The Legend of Zelda is a videogame franchise which surely needs little introduction, and yet as time moves on we it could be argued that many have forgotten just where it all began. That 8-bit world was so unlike anything that had gone before – a self-contained adventure that created many pillars of design which still stand even to this day – which was so clean-cut that many aspiring developers still hold it in remarkably high esteem. One such developer is Randy Bennett, who operates under the name Ubiquitron, and has paid homage to the series by offering fans a very modern rebirth.
ZeldaVR is a remake of the original The Legend of Zelda. However, it’s not just an upscale or redrawn sprites; it’s not a jump into 3D or simple stereoscopic compatibility. ZeldaVR is the most modern rendition of an 8-bit classic that you could imagine: a virtual reality (VR) recreation.
Available in beta form now, exclusively via the truly remarkable VirtualReality.io marketplace, ZeldaVR celebrates everything that made The Legend of Zelda so compelling and yet it does it from a brand new perspective. Literally. The videogame is no longer played as a top-down adventure, but rather from a first-person viewpoint. You are Link, and this is your very first adventure.
Despite it’s age, ZeldaVR is so different from how you will remember the original The Legend of Zelda videogame that it does truly feel like your first experience all over again. At first it’s disorientating when you realise that venturing south doesn’t simple mean holding down on a d-pad and moving from screen-to-screen; you now have to navigate your way through the world just as you would your own town. And that world is presented in a startlingly different fashion to how you may remember.
The objects within the world, rocks and trees for example, have been pulled out of the grid-based map and been turned into waist-high blocks with the same spacing and arrangement as the original top-down maps. The enemies however, have been enlarged and remain 2D sprites. This juxtaposition of 2D and 3D imagery does a remarkable job of creating the same light-hearted atmosphere with overwhelmingly tense combat at the point where your heart containers begin to empty more rapidly than you might hope. Link’s movement remains fast so venturing across the map is a breeze, but ensuring you don’t meet an untimely end at the hand of one of Ganon’s minions is not so easy.
This earliest release includes only the world map (with some notable objects being absent) and the first dungeon, but even in this small sample it’s easy to tell that ZeldaVR is not only a worthwhile project, but a visionary example of how to bring classic experiences to VR despite original being designed when the technology was nothing but a pipedream. ZeldaVR is currently expected to be available this spring and VRFocus will keep you updated with all the latest details on this and other projects from Ubiquitron.