This page is for reviews of the Zelda games I have played. So I can process the information more easily, I'll type them up in the order I played them. The games will be reviewed with the following criteria, listed in order of importance: Gameplay, Plot, Dungeons, Characters, Sidequests, Music, and Graphics Style. Although dungeons are technically part of the "gameplay", they play such a large role in my impression of Zelda games compared to other gameplay elements that I felt they deserved to directly affect the overall scores. The NES games can't be expected to have notable characters or sidequests, so I won't consider those things when scoring those games.
I calculated the overall scores based on the weight I give to each sub-score. More important aspects affect the overall score to a greater degree. I found that by mathematically expressing which aspects I think are more important to video games (Zelda games in particular), I could eliminate the need to distinguish between mathematical averages and the true final scores.
The scoring system as a whole is meant to judge Zelda games on their own. In other words, the game with what I think has the worst plot in the series will get a 1/10 in plot, even though I have played games with far worse plots. In still other words, a low overall score like Adventure of Link's 16% does not mean I think the game is absolutely horrendous in general, just that it's horrendous for a Zelda game. Oddly enough, the overall scores for OoT and TP are the same, and I actually consider the games to be of nearly equal quality. I'll take that as proof that my system works very well for my Zelda gaming tastes.
Graphic Style: 8/10
This is the game that got me hooked on the Zelda series. I loved how this game blended complex puzzles, and epic story, and engaging combat (pun intended), all set in an environment that was breathtaking to me (it still looks pretty good, actually--something about that art style is timeless, even as the technology has moved forward). The epic story is one of the best in the series and has several well-executed twists and effectively evokes numerous emotions, though I find that some parts of the game are devoid of any real plot progression. Tying it all together for me was the music, which was beyond anything I had heard previously in a video game and would only be surpassed by the Fire Emblem games set in Tellius and a few future Zelda games. There are also a few good optional sidequests that yield useful rewards, which makes the time spent completing them feel worthwhile. The only major drawbacks to the gameplay are the frustrating Iron Boots (you have to pause the game and select the boots from a subscreen to put them on/take them off instead of simply pushing a button) and how the last two dungeons (Spirit Temple and Ganon's Tower) feel too easy for being at the end of the game. The former looks as though it has been fixed in the 3DS re-release, though, so difficulty issues may soon be the only real problem.
Graphics Style: 8/10
In case you haven't figured it out from the astronomically high scores I gave this game, this one is my favorite game in the series, and my favorite video game overall. It tells a dark, thematic story that feels more personal than any other Zelda game, even if it isn't as epic in scale as some of the other games' stories. Comparing the plots of Majora's Mask and Ocarina of Time to those of The Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope respectively illustrates my point well. The plot is supported by an amazing cast. Link never needs to speak to many of these characters, but many of them add another level to the backstory of the game and increase the emotional impact of Majora's sadistic actions in Termina. All of the flaws in gameplay from Ocarina of Time are fixed in this game, and a few new functions, most notably the 24 masks and the 3 day cycle, improve thew experience even more. The music is my favorite in the entire series as well (when considering only games I have reviewed; Skyward Sword has overthrown Majora's Mask in this category)--even the dungeon music, which rarely ever stands out, is very well done (although I do prefer the Ocarina songs of Ocarina of Time). The game felt very challenging during my first playthrough, and it still seems like the perfect difficulty for a Zelda game--the dungeons, in particular, are extremely well-crafted, which more than compensates for the fact that there are only four of them. Sidequests are abundant, so much so that about half of the game could be devoted to completing sidequests, many of which provide the dialogue that fuels the aforementioned character development. There are few things about this game that could be any better. I only acknowledge anything could be better because I don't believe there is a such thing as a perfect work of art--and yes, this game is indeed a work of art.
Graphic Style: 2/10
Even though this game really falls short of today's Zelda standards, I do not consider it a bad game at all. The plot is really just bare bones compared to current plots, but remember video games didn't have plots until Nintendo started doing them. The gameplay was completely unique at the time, as well, and the graphics, while not outstanding, probably weren't bad twenty years ago. Besides, 8-bit graphics will never look outdated to me the way Twilight Princess likely will in a decade or two. Orchestrated music and strong midis will always sound better to me than 8-bit music, but there's still something to be said for it. I find the original overwold theme to be pretty catchy. Outmoded as this game may seem in this day and age, I think it is still worthy of recognition; I had a lot of fun playing it and think the game deserves better than the score I gave it. Take note that this is the second hardest game in the series--at times, it can seem merciless.
Graphic Style: 1/10
So I decided to completely rewrite my review of this game since I had such a terrible first impression of the game when I first played it nearly a decade ago. I finally became so out of my mind that I seriously considered playing this game again to see if the game was as bad as I remembered, and shockingly, it wasn't. Is the story still over-reaching and unsubstantial, despite it's age? Yes. Do the developers try too hard to make the graphics more realistic when they would have look better in the style of the first game? Yes. Is the music still a mixed bag in which the memorable tracks are the ones least frequently heard? Yes. But somehow, the gameplay wasn't so hard that it was unbearable as I had remembered. It really wasn't all that bad and can only be called "horrendous" or even "below average" when compared to traditional Zelda gameplay. Some of this has definitely come with experience -- since the first time I played this game, my gaming skills have increased significantly. I still had a lot of game overs, but I somehow managed to keep that number under 30, less than a third of my disastrous score from my first playthrough (which exceeded 100). It's still my least favorite game in the series, however.
Graphic Style: 6/10
This game is mediocre for a Zelda game, but overall, it's not terrible. The plot is actually decent, if brief. The dungeons are all very short and easy, but they have to be to fit the style of the game (which works well for multiplayer mode, but feels inadequate otherwise). The game is divided into levels and subdivided into stages, like a platformer, except there isn't any platforming. The levels are very linear, however, with almost no exploration. And that means no real sidequests. The most you are able to do is hunt for additional Heart Containers (which you lose at the end of the stage and must find again). The graphics and music are basically updated versions of what we saw in A Link to the Past, and even though the source material is good, as is the case with the source, the graphics never made much of an impression on me. There's actually a fair amount of original music in the game, too, though the fact that I only recall the music from A Link to the Past speaks for itself. Also, due to the design of the game, the cast is quite limited and boasts no deep, compelling characters.
Graphic Style: 9/10
From a technical standpoint, this is one of the best games in the Zelda series. It has an amazing, deep plot, memorable characters, great music, and a realistic graphic style many Zelda fans, including myself, have waited a long time for. Yet something seems to be missing from this game that I just can't place. It's more than the lack of substantial sidequests, though having only two main "collecting" sidequests just isn't good enough for me, especially since neither quest does much to develop the characters involved. Despite these qualms, my impression of the game is generally positive. The story is the best aspect of this game in my opinion--it is more complex than most past stories, has a darker tone, and is broad in scope. Overall, the cast is pretty good, though a few are overly sappy/annoying (Colin, Falbi, I'm looking at you). Of course, Midna pretty much stole the spotlight here, since she is the most well-developed and compelling character in the entire Zelda series. The dungeons are sufficiently challenging and are very well-designed. Gameplay-wise, the controls are very smooth, though I have the Wii version and can feel how the game was originally meant for GameCube controls, especially in hindsight now that I've started Skyward Sword. However, the combat, particularly against bosses, is sometimes too easy to be much fun (though the Cave of Ordeals provides a welcome challenge, especially during return trips). My only major complaint about the gameplay is how Wolf Link has very limited abilities that are used only sparingly, especially after the fourth dungeon.
Graphic Style: 6/10
As anyone who has played this game knows, A Link to the Past pioneered many concepts that the Zelda series now regularly uses. This game has a darker plot than you would expect for the time; it's not Majora's Mask, but certain plot turns made the situation feel truly dire. Notably, I found no points in the game that were devoid of plot development, which is largely due to the good pacing in revealing the game's backstory. The gameplay is very refined compared to its 2D predecessors, and the dungeons in this game were challenging enough to keep me stuck for a fair amount of time on a few occasions--which I wish happened more often in other games. Musically, A Link to the Past is quite good, especially for its age. I started playing video games during the N64 era, so I was pleasantly surprised by the sound quality of this game. The cast is admittedly very limited by today's standards, however, and the graphics, while very appealing, never made much of an impression on me. I suppose they just lacked the nostalgia of the N64 graphics or the stylistic appeal of the most recent console Zeldas. Also, simple sidequests began to turn up in this game. No longer was it enough to simply search for a hidden staircase or cave to find a precious item, and in a few cases, multiple steps had to be taken to get a certain item. This is indeed an outstanding game.
Graphic Style: 10/10
Curse me for waiting so long to get this game just because I was discouraged by the graphics, which I now consider to be outstanding. While nothing about the game is perfect by any standards, it comes pretty darn close in pretty much every facet, making this game really feel like it's only just short of perfection. The plot seems to get mixed reviews; I, personally, thought it was very good, just not quite among the best; it felt a bit ruched at times, and at others there simply wasn't much plot to speak of, though when the game got to storytelling, I loved what I saw (errrr, read). The gameplay, while it stays close to the formula Ocarina of Time set up, is quite imaginative when it tries something new (and sticking to something that works is almost never a bad thing). While many detest the sailing, I actually found it somewhat enjoyable (sue me). It must have been the effect the blue color of the waves had on me that made it relaxing. The only point at which the sailing was a problem was the Endless Night. The emphasis on music in the gameplay is as welcome an aspect for me as it was in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Beyond the gameplay, the music is very good, and it sometimes sneaks in a little retro music within new orchestrations, which is much appreciated. After getting into the game, I found myself warming up to the graphics quite a bit; they really fit the lighthearted feel of the game, and they don't look bad at all. In fact, I may one day prefer this look to the "realistic" look of Twilight Princess. The characters are generally very compelling, and the relatively low number of dungeons (which were a tad easy, but not horribly so) allows for numerous good sidequests.
Graphic Style: 7/10
For a Zelda game, Phantom Hourglass is pretty much the definition of mediocre. By more conventional standards, however, this game is above average, except for the plot. Woe to that plot. Woe, most of all, to Bellum. Let me put it this way. Even the "villains" of Zelda II (that is, literally everything trying to kill you except perhaps Dark Link) have a clear motivation: resurrecting Ganon. Bellum, however, has absolutely no dialogue, and absolutely nothing indicates why it wants to drain the life from the World of the Ocean King. The game is also, mostly, way too easy. The music is also the worst in the series. I can recall precisely three good melodies from this game. Three. Luckily, only a couple tracks are so bland that I noticed them and made note of how bad they were. Gripes aside, the gameplay is very clever. Perhaps it's because this was one of my first DS games, but I thought the stylus control was ingenious, and I would love to see the note-taking mechanic in future games. I do prefer more traditional controls in general, though. The cel-shading style is very well-suited to the graphics capabilities of the DS. The cast was somewhat bland overall, though Linebeck and Jolene were very entertaining. Linebeck even managed to be one of the best-developed characters in the series. Outside the main plot, the game offered several sidequests, which sometimes yielded useful rewards for a change. The most engaging "sidequest" (if you want to consider it one) was minimizing my time in the Temple of the Ocean King, which was entertaining enough for me to push for a perfect 25:00. While this game is far from perfect, it is still worth playing, though preferably as a rental. Just don't expect to see one of Zelda's usual strong performances.