Review by ZFS
"Link gets in touch with his inner self -- and it's strangely fuzzy -- in this latest adventure."
Ah, what do we have here? Another entry into the superb Zelda franchise, that's what! A Link to the Past is the third title in what many consider to be the best game of all-time. So, how does one go about describing such an excellent game? Simple; you start rocking the Hyrule Overworld theme and get let the worlds roll. This is Nintendo's masterpiece on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. One of the things the Zelda series is known for is exceptional quality in game play. Whether it is the massive overworld, amazing dungeon layout, or the combat. The Legend of Zelda is hailed as one, if not the, greatest series of all-time. How does the third entry hold up to that title? You will find out.
The game begins on a dark, stormy night inside of Link's house. As if out of thin air, a voice communicates with him telepathically; a voice that is familiar yet so different tells him that she is in a prison under Agahnim's control. Not a moment later Link's uncle gathers the family sword and shield to head out to Hyrule Castle -- not before telling Link to stay in bed and get sleep, of course. Ignoring his uncle's wishes he gathers some energy and heads out to see where his uncle had ventured off too. ALttP starts off wonderfully with sense of urgency right after picking up the title. Princess Zelda has been captured, your uncle leaves the house with weapons, and it's a dark and rainy night. This not only sets the tone for the beginning of the game, but adds plenty of atmosphere and foreshadowing of future events.
With Link all suited up and ready to tackle his enormous adventure, how does he go about exploring and combating the Hylian Guards and enemies that litter the landscape? Like with The Legend of Zelda, Link had the basic sword and shield to start off. You can slash in any direction to attack with your sword and if you don't attack your shield will block any projectile -- Blasted Octoroks! Blast you! -- and any physical attack from enemies. Sounds simple, no? Well, while this sounds easy on paper the amount of damage you'll take per hit from the monsters makes this game much more difficult than it sounds; unlike with The Legend of Zelda control isn't the problem here, instead it's the actual damage you take. This isn't a problem by any stretch of the imagination, but it is what will make up a good portion of this game's challenge -- aside from the dungeon puzzles themselves.
Expanding further upon the game play aspects of A Link to the Past you come upon the dungeons. I never have seen such a superb dungeon layout and puzzles in my lifetime. In A Link to the Past you'll have a total of ten dungeons to go about exploring. Every one will house a specific item that you'll need in order to progress throughout that dungeon, and for later on in future dungeons. You'll also notice how each of them look vastly different than the other, and figuring out the puzzles in each will sometimes leave you sitting there thinking of what you could do next; they are crafted that well. At the end of all ten labyrinths you will face a boss. I'll avoid spoiling anything, but these bosses are so awesome yet so detestable. Why? They look cool, their attacks are cool, but they can be a royal pain to defeat. But this is the beauty of A Link to the Past, it demands respect through its quality as well as challenging you.
When Link isn't searching through the dreary dungeons of Hyrule, he's usually finding new items to collect. As it turns out this is a major part of the game, moreso than any other Zelda prior. You'll acquire many different items that will do many different things; some of them will help you get across Hyrule quicker while others will help you defeat that oh so difficult boss. Whatever the case may be, having to go across the land many times in search of these items is nothing but pure fun. That sounds somewhat contradictory doesn't it? I kid you not, however. It may sound like some kind of annoying "fetch quest", but it isn't close. It allows you to memorize Hyrule's overworld for future reference as well as giving some pretty sweet extras. Make no mistake, though, this is a large portion of the game but it is implemented so well that you won't even see any "downtime" in doing so.
This goes back to the point, so to speak, of the game but the big novelty of the A Link to the Past is the Light World and Dark World and all the switching in between. That's right; you will have not one Hyrule to explore, but two. Each is so very different than the other too. In the Light World everything will be at peace -- the biggest threat being Octoroks and Hylian Guards -- while the Dark World is filled with monsters that do double the damage and are far more aggressive than anything in the Light World. Funny enough, this is but one different in a sea of millions. The other "primary" thing about the difference between worlds is the landscape. One world may have a large mountain, but in its place in the other world will be a lake; this one key element makes warping between each world extremely important to the overall game.
The question of whether or not Link can walk the walk is taken care of, but can he look good while carrying out all of his deeds. The answer to that question is yes. ALttP features a major upgrade from the previous adventure in terms of graphical prowess -- although this comes from the NES -> SNES upgrade. Link looks fabulous in his green tunic, brown hair, and small sword slashing his way through the hordes of enemies. You won't find detail like that of Chrono Trigger but it does look exceptional when playing. Aside from Link, you will also find plenty of monsters who look either wacky or just downright freaky looking. It really shows how far the series has come along from the original The Legend of Zelda on the NES.
Character sprites aside, the game has more than its fair share of atmospheric riche environments. Hyrule Field is done wonderfully with vibrant colors, a large lake, a massive mountain, and small villages littered in between. Special attention needs to be directed toward each of these areas. They all set the stage and mood perfectly for a Zelda title of this caliber. You'll notice falling boulders, a large waterfall, among other things. It's a work of art to see something released in 1992 looks this good; it's phenomenal. Despite the vibrant colors you'll also see plenty of darker elements that make put the game into perspective. In fact, these areas of the Dark World really make give the adventure more emotion. You get to see a wonderfully colorful world taken and turned into a dark and evil setting. Visually this is a wonderful sight and certainly one of the better looking games on the SNES to date.
Okay, so Link can walk the walk, he can do it and look good, but what kind of tunes does he listen too while he's dispelling evil and rescuing the lovely Princess Zelda? The work of Koji Kondo, of course! That said, major props have to given to this man. He created an amazing set of tunes to listen too while you fight to take out Ganon's minions. Whether it be the powerful Hyrule Castle music that really emphasizes the royalty aspect or the cheerful little song of Kakiriko Village, you'll feel right at home while listening -- and I'm sure Link appreciates the rocking tunes from Koji Kondo during his adventure. Each of these tracks you'll hear throughout the game does have a way of setting the mood to give it that more "epic" feel. If you're in a more light hearted area, you'll not only see it but hear it as well; if you're in a dramatic and darker area you'll be able to hear it. This is, by far, the best soundtrack in a Zelda game to hear. It uses the MIDI format, but even when not being orchestrated you can get a sense of how much was poured into it. You should also be warned that upon hearing these tracks you won't be leaving this game trying to remember what it was you heard at a particular part of the game, you'll be able to hum them to perfection -- okay, okay I'm basically telling you that the soundtrack is very memorable, shush.
It seems all good things must come to and end and so is the case with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. After taking care of Ganon's minions, rescuing Zelda, and restoring peace to Hyrule what in the world is there left for Link to do? Well, just replaying this entire adventure is more than enough reason. Now, at first glance this type of game does not look as though you want to be completing it more than once; that's a very wrong look at it. Whether it is challenge or just for the fun of doing it, replaying A Link to the Past is usually more enjoyable than the first time. You're able to recognize all of the characters and understand the story perfectly. Is there any reason, aside from sheer fun and challenge, to replay this game? There aren't many sidequests you'll be going back to complete nor should there be any cool extra items that you missed but just wanting to replay this game is what makes it so gold.
As Link gets ready to head to his home and hit the sack -- like I am with this review -- he needs to bring his adventure to a close. You will travel the lands, meet great characters, experience some superb dungeons, gasp at the visuals, and hum the tunes from Koji Kondo. Simply put, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the best game to grace video gaming as we know it. It combines pure fun and a solid challenge. Is there any flaw in this game? There isn't one I could possibly point out. You owe it to yourself to go out and purchase this title immediately, or at the very least borrow it from someone. Truly, one of the best games of all-time.
And the Master Sword sleeps again... forever!
Final Score: 10.0
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/16/03, Updated 05/30/06
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