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The Legend of Zelda – A Link To The Past Review

Zelda3-LogoHaving played the newest entry in the Zelda series – which Daniel will be covering shortly – I began to reminisce about the game that defined ‘Zelda‘ for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and for a whole generation.   From the opening fanfare to the last swipe of the sword, The Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past bore with it the weight of the games that had come before and shouldered the responsibility of raising the bar for the introduction of a brand new game system while iterating on inventory and control systems that would become series and industry standards for the Action RPG and persist to this day.

A Link to the Past tells the story of Link, a young Hyrulean boy who lives with his uncle.  Link has had dreams and heard voices speak to him in the dark nights and as the game begins we witness the last of these dreams where – pleading for aid – the Princess Zelda, a captive in her own castle, reaches out to the young hero.  Awakened by this, Link sees his uncle – sword and shield in-hand – preparing to leave their small home south of Hyrule Castle.  He instructs Link to stay inside, telling him that he has to go out for a while.

Going Out

Retroactive Spoiler Alert:From here, Link sets out on a truly epic journey and – disobeying his uncle – he gets out of bed and heads to the castle grounds to find and rescue the Princess.  Here he finds his uncle, wounded and dying.  He is given his sword and shield, and with that the duty to save the Kingdom of Hyrule falls to him.

Thus begins The Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past.  Nostalgia (partly) aside, the game utilized what had been the more popular of the two gameplay styles that had been presented before it in the form of the top down playstyle from the original The Legend of Zelda which was more easily understood than the more ambitiously difficult Castlevania-ish Zelda II.

It was simple yet elegant in its execution, supported by an easy to use inventory system that was focused on simple commands that integrated passive and active items.  The ‘Y’ button was used for active items, the ‘A’ button for anything not directly related to the equipped item or its use – examples of that being lifting a bush, a pot, running (once you obtained the boots), swimming (once you obtained the flippers) – while the ‘B’ button was dedicated to your sword.Simple, yet effective.

Z3_InventoryThematically the game touches on the conflict of light and darkness but takes it one step further in what was one of the coolest gameplay elements of its time… heck, it’s still cool.  The element of the Dark World.  The standard Overworld is large with several dungeons and many, many things to do… yet some ways into the game you come across glowing portals that transport you between the Light World of Hyrule and the Dark World.  The Dark World acts as a parallel to Hyrule and any who pass between the two worlds are transformed – in Link’s case, he becomes a pink bunny.  No joke.

Eventually Link finds a Magic Mirror which can control his passage between worlds and then must seek out a means to control his transformation.  With that the game world truly doubles in size as this Dark World is the same size as the Light World is with its own pitfalls and trials to face… and face them you must because you’re the only one who can.

One thing of spoilery note; the Dark World is a corrupted Sacred Realm and is NOT the realm of Lorule introduced in A Link Between Worlds… again, more on that in the forthcoming review on that title.

I have difficulty finding anything truly wrong with the game; it’s brutally difficult at times, it’s longer than most any other Zelda game if you play it traditionally… I suppose if I had to poke at anything it would be the story and reasoning behind the conflict at hand, but even that  – while fairly standard Zelda fare – still holds deeper meaning than immediately apparent.  Removing the rose-tinted nostalgia glasses is difficult on a title like this, but putting those aside as best I can I grant The Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past a solid 9 out of 10.  Do yourself a favor and play this if you haven’t, especially in light of The Legend of Zelda:  A Link Between Worlds.

The Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past originally launched on November 21, 1991

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