Released before Nintendo 64’s Ocarina of Time, but set much further after in one of the series alternate timelines, was The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past. The last Zelda game to be set on the SNES system, it set the tone for the rest of the series. Much of the music from this game has been reused or reincarnated in some way. Also, the game marked the first appearances of both Links legendary blade, The Master Sword, and many of the series notable landmarks, such as Lake Hylia, Zoras Waterfall, and Kakariko village.
The Legend Of Zelda carries with it an interesting series of timelines. There is the one that exists in the real world, beginning with the original NES The Legend of Zelda, and carrying through to the most recent Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Nintendo Wii. The more interesting of these timelines however is the one set within the Zelda universe. It begins with Skyward Sword, and at several junctures splits into different times depending on the outcome of one of the series most beloved titles, Ocarina of Time. The series itself centers mostly around the conflict between the various incarnations of Link, Zelda, and the series ultimate villain, Ganon. This storytelling mechanic provides a rich amount of lore, while providing the ability to keep the series fresh but familiar.
My playthrough for this review was the first time I had sat down and finished the entire game. It was both a fresh challenge, but also really gave me a great feeling of nostalgia. Finally grasping The Master Sword for the first time and seeing where many of the series most iconic features and locations made their first appearance really resonated with me. Climbing Death Mountain, and discovering secrets in the domain of the Zoras were both challenging and immensely fun experiences and the music that accompanied each dungeon and quest helped immerse me further in my adventure (I honestly can’t express how much I love the music from this game).
The games dungeons were a high point, with many difficult enemies (the third dungeons final boss had me almost yelling at my screen) and tricky puzzles to work through. I really enjoyed having to puzzle things out for myself, as the game provides little in the way of direction. Sure, you can ask the fortune teller for hints on where to go next, but often they were cryptic riddles that took some thought to work out. The ability to move back and forth between the games light and dark worlds was a great mechanic which added an extra dimension to the challenge. Also, there are many hidden extras scattered throughout the kingdom of Hyrule. Some excellent and fun mini games exist, along with smaller side challenges to unlock new items and powers that will help you prevail in your quest to defeat the king of the evil realm.
With nothing to go on but trial and error, and no Navi to give you hints, the bosses of this game were a welcome challenge. You likely won’t defeat them on your first attempt, but each time you enter a dungeons final chamber, you will learn a bit more about their strategy and once you finally prevail against your foe you will feel an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and relief.
Vanquishing enemies in the game was at times frustrating. Despite being able to move in 8 directions (an improvement over earlier games in the series) attacking enemies was challenging. It sounds like a petty complaint, but for me at least it was the most frustrating issue. You could get stuck on an enemy for a period of a few seconds and end up either dead or close enough that your main priority became gathering hearts than anything else. However, this could also be chalked up to a lack of skill on my part. I died more times than I could count.
I highly recommend this game to any Zelda fan who is interested in spending some time with one of the series original 2D incarnations. I should have taken the time years ago to play through this game, and now having completed it, I can say it ranks among the best of the series. It accomplishes an incredible amount of rich storytelling, through very little dialogue, and stands as a shining example as to why the Zelda franchise is arguably one of the best action/adventure series ever created.
Edit: On April 17, 2013 Nintendo announced a sequel to A Link To The Past for the Nintendo 3DS. Below is the announcement trailer.
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