Nintendo and its licensees cranked out a lot of fantastic artwork in the 1980s based on Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, and while it's all off-model and somewhat strange by today's standards of rendered perfection and multiple layers of required approval, it's fun to look back on how things used to be in the world of promotional art. Over at Poison Mushroom, David Oxford has found a neat piece of art promoting The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link using elements from the two titles in and proceeds to give it some much needed analysis.
Examining the piece more closely, it hews heavily towards the original game– right down to the logo– though if I’m not mistaken, the Magical Sword Link is wielding comes from The Adventure of Link, as does his attire (the leggings, specifically). It was definitely featured on the box, and he would wield it in some promotional material as well. Plus some merchandise like this, apparently. He also carried a simplified version in the DiC animated series, as well as Captain N: The Game Master.
I love looking back at old artwork like this. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore now that the company is much more heavily involved in controlling and maintaining the image of its famous characters and brands. I think that level of control has been good for everyone; Link is always Link, for instance, and not a poorly drawn stubby man-child, but those of us who grew up at the dawn of Nintendo's famous heroes have fond memories of off-model characters depicted in situations never seen in the games. You'll never find Princess Zelda taking an active role in either Nintendo Entertainment System adventure, but seeing her fight alongside Link in this image works. A little variety is a good thing.