Review by LordShibas

"An Excellent Port of an Excellent Game"

I recently decided to play Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I had some major issues with the game (see my review for details) and was unable to finish it. However, one good thing came from playing Ocarina of Time. The time I spent with Ocarina of Time re-piqued my interest in the Zelda series, and made me want to go back and see what it was that ever made me interested in the Zelda series.

I was a big fan of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past back in the day, so I decided to play the GBA remake of A Link to the Past, mainly to see if the Zelda series still had what it takes to captivate me and intrigue me.

The GBA remake is pretty much a direct port, with very little changed. There are a few minor differences, but aside from the new save system, only Zelda purists will notice them. The game also contains a new, multi-player game called Four Swords, which I did not get a chance to play since the game is not accessible via single player.

After the bad experience I had with Ocarina of Time, I was truly hoping that I still had a love for A Link to the Past, since I had fond memories of the SNES classic. Without further ado, I jumped right into the game, and began re-living my classic Zelda days.

I'm sure that anyone who is a Zelda fan has already played this game about 50 times, so I'll skip most of the game explanation and try to concentrate on what is important, critiquing the game itself.

A Link to the Past is called an RPG by some, but it lacks a few key RPG elements, so I consider it more of an action adventure game. You will spend most of the game solving puzzles, acquiring upgrades, exploring dungeons, and fighting enemies.

You will be playing as Link, who I'm sure you are all familiar with. It will be Link's job to stop the evil Ganon from obtaining the Tri-Force and taking over the world. Link will start out with a basic sword and shield and will acquire quite a few upgrades along the way. He will get a hook shot which can propel him across gaps, power gloves, which will allow him to lift big rocks, flippers which allow him to swim through deep waters, and many, many others.

While the upgrades may seem menial at first, each one will make new areas accessible, and will allow you to acquire even more. The World of Hyrule is intuitively laid out and using your upgrades to find additional upgrades will soon become second nature.

You will also be plunging yourself into many dungeons to rescue captured maidens who will aid you in your quest. Most battles can be won with your sword, but your special items will often be multi-purpose and will somehow aid you in combat as well.

It's been close to 15 years since I played the SNES version of A Link to the Past. While playing it again, I was shocked at the amount of things I remembered and how much this game still holds a special place in my gaming heart.

Graphics 8/10

Graphically, the GBA remake looks 100% accurate when compared to its SNES counterpart. The World of Hyrule is filled with vibrant colors and storybook type creatures that you will need to interact with. In other words, Hyrule is not meant to be a plausible world.

Link will obtain a few magic spells along the way, but they are not that great looking when compared to games like Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy VI. In fact, the majority of the graphics in A Link to the Past are inferior to the graphics found in Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy VI. However this does not detract from their simple beauty, which will permanently leave its mark on your mind.

The dungeons all look very similar, but they are clearly marked upon entry, so you will not be getting them confused. Just get used to seeing the same backgrounds and obstacles while in the dungeons.

Looking back on A Link to the Past, it really looked great for its time, but it has been eclipsed since then, so I can't give it a top score in this category, even though the game looks great and there are no graphical glitches or slow down to speak of.

Sounds and Music 8/10

The GBA remake successfully re-produces all of the wonderful sounds and music found in the SNES original. Most of the music is quite catchy and you will enjoy hearing each track every time. My personal favorite is the over world music in the Dark World.

When you are in dungeons, you will only get one track for all of the dungeons, but the music will not be your focus in the dungeons, you will be hunting for keys and trying to figure out puzzles.

Link lets out his now signature screams when swinging his sword, and most of the sound effects are great and fit right into the game.

However, the music and sound effects are once again overshadowed by Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy VI, so I can not give the game a top score in this area, despite how good they are.

Story 7/10

The story in A Link to the Past comes to you in spurts. It's not really a story heavy game. While there is a story, and it's not bad, you will mainly be exploring and solving puzzles. When you accomplish major goals, you will be presented with additional pieces of the story, but these are usually short and you will get back to the action quickly.

The story just never seems to crescendo and I found myself as excited for the last dungeon as I was for the first dungeon. The story is in no way bad, it's just not as prominent as in other games.

Gameplay 9/10

This is really the bread and butter of A Link to the Past. It plays wonderfully and is simple to pick up and play. It has an inviting atmosphere which will keep you coming back for more and make you want to explore from one end of the map to the other.

Speaking of the map, about half way through the game, you will enter the Dark World, which is a dark version of the standard World of Hyrule, which offers double the exploration and double the options.

Most of the puzzles in and out of the dungeons can be figured out with a little bit of thought and perseverance. This was actually one of the problems I had with Ocarina of Time. I found the ambiguity of the puzzles to be really annoying and found myself often abandoning puzzles because it just didn't seem worth the time. A Link to the Past is much better in this regard. There's not an over abundance of extra stuff to do, but there is plenty to keep you occupied for a long time.

The game has received a wonderful port to the GBA and the controls work out very well. You will be able to access your menus quickly to switch between items, and the top down perspective makes fighting and exploring a breeze.

I only really had one major gripe with the gameplay and that was the lack of a magic recharge. Once you deplete your magic, it will not restore at all. You must find magical decanters to replenish it, or you need a magic potion. These are often hard to come by and you will need to be very frugal with your magic consumption in the later dungeons.
This is a small gripe which can be circumvented though.

A Link to the Past really does play great. It's a rock solid gameplay experience and the tight controls make it all the better.

Longevity and Re-playability 8/10

Even though it's a rather short game, there is a lot to do in the World of Hyrule. There are lots of areas to explore, lots of upgrades to search for, and secret after secret to uncover. The dungeons really don't offer any reason to revisit them which kind of sucks. Once you are done with a dungeon that's pretty much it.

In the game's defense, it's such a wonderful experience overall that you may want to restart the game right after you finish it since it is so much fun. I will not be doing this since I have many other games to play, but it sure is tempting.

I now remember why the Zelda series is where it is today. It's because of the masterpiece known as “A Link to the Past”.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/08/08

Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Player's Choice) (US, 09/25/06)


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