How Link's Past Helped Shape
the Zelda Series's Future
In 1991, The Legend of Zelda series returned to its overhead roots with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. While it returned to that old perspective, it brought with it many, many new ideas-- ideas that many developers consistently borrow from, including Nintendo themselves-- to the franchise. On a list of important games and those games that are as close to perfection as possible, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past sits comfortably near the top. As if you needed any reasons why, here's several.
On a dark and stormy night, a young lad named Link is awakened, not by the rumbling of thunder and strikes of lightning, but the voice of a girl, who turns out to be Princess Zelda, utilizing the power of telepathy. Link's uncle heads out to rescue the princess by himself and asks Link to stay in bed. Going against his uncle's wishes (and thankfully so, as the game would be really boring if all the player did was to hang around the house all day), Link heads to Hyrule Castle, where he finds his uncle, stricken with a serious wound. Acquiring his uncle's sword and shield, Link enters the castle's dungeon, finds and frees Zelda, and the two escape through the castle's sewer system. They arrive at a sanctuary where players find out about a sorcerer named Agahnim who plans on breaking the seal that holds Ganon. In order to attain the only weapon that can defeat Agahnim, the Master Sword, Link must gather the three magical pendants to prove his worth. The story of A Link to the Past entices the player and puts him or her straight into the boots of Nintendo's fabled hero. It doesn't get in the way of the game too terribly much, just enough to keep the player engaged.
|Well, Link always was a rebellious young youth.|
The original Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System was groundbreaking onto itself. While Zelda II: The Adventure of Link moved into totally new territory with its 2D side-scrolling action, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past returns to the series's comfort zone, an overhead viewpoint. Like the original game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is also groundbreaking, and it is easily a true evolution to the NES classic. For one, combat is less stressful due to the fact that Link's sword now slices sideways to create a much broader swing. Link can also walk diagonally to make moving much easier and gives a greater sense of freedom.
|The kingdom of Hyrule, Light World version.|
Notice the difference between the Light
World and the Dark World.
There are over a dozen different dungeons in A Link to the Past, still the most in a single Zelda game (I consider Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons two different titles). You might be thinking that it is quantity over quality, but A Link to the Past offers both things equally. The dungeon design is absolutely fantastic. For those unfamiliar with The Legend of Zelda, dungeons consist of finding keys through venturing in rooms and solving puzzles to make progress. Each dungeon has a valuable treasure that is usually to be used on the boss that awaits Link at the tail end. With this Super Nintendo Zelda game, dungeons were given a greater sense of purpose and personality.
What kinds of horrors await Link
in the game's many dungeons?
The fifth Dark World dungeon has an icy
interior to go along with its chilling exterior.
Puzzles are a Zelda series mainstay, and A Link to the Past delivers greatly in this field as well. They can be as simple as pushing the right block to activate a door, lighting four torches to open the way, or hitting colored switches that change which blocks are raised (i.e. impossible to pass) and which aren't. I love the idea of having a fantastic mix of brawn and brain, which this Zelda game excels in. There are equal parts of using one's brain on figuring out how to proceed in a given room, and using Link's sword or other weapon to slay monsters in a myriad of manners.
Use a switch to flood this room so Link
can dog paddle over these blocks.
|With this boss, the "eyes" have it.|
|Items are easily accessible through the menu.|
In addition to items, A Link to the Past expanded on the idea of Heart Containers. In the original NES Zelda, all the player had to do to increase Link's health was to collect a Heart Container and it would automatically add a heart to his health. While bosses do drop full Heart Containers, in A Link to the Past, the majority of health earned is done so by collecting Pieces of Heart. Collecting four pieces raises Link's maximum health. These are placed in out of the way locations and easy-to-miss spots. Not only do the Pieces of Heart help the player survive longer, but they also extend the replay value of the game longer as well.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was a lovely looking title when it launched in 1991. It still looks great today. Character sprites are wonderfully done, animations are smooth, especially when it concerns larger sprites such as the various bosses, and the backgrounds and worlds are beautiful and well detailed. The only problem that came up with the performance of the game was when there was a lot of action going on the screen. The frame-rate stutters during these moments, but it isn't enough to ruin the experience at all. On the sound side, Koji Kondo provided a stellar soundtrack with numerous themes that have since entered gamers' consciousness like Zelda's Lullaby, the theme of Kakariko Village, and many other sensationally composed pieces.
Death Mountain is especially nice to
look at (not so much to visit).
[SuperPhillip Says: 10/10]