Inspiration and Impact of the Legend of Zelda
Since 1995, the Entertainment Software Association has hosted a premiere event in the gaming world known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or more casually known as E3. Over the years, this Expo has heralded the arrival major gaming systems as well as some of the biggest and most popular games ever released.
On June 14th, 2016, ahead of the long-awaited release of the highly anticipated Nintendo Switch, the gaming world was treated to an amazing trailer for the newest installment in the Legend of Zelda franchise. Speechless, fans of the Zelda realm were treated to the fantastic graphics and soundtrack to this long-awaited Breath Of The Wild.
When it was released with the revolutionary Nintendo Switch on March 3rd, 2017, fans and newcomers to the Legend of Zelda were not disappointed by the open world gameplay and the graphics that had not been seen in a Zelda game up until this point. However, purists of the franchise were quick to note how different this installment was from the original that was released back in 1987.
Taking a step back from where the Zelda franchise has landed today, we will take a trip down memory lane to the original Legend of Zelda, as well as the inspiration behind this greatly loved game.
As with any great story, the Legend of Zelda is the result of a great imagination, but some personal inspiration is absolutely key as well. The amazing imagination and personal experiences of the famous Shigeru Miyamoto are truly what brought Zelda, Link, Ganon, and Hyrule to life for that first time.
If the name Shigeru Miyamoto is familiar to you, that comes as no surprise, as he had a hand in creating Donkey Kong, Mario, Star Fox, and Pikmin, as well as the Legend of Zelda. Truly one of the most prolific and important content creators at Nintendo.
As a young child, Miyamoto was lucky enough to spend time exploring the forests near his home in Japan. A famous story that influenced many of his games, but primarily Zelda, is when, as a child, he found a cave during one of his explorations. After a few days, he finally summoned the courage to enter the cave and explore. The lakes in the countryside around his childhood home are also brought to life in Legend of Zelda and many other Zelda games.
As an adult creating one of the most widely known and influential games for Nintendo, he used those experiences exploring and adventuring to bring that sense of wonder to his audience. In Legend of Zelda that sense of adventuring through forests and dungeons are clearly reminiscent.
Historical and Literary Inspiration
When playing through the Legend of Zelda, there are many historical and literary nods that jump out at you right away, and some that may be a little bit more subtle. The initial quest for the sword is exceptionally reminiscent of King Arthur’s boyhood quest to pull Excalibur from the stone, and the entire journey of Link definitely also follows the story of a young boy on a quest becoming a true knight. There are also influences and symbolism drawn from the Christian crusades to the Middle East during the Middle Ages.
Additionally, there is some fairly clear inspiration drawn from the Lord of The Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien as well. Most prominently, Link’s nemesis Ganon resides upon a volcano, as does the villain in the Lord of the Rings, Sauron. There are also plenty of similarities between the different people and opponents that are encountered throughout the quests of Link and Frodo.
The name Zelda itself comes from a very specific source: Zelda Fitzgerald, famous socialite and wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Miyamoto was enamored with the name and decided to use this as his main character’s identity.
Impact of the Legend of Zelda
With the exception of Mario, it can be argued that the Legend of Zelda is one of the most influential video games in Nintendo’s history, if not in all of gaming history. The original game has spawned 19 major games in the series on 11 different Nintendo Devices. There have also been a variety of different mini-games that this original story influenced. This franchise has spanned 32 years, with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Additionally, Link and Zelda have made plenty of appearances over the years in other Nintendo games, such as the Mario Kart Series and Super Smash Bros.
Many fanatics of the original Legend of Zelda franchise are true purists and have struggled to accept the open world and less linear storyline of the more recent games in the franchise. However, whether your first Zelda game was The Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild, or somewhere in between, there is no doubt upon finishing the game you are left hungry for more adventures in Hyrule.