Zelda is not a game in the spirit of Adventure, even though it contains bats, swords, keys, castles, and, eventually, chickens. Its main deviation from Adventure is that the vast majority of the player participation part is in trying to discover what they are supposed to be doing, and where things are. Zelda, if anything, and possibly somewhat ironically, is the console’s best attempt at the Adventure genre, as beaten to death by Roberta Williams et al. You start on a screen, there is a hole. You navigate into the hole. You are given a thing. The thing is used to stab. Never are you given the kind of information you might logically need to progress, such as ‘someone sells a candle, it shoots the fire, senor leenk, perhaps some booshes will burn?’ No, that never happens. What you have, instead, is a world built with layer after layer of proudly standing contradictions. If a set of statues appear to be inert, then, eventually, on some screen, one of them will start to move if you stand near it. Presumably, when it moves, it reveals stairs, though, I can’t recall if every statue that came alive was guarding stairs or if it was just a couple of them, and therefore, the other stood as a kind of weak and ambiguous hint that, if you want a statue to move, it might. If, from that, you learn that, sometimes, stairs may be hiding under something that is not stairs, then you are smarter than me. The first time you had access to a bomb it seemed like an awkard weapon. How would you know that the 4th tile from the left on some clifface could be a door?3. Cool animated gif of the monolith from 2001.
We now make assumptions about bombs and walls, and, granted, in those days, there was a lexicon of bizarre icons that we documented as we explored the NES. Balloons could be worth points, they could also be fragile. If you had a balloon, then you needed to protect it. If the enemy had a balloon, it was a weak point. If a balloon was unattended, you need to capture it. The entry for balloon in the encyclopedia of gaming was one of the easier, less obtuse examples, and it was still somewhat of a mystery. The entry for bomb took up page after page, and ranged from a specific key that opened a very particular place, to a dangerous thing not to be touched, to a tool that could backfire on you, to any number of other uses. In wrecking crew, bombs not only didn’t break anything, they interfered with your attempts to break things. Bombs could even be worth points and have no function at all. A bomb, really, could be anything. It’s not that the Zeldas bomb is internally inconsistent, just that, now, we know what bombs are for. They’re for feeding to triceratops, and widening cracks. A bomb, now, is defined to within an inch of its life in the mythology of the zelda context, which, as mentioned before, does not really exist.
*Buy 2001 posters at Amazon.