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The Legend of Zelda - A Lazy Link

May 27, 2016, 11:14 p.m.

The original Legend of Zelda on the NES has been a favorite of mine since I was a child. It's a game I have a lot of early memories playing myself, as well as watching my older brother and father play.

When people talk about Zelda 1 today, there's this very common criticism of "Bomb every wall. Burn every bush." and how this requirement of finding secrets, whose only hints are crude translations really makes the game a struggle to enjoy in a modern setting.

Having had the good fortune of being the youngest person in my family to play the game growing up, I had the luxury of being able to ask my brother and father about any secrets I may have missed, so the frustrations of playing blind never really were an issue for me. After hearing the criticism so many times, I've always wondered just how many secrets were required to complete the game.

So that's my motivation for this playthrough. A lazy Link who will never bomb a wall, burn a bush, or solve any puzzle unless the game requires it. If it has to be uncovered, it will remain covered. This will be bordering on a worst case scenario for the player's abilities. I'm confident anybody opting to play Zelda 1 for the first time in 2016 will have a much easier time than this.

And so it begins. The game's manual includes a walkthrough to get you to the first dungeon, and an incomplete map of the overworld. However, you can very much just wander around the overworld until you stumble onto a dungeon. I pick up my sword and head to level one.

Level 1 - Eagle

The first dungeon greets you with a locked door and two open paths. The left leads to a room full of keese. Killing all of them will give you a key, but a brand new player may just see some bats and no reason to proceed. Heading right is a room with some stalfos. One of which is holding a key which is visible on them. An uninformed player is told there is a key explicitly (provided they can notice it there at least).

A few screens ahead, Link will be locked in a room with more keese and a locked door. If the player did not collect both possible keys from the first two rooms, they will be forced to go back. The player however, now has the knowledge that defeating all the enemies in a room can sometimes cause the room to react. Now they haven't seen a dropped an item, and god forbid a player may think they'll need to buy keys from shops which are an expensive 100 rupees, but with only the first keese room as an option (another unmentioned room contains keese and an already on the ground compass) to find a key, it should be a pretty safe bet they'll return there.

And so I return, defeat the keese, and collect my prize.

The next room after the locked door contains a few gels, a single block, and a locked door. The game has guided you to try to kill all the gels. Doing so does nothing. Oh well, next room.

This room has a map lying on the ground and reveals the shape of the dungeon, letting a player know exactly how much of the dungeon they've left unseen. The only way to go without any keys is north, where another room contains a stalfos with a visible key again, but has its own locked door above, forcing the player to decide where they'll go. If they have the compass, they'll know the triforce piece is to the right. So I opt to turn back and head right. This leads to a room with a new enemy, goriya, who throw boomerangs. I run past them and into the next room, with another new enemy, the wallmaster, who will take Link to the start of the dungeon should he be hit. There's an exposed key on the floor used to access the boss room.

The first boss, Aquamentus is revealed. A dragon who shoots fireballs and is defeated with a few stabs of the sword.

Picking up the first piece of the triforce refills the player's health and exits the dungeon for them. Now the player's out of keys, but still has a locked door in the completed dungeon. In reality, defeating all the stalfos in a previous room would've dropped another key. At some point the player is required to go in those other rooms to obtain the first dungeon's treasure, the bow, which is mandatory for defeating a later boss as well as Ganon.

For my own sake I go right back in and get it. This involves a room of goriya which must be defeated to get another key.

== LEVEL 1 TOTALS ==
Bushes Burned: 0
Walls Bombed: 0
Blocks Pushed: 0
Rooms Cleared: 3 (bosses are excluded)

== MISSED ITEMS ==
Boomerang - Obtained by defeating all the goriya in a room

== MISSED CLUES ==
"Eastmost penninsula is the secret." - Likely hinting at the secret entrance in the northeast corner of the overworld. Found by pushing a block after defeating the zols.

Not having a boomerang is definitely no fun, but I head off for level two, which like level one, is completely exposed and requires just finding it on the overworld.

Level two is still a pain to find despite this. It's very easy to walk right past it as its entrance, and the board leading to its entrance are so enclosed. A new player will probably do a decent amount of wandering, and may even find the entrance to level three first! The game's manual has a walkthrough to get to level one, and a map of the area to guide you towards level two, so it's still possible to minimize exploration.

Level 2 - Moon

Level two opens without any locked doors, so right away the player can go where they please.

Level two is significantly more linear in this challenge. Without any keys lying on the ground, none of the locked doors can be opened, and without defeating all the enemies in one of the first rooms, a door behind a shutter also can't be accessed. Eventually you reach this room, which again, can just be walked on through, but it introduces a miniboss enemy known as Moldorm, who I completely ignore. At the very least, this room certainly looks important.

The room above the moldorms contains a shutter door and a key door. Having no keys, I'm forced to actually fight the enemies. Alternatively, defeating all the enemies in several of the other rooms would also have dropped a key. Either way, a room must be cleared.

The next room contains several goriya and traps the player. This time the fight is forced to be here. This room is notable because defeating the enemies not only opens the shutters, but also gives the player some bombs. This is fortunate as they're required to defeat the boss. It also means that at this point the player has explicitly been told that defeating all the enemies in a room can cause items to drop, even if they had been very slowly purchasing keys from shops up until this point.

The boss of level two is this doofus Dodongo. Now, without exploring the rest of the level, the hint on how to defeat this boss isn't revealed. So this is a good moment telling the player they should really be exploring. The player is free to leave the boss fight at any time, which is also useful if they entered the room without bombs.

What a dork.

That's two dungeons completed. Level two has no items which are mandatory to complete the game, but it does have an optional important one: The magical boomerang. This is my first playthrough without picking up a boomerang at all, so we'll see how much more difficult that makes things for me.

== LEVEL 2 TOTALS ==
Bushes Burned: 0
Walls Bombed: 0
Blocks Pushed: 0
Rooms Cleared: 4(+1)

== MISSED ITEMS ==
Compass - Lying in the open behind a locked door
Map - Lying in the open behind a locked door
Magical Boomerang - Obtained by defeating all the blue goriya in a room

== MISSED CLUES ==
"Dodongo dislikes smoke." - Telling you how to defeat the boss of level two.

Rather than go straight to level three, I feel now's a good time to pick up a few items and do some shopping. This old man towards the northeast of the map gives you the letter which you can show to the old women to buy healing potions from them. Depending on the player's skill, exactly when they'll start finding potions to be a helpful investment will vary. This screen is pretty close to level two however, so I grab it now.

Spoilers: There's a wall you can bomb on this screen, but I bet you won't need to use that many bombs to find it. Alas I'm not allowed to find it in this playthrough and have to move on.

I head to the source of the river, and it's definitely more of a challenge when you don't have a boomerang to stun the lynel.

The cave leads to the location of the white sword. Thankfully fully exposed so I'm allowed to acquire it. The dialog is a funny way of saying "If you're good with a sword, I'll let you have this one". As kids my brother and I always thought it meant that you had to have two pieces of triforce to pick up, but the actual requirement is to have a total of five of more hearts for your life. If you know where secrets are, it's possible to get the white sword before entering the first dungeon. The first two dungeons are pretty simple without it though, but it's much more essential starting with the third level.

Traveling back to the start of the game and heading west lets me pick up a blue candle for 60 rupees. Don't worry, I won't be burning any plant life with it. I'll only be lighting some dark rooms.

Level 3 - Manji

Level three, yet again is fully exposed on the overworld and can be accessed at any time. However, a new player jumping right into this one at the start of the game would be wise to turn away for reasons soon to be seen.

The entrance, for the first time, is completely linear. So where to head is pretty obvious.

The first main room introduces zols. These enemies split into two gels when defeated with the wooden sword, however stronger weapons such as the white sword defeat them outright. Gels can never drop items, so while zols aren't particularly dangerous, a player without the white sword will have a hard time refilling their health in this dungeon. A first key is handed to the player.

The next room contains more zols and several blocks and can be passed straight on through. After that is this room which introduces a new enemy, and one of the most difficult in the game, the darknut. Darknuts have a shield like Link's, which prevents attacks head on, requiring Link to flank and attack from the sides or behind. You can hurt them with bombs, however when the bomb explodes, Link's current facing direction is checked so the bomb blast may still be ignored in some situations.

Fortunately for newcomers, those darknuts can be ignored. Heading north takes you to a room with three locked doors. The dungeons are starting to get more complex in layout at this point. With only one key I make the decision to head to the right, which is another room with some zols, and the dungeon map lying on the ground.

The room afterwards contains a forced fight with some darknuts in order to proceed. This fight can be avoided by bombing the eastern wall in the previous room, but finding (or making in this case) secret passages is not allowed.

The next room is another forced fight. It also introduces bubbles. Enemies that don't hurt Link, but prevent him from using his sword temporarily. Defeating the enemies opens the shutters and causes a five rupee reward to spawn. The bubbles can't be killed, but don't count as enemies to be killed in cases like this.

The next next room is this dungeon's boss, Manhandla.

He's a bit of a pain to this day. You have to defeat all four mouths(?), and with each one destroyed he moves faster. The best strategy is to use bombs as they can take him out in one hit if the positioning is perfect. On a continue I died again, oops.

Third time's the charm. But, much like level one, there's a required item in the dungeon that I skipped.

The return to level three involves defeating all the zols in a room to get a key to drop, then unlocking a door, fighting all the darknuts to open the shutters, then running through a bunch of darknuts to go down some stairs to acquire the raft.

== LEVEL 3 TOTALS ==
Bushes Burned: 0
Walls Bombed: 0
Blocks Pushed: 0
Rooms Cleared: 8(+4)

== MISSED ITEMS ==
Compass - Lying in the open behind a locked door
Map - Lying in the open behind a locked door
Magical Boomerang - Obtained by defeating all the blue goriya in a room

== MISSED CLUES ==
"Did you get the sword from the old man on top of the waterfall?" - Letting you know where to find the white sword. If you're playing dungeons in order, you can definitely use it by this point.

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