My first encounter with Zelda was my older cousin's copy of Ocarina of Time. I had cut my teeth on various NES and Genesis games growing up, but this was my first exposure to 3D.
I still tear up sometimes when I watch the attract screen.
"PRESS START" segues into the Fairy Fountain theme and everything is an otherworldy hue of blue and prominent letters. Sounds accompany every directional input.
Sensory overload and innocence walk hand in hand.
I don't really know how to properly convey everything I feel about the Zelda series, but I'm going to try.
The gameplay is rock solid. We all know the innovations, we all know the missteps.
They play well. They're very "gamey" while still having a degree of openness. You can take in the sights and just generally fuck around if you'd like, to an extent. Great stuff.
To me, Zelda exists in a realm outside of videogames. The games are like visual albums that you can play. Music and sounds are constantly used in a way that enhances the experience. Picking up rupees and hearts, breaking pots. Going into a shop or house. These little things that have become so ingrained to many people's consciousness. Everything feels lived in, like its own little pocket of existence.
Also, the Potion Shop theme makes me want to smoke opium in a lavish den surround by candles and luxurious fabrics.
I was never super big into fantasy, swords 'n' sorcery type stuff. Zelda takes everything about the "BIG ADVENTURE" and gives it a good ol' dose of weird that Japan fucking gets.
I love the moans and screams of the characters instead of voices. I love their weird conversations and tics. Everyone just oozes personality. And this brings me to another aspect...
The Legend of Zelda games are incredibly queer. Not necessarily regarding sexuality (although there are definitely representations), but in general.
The sense of humor is simultaneously childish and mature. It's like a giant wink dancing on the essence of mortality and innocence. Death and sex are real, but so is Santa Claus.
Someone smarter than me could probably write an excellent think-piece, but I'll just have to stick with what I know.
The music, man.
You know what was neat? The ocean-y vibe of the Shop Theme on Beedle's boat versus the standard.
Zora's Domain in Majora's Mask was my favorite place to ever exist. Chill-ass music, beautiful scenery, and a band with rad quasi-fish people?! Sign me the fuck up. New Wave Bossa Nova rocks socks, by the way.
The Legend of Zelda runs the whole gamut of emotions without making you feel like you have to feel them. It's storytelling through environment and ambiance just as much as it is throught
the narrative. Save the princess, kill the bad guy. That's it. But every moment in between makes such a difference. It's every little interaction, the things you see, the things you hear, the things you do. Everyone is going to have pretty much the same base experience playing a Zelda game (up until BotW), but everyone reacts differently, and everyone has a different favorite game for different reasons. It's like The Beatles (but better, imo).
Zelda is a series that gives us childlike whimsy and touches on multiple aspects of humanity and being. It's surface level while being extraordinarily deep if you're willing to put the time into it.
I get a psychedelic experience with kooky characters, an epic quest, and an adrogynous lead. The Legend of Zelda is mine in my way just as much as it is yours in your way.
I haven't written something like this in ages, and I know I didn't touch on everything that I would have liked to have touched on. If anyone is interested in engaging in a dialogue, holla atchya boi.