The Legend of Zelda is the game that many people remember when they think of Nintendo, despite the company's long and varied history. Nintendo as a company has fostered playfulness and innovation since its beginnings as a playing card manufacturer, to its struggling times as an electronic gadget company…
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The Nintendo game The Legend of Zelda and its main character, a boy named Link, are so well-known and recognized in the video game community as to be nearly iconic. The original title spawned a series of sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and derivative works. The main series alone, without counting the remakes on various systems, consists of over fourteen games. For many, the instrumental background music, character sprites, and especially the unique gold game cartridge for the original Legend of Zelda can still conjure up happy images from their childhoods.
The game Legend of Zelda is so important to both the company of Nintendo and to video game development as a whole because it was such a revolution in video game design. The game allowed players to move around on the main map between screens in a non-linear fashion, forcing the player to determine where they should go next instead of clearly showing them. In addition, the game was filled with puzzles and traps that made the game “more puzzle than plaything”. The game also ended up establishing the now-popular game genre of “action-adventure”, a combination of the speed and reaction time skill sets required in action games with the longer story lines and plot development of adventure games. (Nintendo, 2010). Despite its success now, the development of Zelda was never a sure thing, and in fact was following a long and sometimes rocky history for the company Nintendo (Paumgarten, n.d.). Having established the importance of the game itself, the need for further understanding of the game's history becomes clear. This history is in three parts: the history of the gaming company Nintendo, the careers of game developer Shigeru Miyamoto and his team, and finally the specific game development for The Legend of Zelda. Through this analysis, we will see that it took this series of events to produce the revolutionary Zelda game. History of Nintendo The original Nintendo company was founded in 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi. Obviously, at that point they were not producing video games of any kind. Instead, the company was known for its intricate, hand-painted playing cards and other table game accessories. Well into the twentieth century, Nintendo also produced Japanese hanafuda, a word which literally translates to “flower cards”. These colorfully painted hanafuda were used as gambling chips, replacing an older tradition of using painted seashells to keep score in playing card games. Around the year 1949, when Fusajiro Yamauchi's grandson Hiroshi Yamauchi took over the company, Nintendo began producing electronic games and gadgets, in an attempt to diversify their product line. One of the more famous products they produced during this period is the infamous “Love Tester”, which supposedly shows if there is an attraction between two individuals squeezing the machines levers. Another product in this line from Nintendo was the Beam Gun, which was used in converted bowling alleys to shoot simulations of clay pigeons and was quite popular in Japan (Paumgarten, n.d.). It was not until the 1970s that Nintendo actually entered the video game market. Contrary to what some fans seem to believe, Nintendo did not produce the earliest video games. Those were designed by California-based Atari, the company behind the memorable games Pong and Space Invaders. These arcade games, and later the home console versions, quickly became a worldwide craze. Seeing an opportunity despite having no personal interest in video gaming, Hiroshi Yamauchi decided that his company would enter this potentially lucrative new market (Paumgarten, n.d.). The result was a stream of arcade cabinets for the commercial market. At current count, Nintendo has produced over ninety arcade titles. These included such classics as Duck Hunt and Mario Bros., but had other failed games that are significantly less well-known, such as Battle Shark and the arcade version of Radar
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