Nintendo’s biggest game in 1987, The Legend of Zelda, was created by Shigeru Miyamoto, the same man who created Donkey Kong and Super Mario Brothers. By this time, Hiroshi Yamauchi, the president of Nintendo Co. Ltd. in Japan, recognized Miyamoto as a rare talent upon whom his company’s future would depend.
The Legend of Zelda was a role-playing game in which players helped a young elf boy named Link explore a huge territory as he fought monsters, collected treasures, and explored dungeons. The ultimate goals of the game were to defeat an evil monster named Ganon and rescue Zelda, the princess of Hyrule. Before you could do that, however, you had to locate pieces of a magical tablet called the Triforce that were scattered across a vast playfield.
In many ways, The Legend of Zelda was Miyamoto’s most brilliant game. It combined a well-thought-out fairy tale with perfectly crafted game mechanics. It was also Miyamoto’s first free-roaming game. Unlike Super Mario Bros., a side-scrolling game in which players could move only forward or backward, The Legend of Zelda was played from the top-down perspective, allowing players to move the hero in any compass direction.
When the first prototypes of The Legend of Zelda arrived in the United States, Minoru Arakawa was not sure how people would respond to a complex game with text windows in it. He worried that perhaps the game was too complicated for American audiences. To test this out, he had several employees try the game. In order to give the game a fair chance, Arakawa arranged for Japanese-speaking workers to sit with American employees and translate any Kanji that appeared in the text boxes.