Image: Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda was released 35 years ago today on February 21, 1986, making it one of the longest-lasting game franchises in history. Shmuplations (via VGC) has shared an interview from developer Shigeru Miyamoto that was originally published in the liner notes of the Legend of Zelda: Sound & Drama soundtrack (1994) that provides insight into how the game came into being.

Nintendo Famicom Disk System

Image: Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda’s anniversary is shared with the system it launched on, the Nintendo Famicon Disk System, which was only released in Japan and used floppies that allowed for more storage, enabling game saves. Most consoles back then required players to either restart from the beginning or enter a password to continue from a later level. Shigeru Miyamoto explains this below.

We were brimming with new ideas on how to fully utilize the Disk System’s new capabilities: a name entry system, using better music, recording the player’s progress, and so forth. In that sense it was a very fun game to create. The flip side of doing something new, however, is that Zelda was a game where we were very concerned whether players would understand what they were supposed to do (much like the fear Nakamura had when Dragon Quest was first released). Once we decided there’d be riddles and puzzles in Zelda, that carried a lot of anxiety with it as well. Some of the puzzles are quite difficult to solve, after all.

A Childhood Adventure Leads to an Idea

In another interview from four years ago, Shigeru Miyamoto detailed how an afternoon in the countryside led to an idea. Like many children, the sense of adventure while exploring nature fueled his imagination and pointed him toward Hyrule.

An everyday boy gets drawn into a series of incredible events and grows to become a hero. Within that framework, I wanted to create a game where the player could experience the feeling of exploration as he travels about the world, becoming familiar with the history of the land and the natural world he inhabits.

From Pen and Paper to Screens and Controllers

At the time, many dungeon crawlers required players to resort to pen and paper to map their progress, which was expected considering their ancestry to the original tabletop role-playing games of the 1970s that they originated from. Some games had come to incorporate self-mapping features, but he wanted to take it a step further.

Adventure games and RPGs are games where you advance the story through dialogue alone, but we wanted players to actually experience the physical sensation of using a controller and moving the character through the world. We wanted dungeons to be explorable with a simple mapping system. These and similar ideas were what we wanted to experiment with in Zelda. These themes are carried forward in the SFC Zelda as well.

The Legend Lives On

Technology would eventually evolve, and the franchise along with it. Thirty-five years later, the iconic series still captivates players from around the world. It has joined the ranks of other popular titles such as Mario Bros. and Castlevania, which also started their journeys back then and stood the test of time. Happy birthday Zelda!

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Peter Brosdahl

As a child of the 70’s I was part of the many who became enthralled by the video arcade invasion of the 1980’s. Saving money from various odd jobs I purchased my first computer from a friend of my...

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2 Comments

  1. Zelda 1 was the first game I played in the series. I actually own the Famicom Disk System version, along with the gold cartridge NES version, and I also have the Gamecube version (came on a disc with a bunch of other Zelda games). I’ve played and liked most main Zelda games in the series, but I never did finish the original. Zelda II I never finished cuz it was brutally difficult. Link to the Past on SNES is my favorite in the series. Also never got into Skyward Sword cuz I couldn’t stand the motion controls (maybe the new Switch version will turn out better). Never finished Majora’s Mask either, but not cuz I hated it (although I was not a fan of the 3-day cycle). I’d like to finish it using the remaster on 3DS one day. Anyways, Zelda on the whole is a good-@ss series, nice to see it hit 35 years.

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