Friday, September 22, 2017

From Adventure to Zelda - Influences and Common Themes



When Atari released Adventure in 1980, most players had never seen anything like it before.  Seven years later when Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda, again it seemed that most players had never seen anything like it before.  But when you start to compare the two games, there are many common design elements in both.  In this blog entry, we will take a look at them.




Dot = Link

Adventure is probably the first top-down action-adventure game ever released.  While games with puzzle-solving elements existed before Adventure, like Superman for the 2600, Adventure was the first console game to employ the top-down view for your adventure.  Due to the limitations of the 2600, your character is represented by a single dot.  Fortunately the dot can move in eight directions.  He can leave the screen by the up, down, left or right edge, assuming there are no obstacles in the way.  When Nintendo came along to make Zelda, they also used the top-down perspective.  Link can only move in four directions.  Link's world is far larger and more detailed, but the NES is a generation or more ahead of the Atari hardware and the later game has a vast amount of ROM and RAM

Yorgle (yellow), Grundle (green) & Rhindle (red) = Gleeoks,

One of the most popular antagonists in an fantasy adventure story is almost certainly the dragon. In Adventure you have three of them to contend with.  In Game 2 or 3 you will almost certainly encounter them in the above order.  Zelda has a dragon boss called Gleeok, and it comes in three varieties, the two headed, the three headed and the four headed version.  In the First Quest, you should encounter them in that order and they will give you a challenge equivalent to the dungeon level you are attempting to beat. Aquamentus is something of a cross between a dragon and a unicorn and is really easy to defeat.  Rhindle is the fastest and most dangerous dragon, followed by Grundle and finally Yorgle.

The Adventure dragons can eat you, but the effect is to put you back at the yellow castle but the game's state remains the same.  If you are killed by any enemy in Zelda, you are sent back to the beginning of the dungeon or the overworld but the state of the world is not changed.

Sword = Wooden, Silver & Master Swords

The dragons in Adventure and Zelda can be defeated with swords.

Magnet = Wooden & Magical Boomerangs

The magnet in Adventure attracts other items located in a room to you, even if those items are stuck behind a wall.  Zelda's closest analog are the boomerangs, which can collect many ordinary items, even across barriers.  It cannot collect special treasures or items that appear when you defeat every enemy in a dungeon room.

Bridge = Ladder & Raft

The Adventure bridge allows you to cross solid barriers so long as it can reach across to regular ground on either side.  The Zelda ladder is a close equivalent in that it allows you to cross rivers and blue tiles that are one tile in length.  The Zelda raft can also cross otherwise impossible water barriers, but it is limited to an area with a dock.

Castles = Dungeon Entrances
Keys & Castle Gates = Key & Master Key + Locked Doors 

Each Adventure castle, yellow, white and black, has a corresponding key to open its gate.  Zelda's dungeons are full of locked doors which can be opened only with a key.  The white and black castles allow you to enter a dungeon.

However, the dungeon entrances in Zelda are never opened by keys.  Some of the dungeon entrances can be entered without any items.  Other dungeons require the raft, bombs, candle, recorder or ther power bracelet.  Many of these items are quest items instead of common pickups, making them a closer analog to the keys in Adventure.

Red, Blue & Grey Dungeons & Catacombs = Eight Labryinth's & Forest &
Mountain Mazes

Even though these areas function like dungeons, they are laid out like mazes, where leaving the screen does not guarantee that you will end up where you think you should.  To win Adventure you must master the Mazes, and to win at Zelda you must be able to figure out the Forest and Mountain mazes.

Bat = Keese & Like-Likes, also Bubble

There are bat enemies called Keese in Zelda, but they are minor nuisances.  The Bat in Adventure is a constant irritant in your side, stealing your items and moving items around the map.  The pancake enemies, called Like-Likes, are their closest equivalent.  The Like-Likes can eat your large shield, requiring you to purchase a new large shield.  Also, the bubble enemy, the one with the skull inside, can temporarily or semi-permanently rob you of your ability to use your sword.  The Adventure Bat has a nasty habit of stealing your sword just before you encounter a dragon, leaving you defenseless. Occasionally, the bat can be helpful by carrying a dragon away or trading a useless item for a useful item.

Enchanted Chalice = Triforce

Adventure has two goals.  The primary goal is to find the Enchanted Chalice.  The second goal is to return it to the yellow castle.  Zelda also has two goals.  The first is to find the eight pieces of the Triforce.  The second is to rescue Princess Zelda, but you need the Triforce to enter the final dungeon.

Gray Dungeon & Catacombs = Dark Rooms

Adventure has two areas where you have limited visibility.  You can only see a few squares beyond your own dot, but you can see enemies and objects.  Zelda also has dark rooms where you can only see your character and the enemies.  The Zelda candles will light up the rooms, but Adventure always allows you a limited area of viewability.

Numericals Adherence

Adventure seems to revolve around the number three or multiples of three, consider : three difficulty levels, three dragons, three keys, three castles, three utility items (Sword, Magnet & Bridge), thirty unique rooms (Level 2 & 3).

Zelda also has a strong numerical connection to the number eight and its multiples : eight triforce pieces, eight usable inventory items, sixteen hearts, eight bombs (sixteen max), eight by sixteen overworld map, eight by eight maximum dungeon size, 256 rupees.

Level 3 = Second Quest

Adventure's Level 3 is very much like level 2 except that whereas the initial placement of most of the items are fixed in Level 2, they are randomized for Level 3.  (Level 1 is a beginners level with a smaller world).  This really increases replay value once you master level 2.  Zelda was too complex a game to rely on randomization for a second quest.  Instead they made the game more difficult by making more difficult dungeons, putting quest items in different dungeons, putting dungeon entrances in other areas of the overworld and reducing the number of free money secrets.

Conclusion

So, it seems that virtually every element of Adventure found its way into the Legend of Zelda.  Does this mean that Miyamoto and co. plagarized the earlier game?  Hardly, most of these elements were tropes by the time Zelda came along, six years after Adventure.  Colossal Cave Adventure, which inspired 2600 Adventure, had many of them, mazes, keys, lamps for dim rooms, thieving pirates, dragons, treasures to obtain. It is unlikely that Miyamoto and his team were aware of Adventure, given that the 2600 (sporadically imported and then officially released as the 2800) was not a success in Japan.   Adventure games had their own lineage in Japan, from text adventures like The Portopia Serial Murder Case and top-down games like Dragon Slayer (probably influenced by Ultima).

Nonetheless, it remains rather uncanny how much Zelda feels like an Adventure sequel.  In the U.S. there were very few games on console systems between the two games that really compared.  The 2600 Supercharger game Dragonstomper is one, Gateway to Apshai for the Coleco was another, neither was a hit like Adventure or a huge hit like Zelda.  Most US players found Zelda to be a completely unique experience unless they had played Adventure or a similar game.

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