The Legend of Zelda (Japanese: ゼルダの伝説 Hepburn: Zeruda no Densetsu), subtitled The Hyrule Fantasy in its original Japanese release, is an action-adventure video game developed and published by Nintendo and designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. Set in the fantasy land of Hyrule, the plot centers on a boy named Link, the playable protagonist, who aims to collect the eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom in order to rescue Princess Zelda from the antagonist, Ganon. During the course of the game, the player sees Link from a top-down perspective and must navigate him through the overworld and several dungeons, defeating enemies and finding secrets along the way.
The first game of the The Legend of Zelda series, it was originally released in Japan as a launch title for the Family Computer Disk System peripheral in 1986. More than a year later, North America and Europe received releases on the Nintendo Entertainment System in cartridge format, making the game the first home console title to include an internal battery for saving data. This version was released in Japan in 1994 under the title The Legend of Zelda 1 (ゼルダの伝説１ Zeruda no Densetsu Wan). The game was ported to the GameCube and Game Boy Advance, and is available in emulated form via the Virtual Console on the Wii, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.
The Legend of Zelda was a bestseller for Nintendo, selling over 6.5 million copies. It is often featured in lists of games considered the greatest or most influential and is regarded as a spiritual forerunner of the role-playing video game genre. A solitary sequel, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, was first released in Japan less than a year after its predecessor’s debut. The game spawned several prequels and a number of spin-offs, establishing a series that has become one of Nintendo’s most popular.
Video Source – Zelda Dungeon
Contrary to the fears of Nintendo’s management, the game was popular and well received. Zelda had been available for a year and a half in Japan, and its sequel, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link had been released for six months before Nintendo brought this game to North America.
When Nintendo published the game in North America, the packaging design featured a small portion of the box cut away to reveal the unique gold-colored cartridge. In 1988, The Legend of Zelda sold two million copies. Nintendo of America sought to keep its strong base of fans; anyone who purchased a game and sent in a warranty card became a member of the Fun Club, whose members got a four-, eight- and eventually 32-page newsletter. Seven hundred copies of the first issue were sent out free of charge, but the number grew as the data bank of names got larger.
From the success of magazines in Japan, Nintendo knew that game tips were a valued asset. Players enjoyed the bimonthly newsletter’s crossword puzzles and jokes, but game secrets were most valued. The Fun Club drew kids in by offering tips for the more complicated games, especially Zelda, with its hidden rooms, secret keys and passageways. The mailing list grew. By early 1988, there were over 1 million Fun Club members, which led then-Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa to start the Nintendo Power magazine.
Video Source – Zelda Dungeon
Since Nintendo did not have many products, it made only a few commercials a year, meaning the quality had to be phenomenal. The budget for a single commercial could reach US $5 million, easily four or five times more than most companies spent. One of the first commercials made under Bill White, director of advertising and public relations, was the market introduction for The Legend of Zelda, which received a great deal of attention in the ad industry. In it, a wiry-haired, nerdy guy (John Kassir) walks through the dark making goofy noises, yelling out the names of some enemies from the game, and screaming for Zelda.
Nintendo released a great deal of merchandise related to The Legend of Zelda, including toys, guidebooks, watches, apparel, trash cans and a breakfast cereal called Nintendo Cereal System. The game and its sequel, The Adventure of Link were adapted into an animated series, episodes of which were shown on television each Friday on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!. Link and Zelda appeared in several episodes of Captain N: The Game Master that revolved around themes from The Adventure of Link.