View Full Version : Zelda Editorial: Uncovering Your Quest

02-08-2017, 01:19 PM
I've been thinking lately about how much attention we spend on the design of levels, dungeons, and the nitty-gritty details of gameplay in games like Zelda. But with Breath of the Wild coming out this year it got me to thinking about what made Zelda so successful in the first-place. What are the qualities that made the game such a unique experience compared to other games? At least for me, its clearly the exploration factor. Much ado is made about going into these underground labyrinths and coming out the other end in one piece, as the 'primary' gameplay of zelda, and sometimes you get the feeling that the overworld is only intended as the connecting hub that gets you from dungeon to dungeon. However I think this is completely the opposite. Zelda is a game where the entire meat of the experience is spent not on combat, puzzle-solving, nor a big story. Its all about finding things, and using those things to find other things. Finishing the dungeons gave us a sense of victory, but lets not forget that just finding the damn things was equally as satisfying and honestly a really intriguing aspect of the game which made it so cool in the first place.

So here's my question: Its one thing to design a dungeon well. How do you hide a dungeon? How are player's supposed to find them? What clues do you give them? Its a lost art; one the series doesn't seem to practice much anymore in favor of (relatively) richer and cohesive narratives. I don't think you typically see the level of exploration-based design on display in Zelda in many modern games either, so its an aspect of gameplay that I don't think gets enough coverage.

I want to go through these old games to examine how each dungeon is tucked away and how the experience of finding it may go for your average first-timer. I'm not an expert and I don't want to make a production out of this, so don't expect too much!

Let's start with the first game.

Spooky Tree = Spooky Skeletons

Zelda 1's first dungeon is smack in the middle of the world map, situated on a big lake which serves as a primary focal point for players to gravitate toward. This is about as close to “Here I am! Look at me!” as the first game gets aside from sticking a cave on the first screen. Much has been said about the first screen of the game (I've always called it the home base) in Parish's Anatomy articles (http://www.anatomyofgames.com/2012/09/04/anatomy-of-a-game-the-legend-of-zelda-i/). One of his points struck me as particularly inspired – the notion that north is the direction of progress. It makes sense that in accordance with this idea, you would put your first level just a few screens north of the start. Plus, since its out on the lake, you have that long wood bridge leading out toward it, acting as a point of interest. You look at this bridge and go “hey now what's that over there I think i'm gonna go take a looksie” as you get continuously pelted by fireballs.

But wait, what if you don't go north? What if you go left? Or right? What if a kid boots up the game with no instructions and is just completely lost?

Well the answer to that question is why Level 1 is so interesting.

The game has many regions, this is the first.

Your home base is a visually distinct area, with lots of little 'landmarks' to help you find your bearings. The entire game world is littered with them here and there. They serve to help make distinct little regions of the world that you CAN call things like a home base. I always wondered to myself why there was a little river to the left of the start. It has that cute little bridge which I love unconditionally. Well I think the reason the river is there is so that players can follow it to the source.

Heading immediately left from the start takes you to the river, which bars your way. You can see that cave on the other side though, with the opening in the hills on the top of the screen. You've already gotten a sword that shoots laser beams, who knows what else could be in there?! Heading up, around, and over the bridge, you can get down there. This is extremely simple, but I like that these four screens make clear to newcomers how the screens of the overworld tie together and encourage your brain to think outside the one screen you're on.

Going straight north does the same thing. You'll hit that wall and be made to pick left or right. Should you go left, you'll hit the river again. If you don't go over the bridge and follow along the river it will bring you up to the big lake. I really like this since the lake is so big players might naturally want to follow along the shore and see how big it is, or if there's anything of note around. Like the cave to the west, this is all about helping you orient yourself in this new type of game, and get an idea of how the screens connect.

Heading east will take you into the forest. Its the most 'direct' way of getting to the dungeon, since its just a straight shot. However if you head this way right off the bat you might just keep going right and end up poking around in the woods. Now, everything to the left of the start is doing it's damnedest to keep you from wandering too far from the first level, why not the right? I think because it reinforces the idea that you don't have to do the first dungeon first (and because Level 2 is over there but we'll get to that later). All the above stuff with the river is just there to help you find it -- to help you make sense of where you are and give the land a distinct feeling of location, and once you have a picture of the map in your head, you can just cut through the woods since you know where you're going. Yet the forest also allows you the opportunity to go gallivanting off and just poking around to see what you can see. This includes other dungeons, new scary monsters, or maybe other kinds of secrets!

After all, maybe you just want to go into a forest to kill some wriggling octopui? You did just get a laser sword, y'know.

If there were a "Top 15 Favorite Screens" this one would be up there.

In summation Level 1, while not that hidden, is pretty cool... for a petrified oak tree. Its the first dungeon so it's obviously the easiest, but the way that the game sets the world up and gets you on your feet is pretty interesting to speculate upon.

Yeah yeah, for a dungeon in plain sight it's a little dry talking about it. Level 2 is when things get juicy.

02-08-2017, 06:14 PM
Zelda overworld design is a great idea. Love it. Looking forward to the rest.

02-08-2017, 07:33 PM
Stuff like this is why Zelda 1 is still my favorite, even though you can't walk diagonally and it has silly stuff like the bait and blue candle.

02-08-2017, 10:43 PM
Looking forward to more of your thoughts Isrieri!

02-09-2017, 09:26 AM
Much ado is made about going into these underground labyrinths and coming out the other end in one piece, as the 'primary' gameplay of zelda, and sometimes you get the feeling that the overworld is only intended as the connecting hub that gets you from dungeon to dungeon.

If I recall correctly, the developers have said that's precisely what it was intended to be. Of course, the end result greatly outweighs the intent...

Also, yes, looking forward to more of this. Screw puzzles! Exploration and discovery are what I love in Zelda, and the more agency I have to do it, the happier I am. (http://www.marios-hat.com/2016/02/review-the-legend-of-zelda-for-nintendo-3ds-eshop/)

02-09-2017, 11:08 PM
Are we dumping think pieces on Zelda 1 (http://secretgamergirl.tumblr.com/post/156832408185/i-am-madly-in-love-with-zeldas-overworld) in this thread in general? Because I keep seeing interesting takes on it lately and there should be a thread for that.

On level 1's placement though, I'm really not so sure it's the first one everyone is likely to find first. Wandering east from the start gets really hairy really fast, so while I see plenty of people trying it, it's easily discouraged, but there's a strong incentive to go west first. Doing so keeps you in Green Rocks Land, so it feels less like you're wandering out into the hostile wilderness, and while going straight north you hit a wall, and straight east you get killed by zoras, west teases that cave. Trying to get to it takes you to another, with an item shop, and if you continue, the path keeps reinforcing the decision. The teased cave has a hint. The medicine woman is at least an intriguing mystery. If you continue wall hugging, you're lead right to level 3, and if you instead hug the water after crossing the bridge, hey, more shops. Hug that wall, hey, fairy.

You do get largely hemmed in after finding those points of interest though, and you do kinda get funneled towards level 1 if you're forced back across the bridge.

And of course, if you DID find 3 while over there, level 4 is also more enticing to explore. Likely seen on the way, and hey you just got that raft.

Level 2 though is the one though that's really off the beaten path given the presumptive intended order.

02-10-2017, 08:08 AM
I always thought Level 3 was surprisingly easy to find compared to 2. I guess this is to let you know that level order isn't rigid. Most people probably back away slowly the first time they arrive at a level higher than they're expecting, but they'll still come away with the knowledge that they have options.

Personally I love doing Level 3 first. It's surprisingly easy and doesn't require any special items to traverse. Finding its treasure means you can have up to eight heart containers before attempting a second dungeon.

02-10-2017, 08:51 AM
If you know what you're doing you can have the white sword before you ever step foot in a dungeon?

02-10-2017, 04:00 PM
If you know what you're doing you can have the white sword before you ever step foot in a dungeon?

Quite easily! Hell, you can do it without entering a dungeon OR grabbing the wooden sword. The farthest northeast screen is a 100 rupee "secret to everybody" you can just walk right into without any items. Grab that, buy a candle and some bombs, open up a couple overworld hearts, tada, white sword.

Totally swordless runs are also possible (and there's an option to force them in the randomizer) by picking up the wand, which is essentially a spare white sword with extra features.

Zelda is @#$%ing great.

02-12-2017, 05:26 PM
The forest is a lot bigger and more deliberate with it's pathing. Level 2 is tucked away in the back.

Level 2 is out in the wide forest directly to the east of the start. Putting it there is a pretty logical decision: Most of the west side of the world is barred to you at this point, since you can't cross over rivers and you shouldn't know how to navigate the Lost Woods yet. The woods are one of the bigger regions of the game world and one of the earliest players have immediate access to. This makes it feel like a good 'safe zone' where exploring won't get you completely wrecked.

The map makes the route to the dungeon seem pretty clear, but the forest trees are laid out in similar patterns that you might find elsewhere in the overworld, and when you're only starting out they can get jumbled together in your memory. The first time I played the game, even when I knew where Level 2 was beforehand, I would still get turned around occasionally because I'd usually cut through the sea-side route to the south and head straight up. The way the forest is laid out, it has a few tree-lines that barricade your route and require you to know how to enter the screen from one side to be on the path that takes you where you want to go. I somehow still manage to go down the wrong way on those one-way forest paths.


What I like here is, after a dungeon that semi-leads you to itself via the lakeshore, this one also gives you another (albeit subtler) visual clue with the armos statues. If you squint your eyes, you can look at them like the pieces of an old ruined forest temple, with the entrance up on the top of a hill deep in the woods. It gives the dungeon a little character and makes it feel like a part of the world its in. Still, the dungeon doesn't have a direct give-away on an adjacent screen, so you do have to wander the forest properly until you can figure out where it is. Due of the way the forest is constructed, finding it is meant to be a test of how well you can navigate the game world. You could call it a continuation of the lessons you were learning at the very beginning.

Its not all about visualization though. The moblins here can still swarm players with their large numbers if you wander in with 3 hearts and no knowledge of how your shield works. The forest isn't exactly hard but fighting the enemies in there might get a little hectic if you take some careless hits. So you won't always be in the frame of mind to look for dungeons when you're trying not to get shot in the face. After coming out from Level 1 with the items you find there, it won't be as daunting.

What were those tools again? A boomerang, a bow, and another heart container. But which one is the most important of these? You might say the heart container, but I disagree.


I want to talk about the boomerang for a second. This is THE second-most important item in the game, aside from bombs. Its a combat item, where you stun an enemy for a few seconds and can get some free hits.

This is huge. Why?

Getting this kind of treasure from the dungeons showcases that the items will all have their own niche uses and some can fill more than one roll. For instance, boomerangs also pick up items, and you can throw it in eight directions!
Hitting things with the sword takes a lot more precision than in future games, and thus beginners need time to adjust to the finicky dance you do with enemies.
Yet if my memory serves, you won't want to do close combat much. Its more effective to stay further back and sword-beam 'em. But you won't always be at full health.
A lot of what makes the precise attacking so tricky is the erratic movements of your foes. They can turn on a dime and take you by surprise, and if you aren't strong enough to kill them in one blow they can sneak in a hit on you.

The boomerang isn't just a combat item. Its a tool that helps you explore the overworld further. Being able to manage enemies more effectively means that you'll be able to travel much further with your lower amount of health than you could otherwise. If you can get skilled enough with it, no enemy on the overworld will give you trouble, and you could head up onto Death Mountain without fear if you wanted to. Long story short, this is why the forest becomes the next logical venue for exploration.

Level 2 is cool because its such a perfect step up from before. Unlike Levels 1 & 3 it makes you do a little legwork to find it. Not too difficult to find, not in a very dangerous area, and no special tricks or secrets you have to know.

But here's the thing: As google & boyonion pointed out above, you will probably come across dungeon three before two. I found the first, third, and fifth dungeons before finding the second. The third wasn't too far from the start, and I stumbled upon it before long enough. I found the fifth one because I suspected something was up with the lone waterfall that feeds into the lake. Basically I came across them while walking around just minding my own business. Whereas the second I had to buckle down for.

So what's up with that? Why make Level 2 trickier to find than Level 3?
Well...three is a harder dungeon.


Level 3 is a bit of an oddball in regard to where they put it.

Going across the bridge at your home base will take you into the Lost Woods area. Here you find the eponymous maze... a fairy fountain... another pond right next to it... a shop... a cave with the silent potion lady... the armos at the dead end that hide the blue ring shop... the cave due south of the woods that you always forget is there since you can't go straight south from the maze... oh and Level 3.

It just happens to be there. Its weird! but the more I think about it the more it makes sense. Level 2 isn't that hard of a dungeon once you actually get inside. The dondogo might take a while if you didn't sort out that you need bombs, but its not difficult. Level 3 is difficult. As I played the game getting the screenshots for this the Manhandla killed me, I wanna say, 4 or 5 times? (I usually get pretty lucky with the first bomb!) Coming in without the white sword means you'll have to contend with rooms full of hershey-kiss slimeballs, and I probably don't need to speak of the knights that kick your ass six ways from sunday. If players haven't figured out that they can bomb open caves to find secret heart containers, how are they gonna get the white sword? They'll have to do the first two dungeons first!

Having the third dungeon relatively in plain sight like this was a deliberate statement on the designers, to communicate that you aren't strong enough to tackle it and should come back later. It shouts to the newcomer "You need to get stronger!"

Here's the clincher: Level 3 is a more important dungeon than the first 2, because the item you find here, the raft, is the first of the game's key items. You need it to get to access Level 4, and you won't be able to do Level 5 without the stepladder from 4. This dungeon is a barrier dungeon. Its meant to be the wall against which young challengers butt their heads. After all, if you could clear it easily, you'd probably head straight for Level 4 just a few blocks away and have a rough time with the gleeok. Zelda is intended as an exploration game, and a world you take at in a linear order isn't one that lends itself well to the feeling of finding a cool new dungeon or a neat new item. So instead, Zelda expects you to go to the dungeons not in a string, but in chunks. The first three dungeons are the first chunk. Followed by the next three, then the last three.

So I think its pretty ingenious that you can find this one so easily and get your head bitten off by a giant plant monster. Level 2 is harder to find and if players haven't happened across it yet, this dungeon encourages them to try. Its a reinforcement of exploration being the main gameplay element.

02-13-2017, 01:14 PM
These have been really good so far! I look forward to the next. I think your "threes" approach to dungeons is pretty spot-on, personally.

02-13-2017, 11:09 PM
Yeah, this is excellent. Inspires me to do my own DIY anatomy, but no idea for which game.

I admit I never really found Level 3 particularly tough though. But maybe that's because I've probably never actually gone through it with anything less than the white sword.

I also have a huge soft spot for the design of Level 2 itself, which can impact your playthrough all the way to the end of the game. I don't believe you need to use more than one key (if even one at all) if you use bombs to work your way through the dungeon's alternate path. Collecting the dungeon's keys anyway means you can stockpile them for future dungeons since this game's keys are generic and not dungeon-specific.

02-15-2017, 02:43 PM
This reminds me of how much I miss regularly having the boomerangs as a sidearm of sorts. Yeah, the 3D games have boomerangs, but they almost never work the way they did here, only being brought out for special occasions instead of being second only to your sword.

02-15-2017, 10:16 PM
Yeah there have been some good points made about the boomerang. My favourite boomerang is still Zelda 1's. I love how it just flicks and travels. LttP's feels chunkier. Way less fun to throw around.

02-16-2017, 11:27 AM

Level 4 is probably the easiest one to find in the game. It has a few similarities to Level 1: It too, is out on the lake, with a clue to it's location on an adjacent screen (the dock), and all you need to do is go off the dock with your raft. Seeing as how there are only two of these docks in the game, and it isn't really hard to put a raft and water together, as long as you think to try and use the raft on the dock then you're set. Seems a bit out of place – as though this dungeon is only out there so that you need the raft to get to it. This begins the second chunk of the game – the first of the three 'locked dungeons.'

The key aspect of Level 4 is the fact that its barred by a key item! This is where you start to see the way items are traditionally handled in the Zelda series. Typically, the formula is that you go into the dungeon, you do one half normally, get the dungeon item, and then do the other half that opens up once you obtain it. The items help you navigate the world more easily, are used for solving puzzles in the dungeons you find them, and can open up dungeons that were previously barred to you because of the terrain. The Megaton Hammer from Ocarina of Time leaps to mind. These are usually contained in rooms that call attention to the treasure chest to mark it as something important, and they tend to bar the exit to the room until you figure out how to use the item to re-open it (like the Slingshot in the Deku Tree).


Zelda 1 is obviously not as complex as future games, so the items you obtain you just sort of... get. They're down in hidden rooms that call attention to the cool new treasure you've obtained. As a result, they tend to have simple implementations that cover a decent range of methods to utilize them. Thus, most of your arsenal finds uses in later dungeons and not just the current one. Consider the stepladder: Half of Level 4 is barred to you because a of gap in the floor you can't bypass. Once you get the stepladder, not only does the rest of the dungeon open up, any rooms with gaps now put you at an advantage instead of a disadvantage, since you can hang off the side and shank enemies who are stuck on the tiles.

However, all the enemies in Level 4 are vires and zols. Later on, when you have to deal with wizzrobes in such rooms, having a safe spot to duck from their line of fire is invaluable. On the other hand, the magic rod is completely useless against the wizzrobes you rob it from, but it DESTROYS the fleshy foes of Level 7. Both of these items also trivialize aspects of the overworld that were once barriers to your progress. The ladder lets you cross over the river into the mountain foothills, bypassing the Lost Woods. The rod gives you the upper hand against the powerful foes of the mountain and makes exploring there far safer, just like the boomerang did. The commonality between all the game's items is that they expand on the world. They allow you to go farther, more well-equipped, and go to places you weren't able to reach before.



Levels 4, 5, and 6 are significant because they serve to highlight the uses of your items and hopefully help to sink in that your arsenal is going to be useful for more than it's 'obvious' purpose. All three are impossible to access or rendered far more difficult to complete without an outside item. Not to mention that because many of them have such general utility, they tend to always come in handy throughout the game.

Obviously, future games have items that work like this. Yet I think Zelda 1 is an anomaly here. The items almost feel as though they were designed to be useful for a future dungeon rather than the one you find it in. ALTTP (which I will refer to as Zelda 3 here-on-out) is also interesting in this regard, but we'll get there when we get there.

02-16-2017, 11:36 AM
This reminds me of how much I miss regularly having the boomerangs as a sidearm of sorts. Yeah, the 3D games have boomerangs, but they almost never work the way they did here, only being brought out for special occasions instead of being second only to your sword.

That's why I feel that the early games are so interesting in how items are found and utilized. There's a clear distinction between how the series went about it in future games and how they did it here.

Like...the Gale Boomerang is awesome since you can target multiple things like in Wind Waker, and they made it so you can more easily bring items back to you. But it's essentially a tool for doing the puzzles the game presents to you, so instead of having a lot of general usages, it just becomes another raft. You'll get the Bow the very next dungeon, and if memory serves the boomerang doesn't really stun foes for that long or does damage to many foes. The bow is a lot more fun and visceral to use (there's more thwack to it), and so you never whip out the boomerang in that game except when you need to.

A complete reversal of the first game! I never use the bow in Zelda 1. Probably because all the enemies you would like to use it on are immune to it.

02-16-2017, 03:08 PM
Great thread. All this type of stuff is why I was so excited to play Link Between Worlds. Agency!

It would be interesting to compare how Zelda approached these gameplay elements against inspirations and imitators like Tower of Druaga and Valkyrie no Bouken.

02-23-2017, 05:14 PM
A complete reversal of the first game! I never use the bow in Zelda 1. Probably because all the enemies you would like to use it on are immune to it.

I never use the bow because the ammo for the bow is rupees. Even as a kid I felt, "Nah, son. I probably need that money."

02-23-2017, 11:14 PM
I like the idea of using an important resource as ammo. I think the series tried it again with the Rupee Armour spell in Wind Waker, but it just wasn't the same.

Zelda 1 is really the only time rupees have been an active consideration for me, and not even because of the arrows! The early game has a lot of items worth spending money on, and even finding all the rupee secrets only really fills your wallet once. The blue ring is almost prohibitively expensive for new players, and even more so if they're trying to keep stocked on potions or want the lamp. Then there is the meat and also the Magic Shield (which is a godsend for level 6 and on). I also love how different merchants have different prices. Learn the world; unearth great bargains!

As a kid it never really clicked with me to be thirfty with my rupees, but now I know to buy the meat from the blue ring dealer and the Magic Shield from the guy under the corner tree south of Level 1. I saved: $80! That's a red potion!

02-24-2017, 07:11 AM
If you could carry more than 255, it might have been less of an issue.

03-12-2017, 05:45 PM

Whereas the previous dungeon was barred to you by little more than water, Level 5 is nestled in the Lost Hills to the east. One of the sillier Zelda locations, in my opinion. The solution is so simple its almost ironic how potentially befuddling it is for first-timers who wander there of their own accord.

The first chunk of the game was the introductory period, and the dungeons were mostly in plain sight, only needing to be found and entered. Searching for them, players will likely have uncovered most of the explorable overworld by this point. The 'locked dungeon' chunk of the game challenges players to shift gears. Looking for dungeons in new locations is going to be harder now, so players must use their knowledge of the overworld and comb over previous locations to search for things they may have overlooked. Level 4 hints at this idea by sitting out on the lake, where Level 1 was located. The game previously tested you on your ability to navigate screen to screen and keep track of locations in your cognitive mental map, and now tests you on your memory of the overworld as a whole. Its the same idea, but on a larger scale.

Here's the thing though – the game really wants you to succeed with Level 5 particularly. The game is actually a lot more forgiving and blatant with it's clues than nostalgia may be believed.

The eastern hills hide quite a few secrets. You'll already have had to come here for the White Sword. This was also around the time I started to realize I could bomb open caves.

I like Level 5 because the solution is right at the front door of the puzzle. I mean, imagine walking into a room in Portal and the solution is written on the wall of the chamber...in windings. That's kind of what Level 5 is like.

The east hills region is an important one, and its where my mind takes me when I think back on the game. There are a ton of things here to pique your interest, like the gnarled tree with MONEY MAKING GAME. The conspicuous rock that begs for a closer inspection will reveal a heart container if you bomb it, and the revelation that certain walls can be bombed out. The second dock for the raft is here, and the invaluable potion letter. The one thing you won't find here is a dungeon. You will find some confusing hills though.

Sure, it may seem obvious that there has to be a dungeon here somewhere, but not when you're, like, six. Chances are high most players will have come here before doing Level 4 and may have written this region off as 'explored.' The game is throwing you a bit of a curveball in that respect. Level 4 makes finding this dungeon far easier because of the old man within who tells you straight out “WALK INTO THE WATERFALL” directly on the critical path. So with the knowledge that there's something behind a waterfall the question becomes “Where is there a waterfall again?” There's only one waterfall in the game, and its right below the White Sword cave, likely to be a location still fresh in most player's memory. This hint is the start of a trend you'll see in all the dungeons from here forward, giving you hints in one dungeon regarding where to look for the next one. The waterfall cave will reveal the secret of the hills, and subsequently the dungeon. This time, the lock barring you from the path is not only the terrain, but your own assumptions, and secret knowledge. This is important to keep in mind for later.

This very blatant hint is a shining example Zelda 1's world design in action. If by chance you have forgotten where the waterfall is (maybe you put the game down for a while or you went on a rupee grinding excursion) its still not too obtuse a location to find again, being such a distinct landmark. Thus its a perfect place to hide something and point it out to you clearly. A good way of keeping players invested in the world without doing something dumb like giving them the exact coordinates or something. It points the way, but leaves it up to you to remember the road to get there. Even though we're past the halfway point of the game it still hasn't quite let go of it's guiding hand.

That's next.

Do Not Attempt

03-12-2017, 06:10 PM
The cool thing about the level 5 secret is if you really wanted to you could map the overworld and/or use the radar in the corner of the screen and realize that you are missing a spot to the north of the lost hills. given that it is a "mountain" area the act of climbing UP UP UP simulates climbing a mountain and getting just a little further north despite multiple screens of upward movement. Plus, I at least had found (or been told) my way through the lost woods by this point (grinding in the graveyard for money for the blue ring was practically required for a young McClain), so it wasn't a stretch to me to manipulate the screen scrolling like that. Though truth be told, I'm almost certain I paid for both the lost woods and lost hills tips the fist time I played.

03-12-2017, 06:56 PM
Absolutely. Its a bit of a twist on how the game's been hiding the dungeons so far. Rather than looking for the dungeon itself (since you can kind of intuit that its up there) its more about looking for the key to the gate. I definitely didn't solve the hills my first time playing and they stumped me for a while until I wandered behind the waterfall on a hunch.

EDIT: Also that method is essentially the only way the game expects you to find the hidden 100 rupees in the top right corner. I guess on the game's spatial awareness test you could consider it extra credit or something.

03-12-2017, 09:18 PM
Sometimes I wonder if I just had a mind for this stuff when I was a kid, despite not quite fully grasping how games might really work.

Level 5, I found on my own as McClain said. I was on the mountain, and was curious what would happen if I just kept climbing.

Level 6 isn't really all that hidden.

I think a friend who introduced me to the game showed me Level 7, I'll admit, but I think I'd have figured something was up there.

Level 8 seemed obvious once I stumbled upon the area, as did 9.

03-12-2017, 10:32 PM
I always liked the idea that rupees functioned as arrows because my child brain just figured that rupees must be sharp as shit and so it would make sense that that doubled as arrowheads.

03-13-2017, 06:38 AM
I've been musing on some of the ideas in this thread lately as I'm playing through Neutopia, a competently made Zelda clone for PC Engine/TurboGrafx. It's nearly identical to this game in terms of its gameplay. But many of the little design elements you've pointed out are not present, or are watered down, in Neutopia.

Like, you generally find the tools you need for the dungeons in the overworld map, and the NPC hints will herd you toward them, and other NPCs will block access to later dungeons if you haven't cleared the earlier ones. So you never quite get that sense of being lost in a wilderness, in over your head, or trying to survive a later-game dungeon while underpowered.

03-13-2017, 02:59 PM
Level 6 isn't really all that hidden.

The narrative here is that the second chunk of dungeons are hidden in devious places, but... yeah, six is the exception. You even have the ladder by now, so you don't even have to go through the Lost Woods for it. Five, seven, and eight are locked, in various ways, so I'm interested to see that interpretation for six.

03-14-2017, 09:48 AM
There's always the place you shouldn't be yet early on in an adventure, yet if you're courageous/lucky enough you can force your way through. That's level 6 in a nutshell, honestly.

04-14-2017, 09:02 PM

If you have played this game, then you have asked this question:

“Why does Level 6 come before 7?! Its so much harder!”

This at last is the point where the kid gloves come off. With hindsight after beating the next dungeons, it does seem like an odd decision. Fighting wizzrobes without a shield is a nightmare and a half. There's a reason that they've become one of the most feared enemies of the game and practically a staple of the franchise right up there with hookshots, bombs, and master swords. Yet I think its appropriate and thematic that it should happen here. Like Level 3, this dungeon is meant to bar your progress until you've gotten stronger. It serves as the second barrier dungeon, preventing you from continuing further until you have the right equipment, more heart containers (symbolizing more inner strength and all that good stuff), and can master the devious challenges that await within.

Namely, the gauntlet of deadly terror! (http://i.imgur.com/njCdYpQ.png) You can see the beating I took on my way up. This beginning section of the dungeon is largely where it gets it's reputation.

Coming here with anything less than the white sword, potions, and a magic shield is a recipe for disaster.

But difficulty alone isn't necessarily the reason it's sixth in the line.

Gee, I never thought about it but the fact that it's right next to the graveyard sure sends a message, huh?

It may not seem as though this dungeon is locked away, but it is! In keeping with how the previous two were barred: One with a key item, the other with secret knowledge. Here, it's both! You acquire the stepladder to bypass the river north of the lake, gaining access to Death Mountain. Or you can find the path through the Lost Woods. You could also make the argument that the Magic Shield & Blue Ring are key items needed to brave it's terrors. I feel like the designers intended for you to have the shield by now, and they sure waste no time in trying to strip you of it. Its interesting that Level 3's needed upgrade focused on improving your offense to fight defensive foes, and Level 6 requires better defense to fight offensive ones.

Level 6 is a little more significant as a barrier because its the last dungeon in plain sight, with big yawning entrances to the underground, and its not mere whimsy that puts it far to the east in the very dangerous foothills of Death Mountain. To that end it acts as an amalgamate of the other dungeons: Its tucked away in the mountains like Level 2 was in the forest. It has a staircase up that extends offscreen and invites you toward it (and the adjacent enormous graveyard, naturally). Last its barred behind a river and the lost woods. Being the final dungeon you can plainly see, its clear that the game expects this to be the last one you find with old fashioned grit and determination. After this, players will be left to their wits to figure out where the last dungeons are.

See, the level numbering is not just determined by how hard they are to COMPLETE, but also by how hard they are to FIND. Theoretically, if you knew the way through the Lost Woods you could stumble across Wizzrobe Central Station before you even got the white sword. That is easily possible! The solution to the woods is just due south one screen. Hey! You can find this one early just like you could Level 3! Yet instead of the raft, Level 6 holds the one crucial in-game clue as to Level 7's location. I challenge anyone who doesn't know where it is to find it without doing 6 at least part-way.


Level 6 serves the same purpose as Level 3 did. It intentionally halts your progress with crazy difficulty, under the assumption that you haven't explored looking for loot, haven't found the blue ring shop, or haven't bought a shield. In contrast to some games in the series, Zelda 1 does NOT want you to steamroll your way through the game. Its constructed to get the most value out of the limited space they had. The next set of three begins the first truly hidden dungeons. To uncork those will require a deep knowledge of the overworld, which Level 6 demands of you before you can best it.

04-15-2017, 08:49 AM

You have to listen to what the mechanics are telling you.

04-15-2017, 10:21 PM
Level six first is Zelda's version of Quick Man first.