15 Things You Might Not Know About The Legend of Zelda

Even if you spent hours with the iconic gold cartridge loaded into your NES, you can probably still learn a few things about Link’s epic adventure.

1. NINTENDO DIDN’T THINK THE GAME WOULD BE POPULAR IN AMERICA.

Although The Legend of Zelda had garnered positive feedback in Japan, Minoru Arakawa, the president of Nintendo’s American division, expressed doubt that U.S. players would have the patience for such a complex and challenging game. Arakawa was particularly concerned over the text-heavy game’s reliance on its players’ willingness to read!

2. THE STORY WAS INSPIRED BY ITS CREATOR’S CHILDHOOD.

Game design icon Shigeru Miyamoto borrowed from his own history to dream up Hyrule, the setting of The Legend of Zelda. He developed the game’s enchanted forests while thinking of his youth in a small village near Kyoto, where he spent much time exploring the nearby woodlands. Moreover, Miyamoto modeled the puzzling nature of Zelda’s many dungeons on his maze-like childhood home, which was riddled with indistinguishable paper doors.

3. IN SOME WAYS, ZELDA WAS DESIGNED AS THE “ANTI-MARIO.

You might be familiar with another Nintendo game that hit American shelves just a few months before Zelda: Super Mario Bros. The company, and in particular designers Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, developed the original Zelda and Mario outings simultaneously, working hard to ensure that the two felt very different. Where Super Mario Bros. was in every way a straightforward mission, Zelda was meant to confuse and provoke creative problem solving.

4. PRINCESS ZELDA HAS A FAMOUS NAMESAKE.

Despite being conceived in Japan, Zelda’s titular princess was named after a native Alabaman. Miyamoto confirmed that Zelda Fitzgerald—novelist, feminist, and wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald—was the inspiration for his Hyrulian heroine’s handle.

5. THERE IS SIGNIFICANCE TO LINK’S NAME, TOO.

Originally, The Legend of Zelda was meant to be a game that spanned in-universe time periods, beginning in the canonical “past” and ending up in the “future,” with the Triforce acting as a mode of transport between them. The series hero’s unusual moniker was meant to symbolize his role as a link between the eras.  But Nintendo’s current position is that he is a “link” between the player and the game.

6. SEVERAL OTHER ELEMENTS WERE DROPPED FROM THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THE GAME.

Early incarnations of The Legend of Zelda were intended to include the option to design your own dungeons (ultimately scrapped when Nintendo realized that navigating existent dungeons was a lot more fun than building ones from scratch). Additionally, the original Japanese version of the game opened with the player receiving his or her sword outright, as opposed to earning it upon completion of an early cave level.

Another element that did not carry over to American game play from the Japanese version of the game was the inclusion of a working microphone. The device famously came in handy in defeating an enemy called Pols Voice, a rabbit-like ghost that inhabits several dungeons. The microphone, as suggested by the game’s instruction manual (which stated that Pols Voice “hated loud noises”), allowed players to defeat the creature. Without the availability of this option on the American console, however, the manual’s aforementioned tip was simply confusing.

7. MIYAMOTO TOOK AWAY THE SWORD AS “PUNISHMENT” FOR GAMER COMPLAINTS.

When Miyamoto caught wind that early test players were disgruntled by confusing game play and unclear objectives, he decided to up the ante by forcing players to earn Link’s sword via triumph over a complicated cave level before beginning the adventure in earnest. Miyamoto predicted that such a mystery would give a clear first mission and prompt communication between individual players, with successful strategies spreading by word of mouth.

8. THAT SAID, YOU DON’T ACTUALLY NEED THE SWORD TO COMPLETE MOST OF THE GAME.

Technically, you can get through the bulk of The Legend of Zelda without use of Link’s sword. The only component that requires its use is the final boss battle against Ganon, who can only be harmed by this weapon.

9. THE GAME SHARES ELEMENTS WITH A FEW OTHER FAVORITES.

Although Miyamoto toiled to keep The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. as distinct as possible, there is at least one minor example of crossover. The “Piranha Plant” enemy best known as the pipe-dwelling pest that litters the original Super Mario game (as well as most subsequent games) rears its head at a few points in Zelda.

Zelda returned the favor to the Mario franchise, lending Super Mario Bros. 3 the sound effect for its world-hopping magic whistle. The sound was developed in association with the recorder device found in The Legend of Zelda.

10. THE TRIFORCE IS MODELED AFTER THE JAPANESE SYMBOL MITSUUROKO.

Present in every Zelda game, the three-triangle symbol is actually modeled after the emblem of the Hōjō clan, a tremendously powerful family in 13th- and 14th-century Japan. The emblem was known as the Mitsuuroko, which translates to “the Three Dragon Scales.”

11. NINTENDO ALMOST WENT WITH A DIFFERENT THEME SONG.

The game’s creators originally intended to use French composer Maurice Ravel’s composition Boléro as the score for the game, but Nintendo couldn’t nab the rights to the number. As such, brilliant in-house composer Koji Kondo whipped up what is now one of the company’s most beloved tunes.

12. EVERYONE WHO WORKED ON THE GAME WAS CREDITED UNDER A PSEUDONYM.

Well, except for executive producer Hiroshi Yamauchi. It was not particularly uncommon practice at the time for game designers in Japan to receive attribution via moniker as opposed to their proper names, due to companies’ fear of talent poaching. Miyamoto is credited as “S. Miyahon,” Tezuka as “Ten Ten,” Kondo as “Konchan,” and programmer I. Marui as “Marumaru,” among others.

13. THE DUNGEONS FIT TOGETHER QUITE NEATLY.

Every dungeon in Zelda’s main quest bears a distinct shape, generally befitting that of its namesake (i.e., “The Lion” is shaped like a lion). That said, all nine dungeons, when fit together onscreen, add up to a perfect rectangle. This isn’t simply a nod to Nintendo’s particularly anal-retentive players, it is a means of compacting console data.

14. ZELDA WAS THE FIRST GAME TO FEATURE A COMPLETE “SECOND QUEST.”

While other games, particularly Super Mario Bros., offered the option to replay a more difficult version of the same game that differed only in details like the number of villains populating levels, Zelda was the first to offer a completely different second terrain on the same cartridge. You don’t even have to beat the game to access “Second Quest.” You can reach it immediately by naming your game play file “Zelda.”

15. SOMEBODY BEAT THE WHOLE GAME IN HALF AN HOUR.

On February 27, 2015, a user known as “Lackattack24” completed the entirety of The Legend of Zelda (minus the “Second Quest”) in 30 minutes and six seconds.

5 Wild Facts About Mall Madness

Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The mall, home of fashion brands, bookstores, and anchor locations like Sears, was a must-visit location for Americans in the 1980s and 1990s—and especially for teenagers. Teens also played Mall Madness, a board game from Milton Bradley introduced in 1988 that tried to capture the excitement of soft pretzels and high-interest credit card shopping in one convenient tabletop game. Navigating a two-story shopping mall, the player who successfully spends all of their disposable income to acquire six items from the shopping list and return to the parking lot wins.

If you’re nostalgic for this simulated spending spree, you're in luck: Hasbro will be bringing Mall Madness back in fall 2020. Until then, check out some facts about the game’s origins.

1. Mall Madness was the subject of a little controversy.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Milton Bradley put a focus on the tween demographic. Their Dream Phone tasked young players with finding the boy of their dreams; Mall Madness, which began as an analog game but quickly added an electronic voice component, served to portray tweens as frenzied shoppers. As a result, the game drew some criticism upon release for its objective—to spend as much money as possible—and for ostensibly portraying the tweens playing as “bargain-crazy, credit-happy fashion plates,” according to Adweek. Milton Bradley public relations manager Mark Morris argued that the game taught players “how to judiciously spend their money.”

2. The original Mall Madness may not be the same one you remember.

The electronic version of Mall Madness remains the most well-known version of the game, but Milton Bradley introduced a miniature version in 1988 that was portable and took the form of an audio cassette. With the game board folded in the case, it looks like a music tape. Opened, the tri-fold board resembles the original without the three-dimensional plastic mall pieces. It was one of six games the company promoted in the cassette packaging that year.

3. Mall Madness was not the only shopping game on the market.

At the same time Mall Madness was gaining in popularity, consumers could choose from two other shopping-themed board games: Let’s Go Shopping from the Pressman Toy Corporation and Meet Me At the Mall from Tyco. Let’s Go Shopping tasks girls with completing a fashion outfit, while Meet Me At the Mall rewards the player who amasses the most items before the mall closes.

4. There was a Hannah Montana version of Mall Madness.

In the midst of Hannah Montana madness in 2008, Hasbro—which acquired Milton Bradley—released a Miley Cyrus-themed version of the game. Players control fictional Disney Channel singing sensation Hannah Montana as she shops for items. There was also A Littlest Pet Shop version of the game, with the tokens reimagined as animals.

5. Mall Madness is a collector’s item.

Because, for the moment, Hasbro no longer produces Mall Madness, a jolt of nostalgia will cost you a few dollars. The game, which originally sold for $30, can fetch $70 or more on eBay and other secondhand sites.

10 'Nuts' That Aren't Actually Nuts

None of these "nuts" are truly nuts.
None of these "nuts" are truly nuts.
margouillatphotos/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Who doesn’t love a pedantic houseguest? Next time you’re at a dinner party and someone breaks out the mixed nuts, seize the moment and let everyone know that a lot of the tasty treats we call nuts don’t actually merit the title. Botanists define a “nut” as a dry, one-seeded fruit encased in a hardened ovary wall (called a pericarp). Genuine nuts are fused to their shells and won’t naturally break open upon reaching maturity. Hazelnuts fit the criteria. So do chestnuts. But these ever-popular snack foods sure don’t.

1. Peanuts

The star ingredient of America's favorite nut butter isn't actually a nut. Instead, peanuts are considered legumes, along with soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas. Unlike nuts, most legumes come in self-opening pods—which may or may not grow underground, depending on the species. 

2. Almonds

A group of almonds in wood bowl atop a rustic table
These almonds formed inside a fleshy fruit.
onairjiw/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Almonds are seeds found within the fleshy, peach-like fruits of the Asian Prunus dulcis tree. They’ve earned a spot on our list because actual nuts don’t come wrapped up in softened fruit matter. So how do botanists classify almonds? As drupe seeds. Briefly stated, a drupe is a soft fruit with a hard inner shell. (Think peach pits.)

3. Cashews

Like almonds, cashews are drupe seeds pulled from soft fruit packages. The trail mix staples poke out of red, yellow, or green “cashew apples” that grow on South American trees. Cashew seeds are naturally protected by a toxin-coated outer shell that's roasted to neutralize the acid. In spite of this defense mechanism, the yummy snacks were soon embraced by Portuguese explorers and distributed across the globe.

4. Walnuts

A squirrel eating walnuts in a park
The walnuts this squirrel is noshing on are drupes, not nuts.
Serhii Ivashchuk/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Hey look, it’s another member of the drupe clan! Walnuts inhabit green fruit on temperate trees in the genus Juglans. Most of the seeds that end up on American dining room tables come from the English walnut tree, Juglans regia [PDF]. Even if you don’t eat the drupes, you can probably find a use for them: Walnut shells have been incorporated into everything from cosmetic products to kitty litter.

5. Pine nuts

About 20 pine tree species—including the Italian stone pine—produce big seeds that get harvested en masse. Those seeds are removed from cones in a meticulous process, which accounts for their high selling prices.

5. Brazil Nuts

You’ll encounter Brazil nuts all over the Amazon rainforest, in such countries as Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and (of course) Brazil. They come from a hardened 4-to-6-pound pod containing up to two dozen seeds that might become trees someday. The pods are so hefty, getting bonked on the head by a falling one is enough to stun or even kill you.  Surprisingly, Brazil Nuts can also be fairly radioactive thanks to the trees' roots, which grow deep within radium-rich soil.

7. Macadamia Nuts

Rows of trees at an Australian Macadamia orchard
An Australian macadamia orchard filled with the country's native drupe.
oxime/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Gympie, Queensland, has an odd claim to fame: Approximately 70 percent of all the macadamia nuts on Earth are descended from trees grown in the Australian town. Macadamias are an ecological staple in Queensland and New South Wales. But—stop us if this sounds familiar—their so-called “nuts” are drupes.

8. Pistachios

Not only are pistachios drupes, but they’ve got shells that automatically open with a literal popping noise once the contents reach a certain size. When all’s said and done, though, at least pistachios are Frank Drebin-approved.

9. Pecans

The Algonquian term for “nut that requires a stone to crack” gave us the English word pecan. Wild pecans can be gathered in Mexico and the United States—they’re true North American treasures. Name origin aside, they can’t accurately be called nuts. Botanists usually refer to them as drupes, but because of their tough shells, the label “drupaceous nuts” might be more appropriate. Either way, pecans aren’t true nuts. They make for great pies, though.

10. Coconuts

A monkey sticks out its tongue while eating a coconut
This cheeky monkey seems to be enjoying its delicious drupe.
Volga2012/iStock via Getty Images Plus

A drupe of unusual size, the coconut is a fibrous juggernaut that bears a single seed. The whitish fleshy interior can be immersed in hot water and then rung out through a cloth to produce coconut milk. Meanwhile, the outer shells are responsible for some of the most delightfully bizarre Guinness World Records categories, such as “most green coconuts smashed with the head in one minute.” (You can see other unusual Guinness World Record categories here.)

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER