The original Zelda on the NES is a timeless classic. I always wished that a new one would be made with a similar feel, but new maps, dungeons, and story! A lo and behold, during my game collection adventures, I discovered the realm of game hacks. Game hacks are fan created projects that alter a game in minor (or major) ways. Some just change the look of a character, while others change the entire layout of a game. Legend of Zelda: Outlands falls into the latter category.
GameMakr24 – the one responsible for making this hack – has built a new version of the original Legend of Zelda from the ground up with a new map (with new tiles), new dungeons, different item progression, and a new story! There is even a second quest! I am about 3/4 of the way through the game right now and its simply fantastic. While you can play this hack for free by downloading it off the internet, I bought a physic copy and played it in my Nintendo.
In terms of story, the Thunderbird from Zelda 2 has survived Link’s wrath and stolen the Triforce of Courage! The Thunderbird has taken refuge in Ganon’s secret vault in a neighbouring land to Hyrule named the Outlands. Link, with the assistance of Zelda, must collect the eight Tetrarch fairies to unlock Ganon’s secret vault and retrieve the Triforce of Courage!
The gameplay basically Legend of Zelda gameplay. You get a sword, collect rupees, buy items, and bash bad guys. The more items you collect (e.g., boomerang, bow and arrow, raft, ladder, et cetera), the more areas that are accessible to explore. There are even a bunch of secrets scattered throughout the world to find and discover.
What I really liked about this game is the progression of it. While you get to the first castle pretty quick and collect the fairy, you can’t actually get the dungeon item (the ladder) for a long time! As you gain more items, you need to back track to older areas and discover that new passages open up. The progression is really well thought-out and makes each item seem that much more valuable when you finally get it!
The dungeons themselves are also excellent insofar as they are built with this progression in mind, but also in terms of new mechanics. In one castle, you enter a room with orange and blue skulls. If you touch the orange skulls, you can’t use your sword and must find a blue one to use your sword again. This really added to the difficulty of the dungeon and made it all the more sweat when I finally beat it! These new castles are hard too – you might think the castle is done when you defeat the boss, but you often find another room full of enemies that must be defeated before you can nab the heart container.
But the game is not unbarebly hard like many other fan-made hacks (I am thinking about some evil Mario hacks that are next to impossible). You can often find Zelda in a castle who provides some hints as to what you need to do next. I often found that if the game became too hard (e.g., in one castle, no items would drop from enemies so I was continuously dying) an item is probably missing that is preventing you from moving forward (e.g., I needed to get the potions to help me get through the castle, and then it became reasonable).
In terms of graphics, this game looks distinctly like Zelda for NES because it is a hack of the game. Having said that, the developer really added some nice graphic upgrades and increased the colour pallet to make the dungeons and world map look new and interesting.
The one issue I had with the game was that some screens were so packed full of enemies that slowdown became an issue. While this was present in the original, I feel like it was worse in this incarnation. The sound is basically identical to the original, and is thus amazing – especially the timeless over world Zelda music.
Overall, this game makes something old new again and has captured the wonder and magic of what makes a Legend of Zelda game. I would rank it as good as the original NES incarnation – I know that is a tall order, but it is masterfully crafted and a lot of fun. It’s hard, but worth the effort, and might just make you feel like a 7 year old kid again. I give this game a 9/10.
Final Score: 9/10