Links third adventure still holds up over 20 years later.
Aug 17, 2012
The kingdom of Hyrule is in danger of being taken over; a young boy named Link follows his uncle who receives a telepathic call from Princess Zelda begging for help. Link comes across his uncle wounded in the castle where she's held; he takes his shield and sword, and continues the mission to find Zelda in the castle. -summary
Up to this day, I know many fans of the Zelda franchise who pretty much hail Ocarina of Time as the definitive Legend of Zelda game, and rightfully so I will add. The game carried the tradition and expanded on what made the franchise great in the first place, and it has become the game that all future Zelda games have been and will probably always be compared to, but those seeds to greatness were planted somewhere, and it was here back in 1991 in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. This game far surpassed the previous two games in every possible way and has went on to being hailed as one of the Super Nintendo's greatest achievements. After replaying it over the weekend; I think it still holds up pretty well 21 years later.
Now for those who may be unaware, although this is the third game of the franchise. It's not a sequel to the first two and it's very much a stand alone story. It's not necessary at all to play the first two games; I will say though that the first game should at least be given a try to familiarize yourself with the world of Zelda, and to see where it all began.
A Link to the Past is a single player, open world action/adventure game with RPG elements. The game doesn't feature any story-related cut scenes during play, but it is pretty much story driven. The player begins on a quest to retrieve three pendants in order to unlock a weapon called the Master Sword, which will help defeat a mad wizard by the name of Agahnim. The pendants are located inside of three dungeons and are guarded by powerful monsters. Once the pendants have been collected the story shifts into its second phase. Link is transported to the Dark World, and here he must free seven maidens trapped inside of dungeons. The maidens collective power is needed to shatter the barrier around the final castle, where the main villain behind everything named Ganon is present.
This games strongest attribute is the game play without a doubt. There is so much to do in this open world, you will spend hours searching for items that may not be completely necessary, but they will definitely help in your quest. In the beginning you're armed with only a sword, shield, and a lamp. As you progress you will be able to upgrade your shield, sword, and pick up many weapons such as fire and ice wands, arrows, bombs, a boomerang, and even a glove which is use to pick up large rocks. The awesome thing about all of these items is that you WILL have to use them all, and some of them are very necessary to move forward. There are areas that cannot be accessed if you don't have some of these things.
Some of the fun is searching around as well as buying things with your currency in the form of rubies, which can be picked up by defeating enemies or cutting your way through bushes; rubies can also be obtained by opening up treasure chest or some characters you meet will just give them to you. There's also something to gain in mini side quest that sees you helping out some of the populace; such as helping a lost blacksmith find his partner, and in return, they turn your sword into a more powerful weapon. The enemies are also vast consisting of spear hurlers, bomb throwers, vanishing ghost, and even a couple of thieves who knock your money on the ground and take it. They become even more aggressive as you progress and some of them will smash your health bar down viciously.
When I first came into this game I quickly noticed how much it expanded on the original, and it felt so much more than just a sequel. It was a full-fledge upgrade. The player begins with a life bar made up of only three hearts. These can be increased by picking up more heart containers. The original granted you these after defeating bosses, plus some were in hidden locations. It's pretty much the same idea here as bosses provide you with these heart increases. However, in the open world, these hearts come in pieces, and you will need to find four to create a whole heart; which makes it very important to literally search under every rock, investigate every cave, play every mini game etc. The game does reward you in different ways for your hard work. It may seem tedious to some at times, and this is when the game provides you with a bird for transportation to different areas.
The other areas this game improved on were the puzzles, dungeons, and boss battles. The puzzles aren't anything too tricky and they really shouldn't leave folks scratching their heads for long; the dungeons though aren't only dangerous but they can be considered puzzles themselves. I hadn't played this game in many years, and I found myself stuck wondering on which door should I take, or should I really use a key for this particular door. The game has its ways to play with your mind. The boss battles range from very easy to moderately difficult. For example, one boss battle requires you to blow the mask off its face with your limited bomb supply before you can attack and do damage. While another one forces you to switch between your ice and fire wands which depletes your magic gauge. These twist in the boss battles is definitely welcomed since it adds some variety to the conflicts, which keeps them from being one dimensional hack and slashes to the finish.
Possibly the best part of the game play is being able to switch at any time between the Dark World and Light World (Hyrule) after you obtain the Magic Mirror. The two worlds are mirror reflections of each other, yet there are small differences between the two. For example, if you come across an inhabited house in the Light World, it will be shattered and abandoned in the Dark World. Traversing between the two worlds also helps in solving puzzles to reach specific points in your travel. This was pretty amazing back then and it's still interesting now.
The game play does have one flaw that I believe can be found in all games like these. It can be frustrating after awhile navigating through the same terrain because either you're lost for some reason or you're grinding for money and items. The game does hold your hand a little, by marking certain points on your world map. So even though you may be stuck because of something, you will still know where to go next without a doubt.
The game uses all of the buttons and everything performs very well. New to the game is being able to walk diagonally. This may seem like something small, but if you played the original then you will see it makes a difference. Selecting weapons can only be done by opening up the menu, and this is something I actually like, since there isn't a chance to accidentally use a health item when you're looking for something else. Being able to equip an additional weapon with the sword is still a plus and it performs well.
Taking under consideration this is a first generation SNES game, like Super Mario World it's still pretty impressive in some areas. There are some nice backgrounds with the dark rainy beginning being the most memorable to me. The best area is definitely the blue fogged Lost Woods which looks so good and even somewhat creepy. The Dark World does live up to its name, being a rather dreary and even dull world as opposed to the lively and vibrant Hyrule. There are several different rock and green bush patterns along with a cemetery tossed in to dampen that repetitive feel, and when you add in the mountain and desert landscapes, it does give off that big world feel. The animation for some of the bosses movements are done well, and some of them have some nice character designs. One thing that stands out to me is Link though, as others have mentioned, it does appear as if he's walking on air.
The music fits well with the look of the game. It uses an updated version of the original song for the main quest. The BGM for the Lost Woods stands out for me the most, and I wish this theme was used more in the game. While the boss themes are good, the dungeon theme is repetitive and bland. The sound effects have their moments too with the rattling chain link sound for the Hookshot being hard to over look, as well as the smashing with the hammer when you turn enemies into ice and crush them.
I'm usually not all about replaying long games like these which is probably over 12 hours. I can imagine completest coming back to collect all of the heart pieces, because you don't need them all to beat the game. But with the lack of a multi-player or even an alternate quest. I would say it's best to finish it then move on to something else.
A Link to the Past is definitely among Nintendo's finest. The game was so well received that it saw a re-release for the Game Boy Advance and that should tell you something. If you can down load this or even buy it used then I recommend doing so; with its vast world, many weapons, items, interesting boss encounters, style, and of course save system, this is a Super Nintendo classic that should be played by all gamers. It could have had a more engrossing story though, but this is 1991 we're talking about here; story really wasn't much of a factor back then.
Pros: -Deep game play, vast world to explore, moderate challenge
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