Review by Virulent
"A link to endless backtracking."
I'm sure you saw the score to this and clicked in disgust, ready to laugh it off and consider it quite the joke. Am I right? I am. Anyways, this is an honest score I formulated whilst going through the game again recently. I never completed it when I actually bought it for the SNES, and now I understand why. To put it quite simply, Zelda:ALttP breaks the great feel that the previous two Zelda games had before it, the feel of real ADVENTURE. The main reason is because in this game, Hyrule isn't all that big, just as it was in the last couple of games...only you're going to be seeing those same areas a LOT more. However, let's dive into the actual review where we can discuss these points in finer detail.
You're Link, you have to save Zelda, get the Master Sword, put the smackdown on Ganon, basically the same story as the first but without the Triforce of Courage and added the Seven Maidens, the Pendants to get the sword, and of course the Dark World. Bottom line is, after almost 2 decades you know what kind of story to expect from a Zelda game so I'm not going to pad this review with it. There's no plot twists that you can't see coming a mile away, nothing truly groundbreaking, and keeping with a horrible Zelda tradition that was only broken once in Zelda 2 (albeit gloriously), there's absolutely no romantic involvement between our beloved protagonist and the fair princess. Is Link asexual or something?
The third Zelda game features some nice graphics for a SNES game, but are far from the best the system has ever seen. Characters have detailed shading, but are sorely lacking in animation at times. Most characters in the game only have a few precious frames of animation each, usually suited to whatever function they provide in the game. Bosses look thoroughly disappointing early on, but improve once you reach the Dark World (Vitreous probably looks the best). The same problems reach out to the environments of the game, which are rather washed out and lack detail. The only exceptions are where the SNES's multiple background and foreground layers are used to great effect, such as the Lost Woods. If you want to see the pinnicle of graphical utilization in a SNES RPG/adventure game, look to Chrono Trigger, FFVI or Secret Of Mana (and no I'm not a Square fanboy BTW). Zelda 3 looks above average, but simply lacks what it takes to be the best in almost all cases.
The sound effects are standard fair for the SNES, with the synthy cues for monsters firing, teleporting, Link swinging his sword, et. al...nothing to get worked up about, and digital samples are kept to a minimum. However, the music in this game is simply EXCELLENT. Once again looking to the Lost Woods as the benchmark for this game's high points, it has one of the most memorable and best themes in the Zelda series IMHO. Too bad it goes away after you nab the Master Sword. The rest of the themes, including the classic Zelda theme played in the Light World, and the town theme as well as the various Dark World themes, are also quite catchy. The only low point of the music is the highly repetitive and annoying dungeon music, a trend which carries over from the original Zelda like many of this game's other traits. A shame this game couldn't manage to take after the best part of the ignominus second game and make the dungeon-crawling tune an amazing timeless melody, as it is in Adventure of Link. All things considered, the aural side of Link To The Past is probably one of the best things about it.
Now this is where things start to become questionable and a bit hairy. You see, one of the many strengths of almost all the Zelda games is the fact that you can run around all day and it would take you a while to find the things you need and solve the puzzles to obtain items...until you knew what you were doing. This was actually fun, as someone who had a clue could make good progress in the games at a decent clip while newbies could take as long as they wanted exploring and becoming acquainted with the lands of Hyrule before accomplishing the many tasks before them. Zelda 3 takes this winning formula and stuffs it in the garbage, for the most part. See, in order to make the game artificially longer and get players to spend more time on it than either of the previous games (or the following two for that matter), Nintendo decided to strategically place items you needed or should get in locations that you've already been to before and for the most part take you a while to get to. In essence, you spend more time running around like a headless chicken than you do advancing the story.
The typical formula of Z:LttP is this: you beat a dungeon, you get a new item, and that new item opens up little nooks and crannies of the Light/Dark World so you can get the hidden loot there. Problem is, these items are usually in places you've already been to before, sometimes as many as 4 or 5 times (Lake Hylia for instance). Other times, they're in places you've already been to before but are a pain in the keester to get BACK to. Death Mountain comes immediately to mind. Towards the end of the game, you get a Flute which if you uncover yet another secret with it, will allow you to get from place to place quicker in the Light World. Problem is, by that time in the game all the places you need to get to are in the Dark World, and portals are few and far between. Using the Magic Mirror to get to places in the Light World you normally can't reach via the Dark World is neat the first few times you do it, but it's a puzzle device that is used more times than the watermelon-busting schtick in comedian Gallagher's career. Suffice to say, alot about Zelda 3's gameplay gets old fast, and it takes a trooper to pull through to the end of the game not out of challenge, but tedium.
You'd think that the most effort would go into making this game's dungeons the star of the cart as they were in previous Zelda games, right? Wrong. Take everything I said about backtracking through the Overworld countless times, and multiply it by about ten. Then you have this game's dungeon levels. While a few of them are relatively short and require a shapr mind but little revisitation to get what you need, such as Turtle Rock, there are some levels which will quite simply make you wonder why the hell you're doing this to yourself. Even if you're using a walkthrough, you will find yourself going through the same rooms, braving the same traps over and over again in the trainwreck of an underground lair known as the Ice Palace. One of the walkthroughs for this game right here on GameFAQs acknowledges the Skull Dungeon as being a ''pain in the ass''. Unfortunately, the difficulty curve of the bosses seems to be inverse to how cool they look. Case in point, the extremely boring and unoriginal Mothula will probably take you several tries due to the ultra-cheap spike room with moving floors in which you have to battle it, but the awesome-looking Vitreous and Trinexx you fight before the end are the most pitiful excuses for boss creatures I've ever fought. All of them pretty much have a gimmick to be exploited, which usually entails using the item you got in that particular level. Very few of them actually take any skill to beat, and most of them die in under a minute...hardly living up to being the highlight and spectacle of the game.
Then again, what really is the highlight of this game? It's a fun romp through Hyrule if this is your first Zelda game, and you might actually find some of the puzzles thought-provoking and original. Fact of the matter is though, we'd seen this type of game done into the ground even back when it was released in 1993. Unlike other RPGs (as well as Zelda 2) there's no improvement system to be had for fighting enemies. The game has a lot of secret stashes to be found, but doesn't really give you any motive to find them or even engage in enemies after you've gotten full up on bombs, rupies, and arrows...which you will have before you hit your second dungeon of the game. There's just no fun initiative for doing all that senseless backtracking and lolly-gagging just to get some item you need to go into an even more tedious dungeon experience.
So, that's about it. I was lenient on the final score because it IS a Zelda game and if you enjoy this sort of game at heart, you will have a fairly fun time on your first playthrough. However, once you've beaten the game you'll be hard-pressed to play through it again even if you missed some items. You'd be better served running around circles in your neighboorhood, you might actually get some exercise out of it.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/16/04
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