Growing up surrounded by the dark puppetry that defined '80s fantasy movies was unsettling. Worse, I went through much of the '90s wondering if my flashes of memory were based on tangible things, or simply glimpses of a fever dream I once suffered. Back then I had no Internet to assure me that Dragonslayer, Labyrinth, and The Dark Crystal were real movies.
(My family did not own a VCR.)
But most of Legend by Ridley Scott (1985) was etched into my brain when I first saw it. You don't easily forget seeing a baby Tom Cruise tearfully apologize to a unicorn for inadvertently wounding its mate.
A short jaunt across Google reveals a lot of people believe The Legend of Zelda was inspired by Legend. The parallels are certainly there. Legend stars a wild, adventurous boy who must rescue his lady-friend from the clutches of evil (as portrayed by Tim Curry wearing big, big horns). There are deep, dark forests, fairies, swords, shields, prophecies -- the whole fantasy megillah.
However, the first Legend of Zelda game hit the Famicom Disk System in 1986. Sure, video games had shorter development cycles in the '80s, but it's unlikely Shigeru Miyamoto had enough time to watch a Japanese translation of Legend, get inspired, and cook up The Legend of Zelda. Besides, Miyamoto has stated several times that his childhood adventures through Japan's mountains and caves are ultimately what inspired development of the first game, and that Link's design is a tribute to Disney's 1953 adaptation of Peter Pan.
That doesn't mean Ridley Scott's Legend never touched the Zelda series, though. By the time the N64 classic Ocarina of Time entered development, Miyamoto had ample time to digest the movie. In fact, whereas comparisons between the first Legend of Zelda and Legend are more generalized, Ocarina of Time and Legend share more specific characteristics between them.
In Legend, the world is plunged into darkness after the Devil a.k.a. Tim Curry ensnares a unicorn and steals its horn for power(!). Similarly, Hyrule becomes a darker, grimmer place once Ganondorf elects himself prez.
In Legend, the green-clad protagonist Jack has a guardian fairy friend who's never far from his side. Hey! Listen! That sounds like someone Zelda fans know well, isn't it? It should be noted that Jack's fairy tries to seduce him, and things never get quite that PG in Ocarina of Time (though there is that Poe Hunter who suggests in a very roundabout way that he'd become a prostitute if he looked as handsome as adult Link. What is the deal with that Poe Hunter?).
In Legend, Jack travels to a giant tree infested with evil. In Ocarina of Time -- well, you know.
Finally, Legend's dark lord character looks an awful lot like a mix between Ocarina of Time's final bosses: The perpetually-sneering Ganondorf and the pig-headed Ganon, who is outfitted with huge horns and hooves for his N64 adventure -- both of which red Tim Curry owns, and neither of which shows up in any iteration of the big boss up until that point.
Indeed, when Ocarina of Time was still in development and I sniffed out any trace of information I could about the game, I remember an interview with Miyamoto stating Ocarina's Ganondorf is specifically based on Legend's own king of evil. Despite my efforts, I've never been able to find this statement reproduced anywhere.
Maybe the quote never existed. Maybe it's all my imagination. After all, when has Nintendo ever been inspired by the work of Ridley Scott?