This is a guest post by Pixxel Papa from RetroGameNetwork
There’s always been place for the ROM hacking world to get some love on this site, and it’s about high time it got some of the love it so deserves. Say what you will about ROM hacking, but being able to put a new spin on a game that we have enjoyed for decades provides an incredibly satisfying experience (when done well, that is), that we have next to no hope from seeing from the big gaming companies that made these games in the first place. Sure, we have gems like Mega Man 9 and 10, but those kind of official throwbacks are not seen very often, and to remedy the situation, we have the ROM hacking community. Out of said community, came first game we will be reviewing for ROM Hack Write-Ups, The Legend of Zelda: Outlands; a completely new game that plays just like the original 8-bit masterpiece that we all know and love.
I recently completed the original Legend of Zelda’s second quest on my Famicom Disk System, and going through a Zelda experience that I never had the skills to do as a child, I was dying for more! Throughout the entire playthrough of the second quest, I did not once use the Internet to check maps, item locations, or anything of the sort. Sure, that made the game a heck of a lot harder, but it also gave me that same sense of adventure and accomplishment that I experienced when I beat the game the first time as a kid. There’s something about getting all of the answers on GameFAQs that just kind of takes all of the fun and challenge out of a new game experience.
With that mindset in my head, I came across a rare cartridge version of the game, as was created by the good folks over at NES Reproductions. Sure, I could have downloaded and played the ROM for free, but there was something about playing a brand new, classic Zelda game on my TV with an NES controller in my hand that I simply could NOT pass up. I was jonesin’ for more Zelda, and this game delivered. Oh, did it ever deliver.
Let’s start off with the story. Outlands takes place after the events of the original NES games, and takes a whole new direction that the creator of the this game dreamed up for the series. As per the official website of the game:
“The Thunderbird, a horrible guardian encountered by Link in the Great Palace of Zelda 2, has somehow survived and is out for revenge. Having lost the Triforce of Courage at the hands of its adversary, it has stolen the Triforce of Power and flown to the vast neighbor of Hyrule, the Outlands. In a world similar to yet completely different from Zelda 1, Link must track down the captured Tetrarch Fairies and, with their help, break open Ganon’s secret golden vault where the creature now resides.”
Sounds great! Now, here’s where things get really, really awesome. Take everything you know about the way the original game plays. The monsters, the items, the dungeons, the overworld…everything. It’s all different. Every last bit of it.
The way the game itself is played (mechanics and such), and Link and Zelda themselves are about the only things that are retained from the original. Every monster is this game is either completely different from their original counterparts, or has some sort of variation to them. For example, the monsters you see above sure don’t look like a Zola or Octoroks to me. You may encounter some Moblins, but I wonder if you’re going to be dodging arrows, or something else…
From the very start of this game, it’s pretty easy to to tell that the difficulty of this adventure has been jacked up, especially when compared to the original; including the second quest. I really don’t want to go into too many spoilers, as I want those of you who decide to give this game a whirl after reading this review to experience those same “HOLY CRAP!” feelings as I did. You have not nine, but EIGHTEEN new dungeons to look forward to finding and completing! That’s right folks, this game too, has a second quest, for those who are truly epic at this game.
If you cannot get your hands on a repro cart, you can download the hack directly from the main page of the game’s website. You can also read more about the changes and differences between this and the original, but I personally think if more fun to dive into it without scouring the Internet first, so you too can be just as pleasantly surprised as I was.
Pixxel Papa is the Editor in Chief of Retro Game Network and an all-around swell guy.