You something you didn’t mention about either the original Zelda Final Fantasy, is the fact you can “sequence break.” When I was playing through Final Fantasy on the NES there’s something awesome you can do after you get the canoe from the Sages at Cresent Lake. You’re supposed to take to the volcano OR you take the canoe, then take your ship north to the castle of Ordeals and do that first. It’s fairly easy as long as you avoid the Medusas and the Zombie Dragon boss is a fixed encounter whose really easy and drops tons of cash and XP so you can fight him over and over again. Then leave the Castle and go to the Ice Cave. Now this is harder because you have to run from half the baddies because a bunch of them do insta-kill attacks but once you get the floater there and you get the airship, then you can go see the Dragons to get your class upgrade THEN return and do the volcano and be a god and tear through the Fire Fiend lair. Modern Final Fantasy would never let you sequence break like this now because it would ruin their story progression.
Zelda 1 was the same way. Many who know the game well, will often do a ton of stuff before even touching the first temple. If you get bombs there are places to find Heart containers. Enough to gain you the White Sword before fighting a single boss. And if you’re really patient you can grind rupees for a while and get both the Magical Shield and Blue Ring and you can tear through the first four temples like nobody’s business. It was great in old games like this to find a way to “cheat” the game that didn’t involve exploiting a glitch. Link Between Worlds tried to do this by allowing you to buy all gear from the get go but you never feel that powerful because there’s still puzzles to deal with and no amount of grinding makes puzzles go by faster.
The closest a modern game came to this type of gameplay was Skyrim but it’s downside is eventually you aquire so much gear you spend more time finding shops to buy off your extra loot or just end up with so much money and nothing to do with it, even after you’re able to buy every piece of available property in Skyrim.
Modern games lack this fun of finding ways for the gamer to “cheat” the system. Modern Mario tries to have alternate hidden paths but the main games aren’t hard enough to need it. Shortcuts are only fun if it lets you bypass something that was a pain or tedious. Though some games have abused this desire to charge gamers. The latest Mortal Kombat lets you pay 99 cents for an easy fatality as opposed to old games that let you enter cheat codes you only found out about in gaming magazines.
Of course modern games are so easy that cheat codes have gone the way of paper manuals.
I’m playing through 7th Saga now (US version, not the easy ‘casual’ mode Japanese version [LOL, always wanted to say that]), and I do not agree about the magic of ‘sequence breaking’. I really think a huge part of the magic of games is the satisfaction of beating a challenge. Zelda 1 and Final Fantasy 1 are challenging games. By challenging, I mean there is some sort of challenge to overcome. It takes some practice or know-how to beat the games.
7th Saga (US version of course) is probably the most tedious SNES JRPG out there. Yet, the ‘easy version’ rom hack of 7th Saga (or Japanese version) is completely not fun. The challenge, artificial or not, was what put the game on the map and differentiated it from other SNES JRPGs.
Rubik’s Cubes loses their magic if everyone can beat them. Video games are the same way.