I haven’t bought a copy of Twilight Princess. I’m sure it’s as fantastic as everyone says, but it would just be too weird for a game to actually have a 100% attach rate, so I’m taking one for the team and holding out. In the meantime, I’ve been playing the original Legend of Zelda on the Wii’s Virtual Console, and finding out what the all the fuss was about back in ’87. It’s a fantastic game, but I can’t help but notice that there are some really annoying design choices in it that date it a bit.

Like the old Zork games, Legend of Zelda builds the kind of world that’s fun to go back and visit, but only with a map. While it feels good to be in an environment that’s big enough to get a little lost in, it feels a lot less good to have no idea of where you’re supposed to be going, or to realize that the entrance to the dungeon was buried under a random bush in the middle of nowhere. I know that players had a lot more patience for that sort of thing twenty years ago, but puzzles with arbitrary solutions that can only be discovered through brute-force experimentation are the kind of thing that we (hopefully) know better than to stick into games today.

The other annoying thing that Legend of Zelda has is mobs that walk around the screen randomly. Unpredictability is a good thing in games, but unconstrained randomness is not the way to achieve it. As observers, we tend to read patterns into everything we see, but when we see a monster moving around a room in a random walk, the pattern we overlay onto its behavior is “frustratingly spastic.” Tracking and killing the mobs becomes less a matter of skill and more one of luck, of hoping they don’t suddenly turn around and run over you for no reason at all, and that sort of thing annoys people. Or maybe it just annoys me, but it annoys me a lot.

Of course, for everything Legend of Zelda does wrong, it does eleven things right, like the smoothness with which the player grows more powerful, or the subtle difficulty progression as you move further from your home base in the overworld. Classics are classics for a reason, and design tics aside, the old Zelda is an excellent way to spend some time — at least until I can get my hands on the new Zelda.