Review by sneggid
"A Link to a Timeless Creation"
In November of this year, A Link to the Past will hit its 20th Anniversary. The game will hit a monumental milestone, which in gaming timeline, basically makes it ancient, arguably equivalent to the 1940's of the film industry. Which in this analogy is appropriate, as both Link to the Past and the 40's are key icons to the supposed "Golden Age" of their mediums. And while I feel both the film and video game "Golden Ages" are somewhat overrated, A Link to the Past is definitely not. Besides Ocarina of Time, LttP is the most highly regarded Zelda game to enthusiasts (although these days Majora's Mask's cult status has got it growing in favouritism with fans), and for good reason. A Link to the Past is one of the-if not the- best game of the most highly regarded generation in gaming history.
The third in a [highly influential] series of now 15 games (excluding spinoffs and the as yet unreleased Skyward Sword), A Link to the Past has been built upon so many times very little in it is even slightly original anymore. The game built on a two game foundation (although little of "Adventure of Link" is used; this is really a complete sequel to the original classic), the game set the basis for the entire series, and most of the biggest games in the series follow the formula set out in LttP. Ocarina, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess all follow the "3 relics, master sword, plot turn/twist, more relics, finale," and the formula is arguably perfect (even if it's age is showing).
It is ironic, with all these followers, imitators, sequels; Zelda 3 still manages to be not only incredibly impressive, but in many ways surpasses nearly all of them. It has a peerless level of 2D design, a fantastic and challenging difficulty curve, two expansive varying worlds, and a collection of fleshed out side quests. Half of the items are stolen from the first two games, the other half is brand new, and all are different and useful.
If you don't know the story, it is shocking for a game of this pedigree if you're reading this. The game begins simply enough, with Link being awoken by the words of Zelda to come rescue her. Link starts with just the clothes on his back, and immediately the quest is off and the ball is rolling. And it doesn't stop for the entire game.
LttP has a few things that are notable even today. The dungeon count is the highest in the entire series, at around 12 (depending on how you count the Castle as two or one), and while the main game isn't the longest you're still looking at a fairly long (for a 2D non-rpg) game time of more than 15 hours first run, and on my recently completed second run I estimate it was still a solid 10 hours or so. Each dungeon throws new things at you, and while the difficulty between the 7 Dark World dungeons is inconsistent, each one is original and a model of clever design superior to the majority of the series.
The series has always been about exploration, and in that respect A Link to the Past shines. The world is vast, especially when including the mirror image of the Dark World, and the world bursts with life and most importantly, charm. After Wind Waker, this is easily the most charming game in the series, the flowers bob with the music, the Overworld tracks are upbeat and cheerful, and in general the first half of the game is just fun filled joy. The difference (in a good way) to Wind Waker is that its vastly superior in its ability to contrast the joy and charm with dark and foreboding, with the second half of the game feeling almost oppressive, and at times unnerving.
In terms of difficulty, the game finds a lovely curve of it, beginning simply enough but gradually getting more difficult till it flies off the deep end in the later stages; Turtle Rock, Ganon's Tower and the Ice Palace can be pure evil at the best of times. The game even gives a helpful death count upon completion, just to show you how well you did. On my first run it was a slightly poor 175 (it was a few years ago now) and more recently was still 69, which could be an indicator of the struggles it brings out.
The game does nearly everything incredibly well, so it's hard to pinpoint particular brilliant points. The gameplay of the Zelda series is some of the nearest to perfection in gaming, a joy to play. The game is incredibly engrossing, victories are satisfying and defeats are crushing. One particular part that is beyond amazing is the music. Granted, all of the games in the series have fantastic music (Majora's Mask having my particular favourite score), but A Link to the Past is...just joyous. Like I've already mentioned, the score goes from the cheery and adventure-y tones of the Overworld to the more despair filled Dark World themes. Boss battle music is phenomenal, the Dark World track is addictive, and Zelda's Lullaby is chilling yet soothing. The sound is close to perfect. That other games in the series still improve on this anyway is just testament to Koji Kondo's mastery of ambience and genius in melody.
It's almost pointless reviewing A Link to the Past; a game nearly two decades old, acclaimed and treasured for eternity. Never fully surpassed, even if other Zelda's are arguably better, and it's not my favourite by any means. Yet what it is near flawless.
For me it's a 9.9, although in Gamefaqs rating system that's a 10.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 08/09/11
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (EU, 03/23/07)
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