At a glance, it may appear to be an odd matchup. Moving, almost lyrical, fantasy clashing with blistering robotic high action. Where’s the middle ground? Isn’t this a bit like comparing a symphony orchestra to Datsik Dubstep? But if you know your gaming history and truly understand what Zelda and Mega Man have done for the industry, you may just find yourself second guessing that original assertion.
Here’s a couple of baseline facts to get going. Both Zelda and Mega Man were flagship franchises for Nintendo during the 8-bit era. Mega Man has over 50 games under its belt to Zelda‘s 16 (Not counting the CDi titles … Excuuuuuuuse me!) And both are remembered fondly by nostalgiaphiles the world over. They can proudly stand on equal footing in terms of previous contributions. So how do you decide which one survives the cull?
It’s easier than you think, because while one has remained a prominent figure in the gaming landscape, even to this very day, the other has faded into relative obscurity. (10 points for guessing which one is which ahead of time.)
First things first. Capcom’s little blue jump and shoot man. Mega Man hit the NES back in 1987. Mechanics were tight, level design was exciting and, mostly importantly, it was an absolute blast to play. The premise was simple; run, jump and shoot robots. No explosion required, no thought suspended. Needless to say, it was an instant classic. Ten games later and the formula was getting a little stale. To borrow a line from the great Egoraptor, “what is this, Land Before Time?” Capcom needed to give the series a kick. Inject a bit of life back into the franchise and get the masses playing again.
Mega Man X was the result and it was a title that completely reinvigorated the franchise. For about five minutes. That’s really the crux of the Zelda vs. Mega Man argument. After the SNES era, Mega Man, as an industry presence, basically evaporated. Fanboys will likely argue to the death that subsequent titles and ‘Japan only’ releases kept the series alive for years to come but we all know Mega Man was on the downhill slide from X onwards. God awful handheld games. A baffling N64 entry. Basically, memories I can do without.
I’m not saying the series is bad, because it’s not. And I’m not suggesting Mega Man in general should be discounted, because nostalgia does count for something. But how can a game series that hasn’t seen the upside of a review since 1993 possibly compete with Zelda? And as for The Legend of Zelda specifically. Where do I begin!
The creation of Shigeru Miyamoto, The Legend of Zelda first graced our consoles way back in 1986. The inspiration for the tale stemmed from Miyamoto’s experiences as a young boy, playing in the hillside surrounds of his childhood home in Sonobe, Japan. According to the man himself, one of his most memorable and vivid experiences, which directly contributed to the creation of The Legend of Zelda franchise, was the discovery of a cave entrance in the middle of the woods. After some hesitation, Miyamoto apprehensively entered the cave and explored its depths with the aid of a lantern.
The memory of the event and the wondrous sense of adventure he felt during the exploration, stuck with him till adulthood and, when the time came, he channeled that beautiful imagery into his work. From those humble beginnings came one of the most iconic series we’ll ever have the privilege of playing. I only know one person in the video gaming industry who doesn’t know the basic story to The Legend of Zelda and worse, hasn’t played a single Zelda game.
Though the setting and key characters change slightly from game to game, the basic premise of any Zelda title remains the same. You are Link, a mute and unsuspecting young lad who stands on the cusp of adventure. In some games he’s the chosen one, in others he’s the hero of time but no matter what the title, our reluctant hero feels destined for so much more than what his dreary life presents. It’s a concept so simple in its design but so masterfully handled in its execution.
Throughout your adventures you’ll delve dungeons, face your fears, meet strange and exotic creatures, stare down enormous monsters, find true love, save a princess and bring peace to a kingdom. The Zelda series, even back at its inception, when sound consisted of bleeps and graphics were blurry pixels at best, has always been praised for immersion and emotional connectivity. You understand the characters. You feel Link’s trepidation as he steps into the Great Deku Tree. You stare wide-eyed as the curse of the Twilight Princess is broken. And you cast your troubles to the breeze as you set sail across the great sea.
In an era where games are becoming increasingly glorified and frantic, titles like Wind Waker and Skyward Sword stand as moving artistic departures and deserve every bit of praise they get. And they get plenty of praise. From the first title back in 1987 to Skyward Sword in 2011, Zelda has remained an industry champion.
And the winner is …
No matter which way you slice it, The Legend of Zelda is one of gaming’s greatest franchises. It may be simplistic in nature and the story may be a little cliché, but I’ll wager dollars to golden rupees that this gem makes it well into the DC Video Game Face Off finals.
The Legend of Zelda takes round 1 in the Heroes division of our Video Game Face Off Tournament! What are your thoughts on the decision? Chime in below and let us know!
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