The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - Review

The Stongest Link

By: Red Raven

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 5
   Plot 5
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

5-15 hours


Title Screen

   As the 64-bit Zelda era comes to a close, I am left wondering about any kind of improvements in the series made during the trip. Ocarina of Time will probably be most remembered as the game that officially saved the Nintendo 64, while Majora's Mask will be remembered as its unofficial sequel. While trying to remember any new gameplay mechanisms that have expanded the series over the last five years, I draw a blank. It is not surprising as, looking back, I realize that the one Zelda game that stands out most in my mind as being the very best, the most complete, and most entertaining is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Being better than a progenitor such as this game is pretty much impossible.

   Although it has been nearly a decade since its initial release, the game has aged quite gracefully. Operating on the limited SNES color palette, this Zelda nevertheless is able to convey a wide variety of locations to the player: from the Lost Woods to Hyrule Lake, from Death Peak to the Dark World. Each area has its own distinctive look and feel...not to mention music. In fact, the music from this game is legendary, containing some of the very best tunes from any of the other games in the series. The music always fit the scene: sweeping scores when traversing the plains of Hyrule, sneaky tunes while exploring dungeons and caves, and great battle music when taking on the many bosses or even Gannon himself.

Choose your weapon
Choose your weapon  

   Speaking of Gannon, not much has changed as far as his story is concerned: still kidnapping Zelda in an attempt to rule the world. What makes this particular Link game stand out from the others is the fact that you "rescue" Zelda quite early in the game. There are of course, various plot twists present, but otherwise it remains the standard, albeit highly entertaining, dungeon crawl this series is known for.

   In fact, the dungeon crawling in this particular game is some of the best ever, even considering the new releases. Sure, they might have larger locations and better graphics overall, but for the most part LttP features better dungeon and puzzle design. The pieces of heart, for example, are hidden expertly around the map, requiring one to literally search each square of land for that last one. Also the puzzles didn't rely so much on knowing where the key was or when to hit the button, but focused on the different uses for your items in general. The dungeons always seemed huge and elaborately constructed; nary was there a corner that did not serve some function, be that trap, item, or secret passage. Yes, Ocarina of Time's dungeons were bigger, but they also suffered from a waste of space; a flaw that is missing from a much more refined LttP.

   The battle system, if one wants to call it that, is another example of such refinement. There are no menus or confusing commands to enter; simply point Link in the direction you wish to receive the wrath of the Master Sword...and press the button. The various items you find have their immediate uses in whatever dungeon you were exploring, but they are also tools to help you move about the land of Hyrule. They too are easily accessible to even the youngest of gamers, and a simply button press will do the trick. There is no complicated "Z-targeting" or camera movement needed. Just point and click, so to write.

Fear the little blue balls of death
Fear the little blue balls of death  

   As a sort of function of being both incredible refined and fun to play, its no wonder how much replay value this game really has. Sure, it can be beat in a ridiculously short amount of time, but that would be at the expense of finding the assorted bonus loot the designers packed so liberally into the game. The before mentioned pieces of heart are always fun to collect, as are the four bottles stocked with the finest goods Hyrule has to offer. And who could forget maxing out one's limit of arrows and bombs? While definitely not necessary, they are all very fun things to pursue, even after beating the game several times.

   So when I now look at the news that the latest Zelda for the Game Cube is going back to the cute and colorful graphics of yore, I am no longer disappointed; I am in fact happy. While Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask certainly had an edge as far as advanced graphics and other bells and whistles are concerned, I felt that neither could actually live up to such an epic game as this one. This series is not about how realistic one can make the dungeons or Link look; it's about exploring places one has never been before and discovering new territory. If Miyamoto can transfer that essence into his latest Zelda game, as he did for this one, then we will all be that much better off.

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