Played through The Legend of Zelda [NES].
As a cryptic, nonlinear, exploration-based, action RPG - The Legend of Zelda is everything I hate in a video game, yet it’s an undeniable staple of the NES library (and the larger classic gaming canon). So I finally decided to play it - but in the least painful way possible: using a comprehensive online guide to save me the trouble of figuring out where to go or what to do on my own.
And even though I still found the exploration obtuse and the mechanics cumbersome to the very end, the appeal of this game was obvious. At the core of Zelda is a spirit of discovery - and while using a walkthrough turns that discovery into somewhat of a “paint-by-numbers” affair, I still found gratification (and even a degree of wonder) every time I burned a shrub to find a hidden stairway, or played the magic flute to reveal an underwater dungeon, or encountered a new monster in a locked chamber. If I were more inclined to action RPG gameplay, I could see myself relishing in the exploration, drawing maps and deciphering clues just like kids in the late-80s did when Zelda was new to the market. The visuals are a clear asset to the experience as well - from the dungeon layouts, to the enemy designs, to the overworld in general. The 8-bit sprites in this game are iconic, and maintain a perfect balance between practical communication and abstract ambiguity.
In short - I hate The Legend of Zelda as a game, but I love The Legend of Zelda as an aesthetic. It’s true that my experience with this title was lesser for having relied so heavily on a guide, but I wouldn’t have ever seen it through to the end otherwise. And I’m glad I did.