The Legend of Zelda [1986/02/21] |Famicom Disk System|

Every legend has a beginning. Some are more humble than others, but what almost all of them have in common is starting with a very rough first draft. The Legend of Zelda, on the other hand, seemed to hatch fully grown. Of course, it was still a first draft in that it established rules and conventions that later entries built upon, but a surprising amount of its structure began here. It seems to have everything: an open world that emphasizes exploration and secret-finding, items such as the ocarina and boomerang, the main cast of characters, and the instantly recognizable theme music that we couldn’t imagine going along with any other game. Let’s take a look at what made this first entry in the long-running series so legendary.

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Japanese Folklore and Mythology in Video Games

Japanese media are often dismissed by westerners as simply being crazy, but this is often the case because of cultural references or allusions that non-Japanese persons simply cannot understand right off the bat. Even an outlandishly off-the-wall video game will appear more sensible once the player examines the origin of certain elements in the game–and that is exactly what I’m about to do. I’ll show you several instances of mythology and folklore in Japanese video games. These instances shall be put in three categories: First, a concept or figure from folklore or mythology that is mentioned by name but does not actually appear; Second, a figure or concept that appears but is not specifically identified as that figure or concept, and may be based off that figure rather than being the figure itself; and Third, an appearance of the figure or location itself, dramatized for use in that video game.

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Hang-On [1985] |Arcade| HONORABLE MENTION

Following in the footsteps of Pole Position, Sega’s racing game Hang-On gave the player a high-speed over-the-shoulder (or more accurately, behind-the-car) racing game with sharp turns and endless AI opponents. Hang-On added something new to the mix, though. The player sat on a motorcycle-shaped seat that they had to tilt to the left or right in order to steer in-game.

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Racism and the “New” Identity Politics

“Only white people can be racist.” This is the conclusion drawn by many activists of the modern day, who exert their various energies toward the goal of attaining justice for society. The reasoning goes that racism is prejudice plus institutionalized power, so only white persons can be racist. Let’s look at whether this is true and what it really means.

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Excitebike [1984] |Nintendo Famicom| HONORABLE MENTION

So there haven’t been many appreciation articles for 1984, and the reason for this is simple: it was the middle of the video game crash. Americans made a few notable games for arcade and home computer, but the console was basically dead. Across the pacific, however, things were just beginning to heat up. In 1983 Nintendo released their first console, named the Famicom (ファミコム) (short for Family Computer) and immediately started putting out a decent variety of games. Let’s take a look at one of the games from their Sports series.

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Marble Madness [1984] |Arcade|

Did you ever play with marbles as a child? I did, but one day I lost all my marbles, and now I write about video games on the internet. Anyway, I’m going to show you Marble Madness today, as you no doubt surmised by the title of this article. Atari had a really good year in 1984, pumping out tons of instant classics such as Paper Boy; I, Robot; and many others. If only such innovation had come in 1982 or ’83….

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The Vernal Spring

Palm trees swaying in the breeze.

The clouds drifting through the tropical sky.

The spring winds are pushing them along,

As they push time into the summer.

Reef, sand, surf;

all of these clichéd staples of this climate.

I see them; I hear them.

For me the most exciting goal is not the excitement of the beach.

It is the quiet contentment of this spring day.

Or rather, not the quiet, but the symphonic sounds of nature.

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The Fables of Everett (Fable #2)

Once, a father happened upon a large sum of money and wished to give a gift to his son. He provided an indefinitely long stay in a five-star hotel. The man thanked his father and went to claim his prize.

Upon his arrival, the receptionist told the man, “I’m sorry, but your room isn’t ready yet. We’re putting the finishing touches on it. Please wait in the lobby and I’ll have someone escort you up when it’s time.” The man agreed and went to sit down in the lobby. This was a fine lobby; it had floors of granite and from the ceiling hung extravagant chandeliers. On a nearby table there was cold water flavored with lemon, and throughout the room there were comfortable couches for guests to relax in. The man took a seat and imagined what fancies would soon treat him up in the hotel penthouse. Would it be a corner room with a panoramic view of the city? Would it have a feather bed and a hot bath? As he sat silently brimming with excitement for the things to come, another guest sat next to the man and began to chat. They presently struck up a conversation.

Before long, the man was asked why he was there. With a smile, the man responded, “Oh, I’m waiting for my hotel room. I can’t wait to go up there.” The smile which had previously lit up the stranger’s face faded away. With a trembling voice, the stranger asked him, “Why don’t you want to stay here? Don’t you like it here?” The man chuckled at this and said, “Well, sure, but I’m eager to go on to my room. I know it’s going to be even better than this.” The stranger rebutted, “But don’t you realize there’s so much left in this lobby? Besides, things won’t be the same around here without you. Please don’t go!” The man’s eyebrows furrowed as he searched for the proper response to this. He finally thought up an answer and smiled again. “You can go to the same place. All you have to do is accept my invitation. You’re welcome in my suite as well, friend.” The stranger immediately shook his head and said, “I’m not sure there even is such a place–I’ve never seen it. Have you seen it? How do you know it’s there? Besides, down here is my home. I work in this lobby. I change the world, you know. I have the ear of three different senators. I’m making rules and making a difference. I’m getting all I can out of this lobby.”

The man was quite confounded at this point, but had little time to speak because it was his appointed time. As the bellman came to collect the man, he said to the stranger, “I have to go now. I hope you won’t think I’m crazy for wanting to leave, and I hope you’ll be able to join me someday.” The bellman bid him come, and the man left without looking back.

Moral: Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth.