the discoverer of the Triforce will receive the Triforce as a whole—along with the true force to govern all—only if that person has a balance of power, wisdom and courage. If the heart of that person is pure, the Sacred Realm will become a paradise. If the heart of that person is evil, the Sacred Realm will become a nightmarish world of evil. If they are unbalanced, they will only receive the part of the Triforce that represents the characteristic they most believe in, 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, with the Triforces of Power, Wisdom, and Courage being transferred to 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 Zelda II: The Adventure of Link that the Triforce of Courage was first introduced, being obtained by Link at the end of his quest. The triforce, or even a piece of it, is not always distributed as a whole. Such as in The Wind Waker, Link must find all the pieces (called Triforce Shards) of the Triforce of Courage before he can return to Hyrule. Even in the original The Legend of Zelda, Zelda breaks her Triforce of Wisdom into 8 pieces for Link to find, before she was captured by Ganon. 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 while Koholint is an island far away from Hyrule that appears to be part of a dream.
The chronology of the Legend of Zelda series was subject of much debate among fans until an official timeline was released on December 21, 2011 within the collector's book, Hyrule Historia, which was exclusive to Japan. Prior to its release, producers confirmed the existence of a confidential document, which connected all the games. Certain materials and developer statements once partially established an official timeline of the released installments. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is a direct sequel to the original The Legend of Zelda, and takes place several years later. The third game, A Link to the Past, is a prequel to the first two titles, and is directly followed by Link's Awakening. Ocarina of Time is a prequel that takes the story many centuries back; according to character designer Satoru Takizawa, it was meant to implicitly tell the Imprisoning War from the manual of A Link to the Past. Skyward Sword is then a prequel to Ocarina of Time. and Twilight Princess set more than 100 years later. The Wind Waker is parallel, and takes place in the other timeline branch, more than a century after the adult era of Ocarina of Time. Phantom Hourglass is a continuation of the story from The Wind Waker, and is followed by Spirit Tracks, which is set about 100 years later on a supercontinent far away from the setting of The Wind Waker. At the time of its release, Four Swords for the Game Boy Advance was considered the oldest tale in the series' chronology, with Four Swords Adventures set sometime after its events. The Minish Cap precedes the two games, telling of the origins of villain Vaati and the creation of the Four Sword. Nintendo's 2011 timeline announcement subsequently posits that following Ocarina of Time, the timeline splits into three alternate routes: in one, Link fails to defeat Ganon, leading into A Link to the Past, Oracle of Seasons & Oracle of Ages, Link's Awakening, The Legend of Zelda and Adventure of Link. In the second and third, Link is successful, leading to a timeline split between his childhood and adulthood. His childhood continues with Majora's Mask, followed by Twilight Princess and Four Swords Adventures. The timeline from his adult life continues intoWind Waker, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.
In the early 2000s, Nintendo of America released a timeline on Zelda.com, the official website of the Legend of Zelda series, which interpreted all stories up to the Oracle games as the adventures of a single protagonist named Link. At one point, translator Dan Owsen and his coworkers at Nintendo of America had conceived another complete timeline and intended to make it available online. However, the Japanese series developers vetoed the idea so the timeline would be kept open to the interpretation of the players.
Ganon (or Ganondorf as he is more commonly known in his human form) is the main antagonist of the Series and the final boss in most of the Zelda games. In the series, Ganondorf is the leader of a race of desert brigands called the Gerudo who consist of mainly females apart from 1 man born every 100 years (Ganondorf), and the evil archenemy of Link. He is significantly taller than other human NPCs, but his looks vary in different games. He usually appears with red hair, tanned skin, and a pointed nose. His eyes are either red or yellow. He wears dark clothing with gray or red flame patterns on the back and arms. In Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, he wore robes with the above description, but in Ocarina of Time, he wore a tight fitting tunic and pants. His specific motives vary from game to game, but most often they include him kidnapping Princess Zelda and planning to achieve domination of Hyrule and presumably the world beyond it. To this end, he seeks the Triforce, a powerful magical relic. He often possesses a portion of the Triforce called the Triforce of Power, which gives him great strength. However, it is often not enough to accomplish his ends, leading him to hunt the remaining Triforce pieces. Unlike Link, Zelda, and most other recurring characters, he is actually the same person in every game, with the exception of Four Swords Adventures, where he is a reincarnation of the original. In each game the battles with him are different and he fights using different styles.
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