Megaman Omega posted... My point still stands. The only "hints" are a couple of lone trees (that are just there to mislead you half the times) and a giant stone arrow. What the hell does a giant stone arrow mean? "There's something over there"? Might as well tell me "cows go moo".
The game doesn't usually throw things out for no reason, it almost always sticks to a set of unwritten rules, except for the second quest which will do tgat sometimes. And the rules are pretty easy to pick up on too, with a little bit of experimentation.
Most kids used Nintendo Power maps to beat the game don't let them lie to you about how they found all the Hearts on their own. I am willing to bet 90% of the kids who played this game had access to Maps that they or their friends had. The other 9% of the kids never found everything and 1% had OCD.
I had 2 people that I was playing competitively against and we'd occasionally share tips and stuff. One of 'em was my step-dad, he ended up cheating and buying a guidebook for it. I ended up finding every heart, item, and upgrade, I did not find all of the "IT'S A SECRET TO EVERYONE." or "PAY ME FOR THE DOOR REPAIR CHARGE." caves. I ended up doing the second quest bh myself, which took much more trial and error.
-Edit- I forgot to say that I would make my own maps and sometimes share secrets with kids at school.
Like I said, I beat the whole game at age 5. I didn't have a guide or anything, and for a decent while it was the only game I'd play besides Super Mario Bros. 2 & 3.
For the second quest, once I realized it was remixed, I used my old map for reference and checked out areas that were weird in the first quest but didn't have anything before. It doesn't hurt that I'd occasionally whip out the whistle and play it on screens full of enemies just so that I could try weaving through the enemies and dodge the tornado too.