The Legend of Zelda at 30: Happy birthday to a dear childhood friend

Commentary: It was the first game CNET's Michelle Starr ever played. After three decades, The Legend of Zelda still represents a powerful link to her past: "I grew up with these heroes."

I was a little girl when my older brother brought home a Nintendo Entertainment System and a copy of The Legend of Zelda. I didn't know it then, but he brought home a lot more than electronics and plastic. He introduced me to a deep and abiding lifelong love.

It started ignominiously, my tiny hands clutching the controller, completely clueless as I wandered Hyrule, slaying and getting slayed by monsters. The longer I spent, though, the more the game got under my skin.

A fantasy nerd from the time I could swing a wooden sword, I was hooked. When I finally got A Link to the Past, and Link's Awakening, the heroes and villains of Hyrule began to reveal themselves and, more than Middle-earth or Shannara or Krynn, Hyrule came to represent the ideal fantasy setting, and Link the ideal hero.

I'd like to think that spending time with Link, as he fights forces far stronger than himself simply because it's the right thing to do, has influenced me in some way. He fronts up to Ganon kidnapping Zelda outside Hyrule Castle Town. He leaps into the belly of a fish, or climbs into an active volcano, or explores a haunted graveyard at night. Each and every boss fight, a giant powerful monster. And through it all, the strength and will of Zelda herself shines through.

I grew up with these heroes. We have travelled together, striven together, fought together. Shared laughter and terror and courage and joy. They have been a haven and escape and respite when life has been sad. They have fuelled my imagination, and grown familiar, comforting. If I have a home in gaming, The Legend of Zelda is that home.

The Legend of Zelda was released in Japan on February 21, 1986. Happy 30th birthday, Legend of Zelda. May you have 30 years more, and 30 more again.

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