Review by Trambient
"A Journey to the Past"
Just a note, this review contains moderate spoilers.
Since the release of Ocarina of Time in 1998, the already popular Legend of Zelda series has been skyrocketed to one of Nintendo's go to games. According to anyone who had played it, and according to all of the proffesional reviews, OoT couldn't be considered any less than flawless. Many young gamers were being introduced to the series for the first time, and have most likely subsequently played the 3D Zelda's released since. People often credit Ocarina with laying the foundation for many of the staples within the series, but now, with the release of A Link to the Past on the Virtual Console, people can experience just how wrong they are.
The story of this particular Zelda is pretty bare bones, but it gives you just enough to give everything you're doing context, and you can see where the story formula for OoT, WW, and TP originated. The evil wizard Agahnim has recently been abducting maidens whom are the descendents of the Seven Wise Men (think Sages), including the Princess of Hyrule herself, Zelda. As Link, it is your job to find Agahnim, learn the secret of his plan, and save the maidens, and with them, all of Hyrule. However, where new players will get excited, and where people replaying the game will likely get frustrated with the lack of evolution, are the small touches that make this game a Zelda. You are tasked with getting 3 stones, which then gives you the ability to wield the Master Sword (which as you pull plays the same tune that plays in all of the 3D Zelda's when you pull it from its pedestal). You face the power-hungry pig thief, Ganon (whose theme has not changed since this game). You travel through Kakariko Village (theme has yet to change entirely), ascend Death Mountain, swim through Lake Hylia, and travers Hyrule Field (all of which actually began in the original Zelda). You even travel between two worlds much in the way you travelled through two times in OoT and the regular and twilight realms of TP. This game is really the beginning, in terms of story, of what makes a Zelda game a Zelda.
Does this really need to be addressed, I wonder? This is an early SNES game, but for anyone who has played SNES regularly at any point, even if you never played this one, it holds up well. Some of the backgrounds, especially atop Death Mountain and the Pyramid of Power, really give you the sense that you're on an epic adventure, even today, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't still a sucker for the magic attacks. The sprites have a moderate amount of detail. Overall, this isn't the best looking SNES game, not by a long shot, but it is more than passable.
This definitely needs to be addressed. First of all, the sound effects are all appropriate, I'm just putting this in for the sake of it, I wanna discuss the music. The music in this game is one of the defining features that separates this game from its descendents. Where as OoT had slow and memorable music, LttP has remarkably catchy and memorable music. The Overworld theme is the Zelda theme in all its original glory, dungeon music incites terror, rather than the pure ambience of the 3D Zelda's. The Dark World theme is, in my opinion, one of the best compositions of the entire Zelda. You'll hear Zelda's theme and Ganon's theme as they are in later games, but the rest of the music, by and large, makes this game its own, and it really is fantastic, especially for a SNES game.
This game followed suit of the original Zelda with many of its items, like the bombs and arrows, but it came up with a remarkable amount of original items, some of which made the transition to 3D (Hookshot), and several that have unfortunately not been seen since. The gameplay in this game is, simply, a blast. The world, for its time, is fairly big, especially when considering that there are technically two different worlds. There are more dungeons than there have ever been in a Zelda game (roughly 13). And frankly, this game is significantly more difficult than any of its 3D followers. The enemies are something to worry about, to a great extent. If you're playing this game for the first time, you can most likely expect to die. A lot. The dungeons are decently big, and have many challenges, both in terms of puzzles and combat. Admittedly, if you're playing this for the first time after having played the 3D Zelda's, you'll recognize some of the puzzles, but in 2D it's a whole new game. The greatest feature in this game is that there are things to do, everywhere (something I was dissapointed with in Twilight Princess). Heart Pieces to find, an enourmous amount of optional equipment and magic, optional upgrades, new swords, the ability to carry more bombs and arrows. This game holds up so well, it's almost hard to believe. With more user friendly exploration, and less exposition, it would be easy to understand why someone likes this game more than the 3D games.
Having only played this game over 10 years ago, and only passingly playing the GBA version, it had faded into the back of my mind. Given the oppurtunity to replay it now, and for many of you, the first time, is an extraordinary gift. I would have said that Majora's Mask was my favorite Zelda a week ago, but having replayed this, there is no question in my mind that this is my personal favorite. I would personally say that this game has held up a lot better than a lot of SNES games, and is a Zelda that absolutely cannot be missed by fans of the series and curious parties.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/24/07
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