Review by Dark33
"A great game that is unfortunately plagued by several flaws."
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is a game that has taken on a legendary reputation. Originally released in 1991, the game quickly became one of Nintendo's most popular titles, launching the Zelda franchise to a level rivaled by Nintendo's own Mario series. As I never owned an SNES, I never got the chance to play this and many other classic SNES games. Recently however, I had the chance to borrow a friend's SNES along with this and several other titles. I popped this game in and hoped that it would live up to the incredible hype given to it. After finishing LTTP, I came to the conclusion that while this is an outstanding game, the flaws in it prevent it from being legendary. Because the game is very comparable to Link's Awakening for Game Boy, I will compare and reference that game while evaluating LTTP.
Before I get into individual ratings, I'll do a brief comparison to Link's Awakening. A Link to the Past surprisingly feels like Link's Awakening lite, although it should probably be the other way around. The biggest problem with LTTP is that the player never gets a sense of exploration of Hyrule. You are immediately placed in the Light World, and after the quick early rescue of Zelda, you can explore almost all of it right away. In contrast, Link's Awakening secludes you to a small portion of the island, and it gradually opens up as you obtain key items from dungeons. Link's Awakening is a perfect example of a game giving a great sense of exploration, and Link to the Past fails to live up to that. Having most of the world open to you from the start takes away from the fun of exploration.
Another problem with Link to the Past is the extreme similarity of the Dark World to the Light World. Done correctly, the Dark World could've solved the exploration problems of the Light World, but quite simply, the Dark World is simply slightly altered terrain of the Light World. It takes longer to explore the entire Dark World, but it looks overall way too similar to the Light World, which takes away all the fun of exploring. Half the fun of the Zelda series is the exploration factor, demonstrated well by the original Zelda, Link's Awakening, and Ocarina of Time.
All right, I think I've dwelled on the negative a little too much, so it's time for the good stuff! Luckily, Link to the Past does not screw up one of the most important parts of the game, the dungeons. There's plenty of them, 10 main ones, Ganon's Tower, and a couple minor ones (such as Hyrule Castle), and almost all of them are a blast to play and figure out. The challenge factor may not be too high, but it's still not a cakewalk. The difficulty probably should have been turned up one notch for perfection. Compared to say, Link's Awakening, dungeons are more plentiful and more fun to play through. The bosses seem somewhat unbalanced, with some of the hardest ones coming rather early in the game and some easy ones near the end. Despite a few minor gripes, Link to the Past does a great job with the dungeons.
Time for individual ratings.
Taking the fact that this is pretty much first generation SNES into account, the graphics in Link to the Past are done well. At the very beginning of the game, the rainstorm demonstrates that the SNES is much more powerful hardware than the old NES. The colors are vivid and bright and obviously improved over Zelda I in every way. In particular, the bosses look great and menacing and their animation is top notch. The world of Hyrule is beautiful (although a tiny bit on the repetitive side) and although the Dark World is supposed to be dark and menacing, it looks a bit on the dull side. Link himself looks a bit goofy and definitely different (what's up with the hair?), and many of the sprites look downright weird, but overall the graphics are charming, colorful, and a taste of what the SNES would later do with games like Donkey Kong Country, Chrono Trigger, and Super Mario RPG.
Play Control: 8.5/10
I must say that at first the control seems like it will be quite a chore. The item menu is a bit different from Link's Awakening and certainly much different than the original Zelda. However, over time, switching items will become like second nature. Dashing and lifting rocks is done much better in this game than Link's Awakening as your lifting and dashing items are automatically equipped in Link to the Past. The A button does both the dashing and the lifting when you are next to a rock/bush/etc. The B button controls the sword, the most important weapon in Link's Inventory (equipped automatically). The X button controls the map of Hyrule (or the dungeon you are currently in), and the Y button is used for your choice of weapon in your inventory. Obviously, lots of switching comes into play which gets a bit on the tedious side, but overall the controls are done well enough to earn a high score and keep the player happy.
Oh yes, lots of classic Zelda music in this one. Ocarina of Time used and updated many of these classic themes but here they are in all their SNES glory. The music of the Zelda series has always been a strong point and this is no exception. The sounds are a bit on the basic side, they never get too annoying (the music helps a lot with this) and serve their purpose.
Eh, it's pretty much a been there done that deal with Link to the Past's story. Ganon is on the loose again and has managed to obtain the Triforce, turning the Golden Land into the Dark World over which Ganon rules. Your job is to infiltrate the Dark World and stop Ganon from invading and taking over the Light World while rescuing Zelda at the same time. Obviously, the game goes into more detail, but it's nothing too special overall.
Link to the Past features classic Zelda gameplay on the SNES in a lengthy and fun adventure through the Light and Dark Worlds. Basically, you start out with nothing much in your inventory and throughout your adventure collect key items that open up new places on your quest to destroy Ganon once and for all. Unfortunately, the open up new places part is limited to mostly dungeons and a few regions throughout the world. You must solve puzzles and defeat enemies and bosses in the dungeons on your way toward Ganon. Basically the game revolves around the entire aspect of enter dungeon, obtain key item and defeat boss, go to next dungeon, rinse and repeat. This is broken up a bit throughout the world map which you can explore but unfortunately, due to the rather small size of Hyrule, that gets old a bit fast.
The most fun comes in the dungeons, which throw puzzles and enemies at you to try to stop you from ever reaching the bosses. The dungeons never get exceedingly difficult and it's a blast to play through them. The enemies are often creative and sometimes challenging and it's always a great feeling to complete a puzzle. I loved how often the game would reward the completion of a difficult puzzle with what I call break rooms with fairies to restore your health or even rooms with lots of rupees! It's always great to be rewarded after a challenge and I hate how games would often reward you instead with an even harder challenge. Anyways, overall LTTP's gameplay is flawed, yet still excellent.
Replay Value: Medium
No multiplayer or anything but there are enough hidden/optional items like the Magic Cape and of course the classic Heart Pieces for some replay value. The game can definitely still be fun on a second or even third playthrough.
The challenge in this game is not as high as I was expecting, but in some ways, that's a good thing. The dungeons get harder as you get deeper into the game, but none of them are ridiculously hard. On the other hand, this game is no cakewalk and odds are that if this is your first playthrough, you will die. A lot. Well...at least I did....haha. The bosses vary in challenge, with a couple of the later ones being too easy (Ice Temple boss in particular).
Overall (not an average): 7.7/10
Despite many disappointing shortcomings, Link to the Past is still a superb game that is a ton of fun to play. I really wish that the exploration part of the game were much better, as that would elevate it to classic. As it is, LTTP is a game that is definitely worth playing, but not quite on the level that some people have put it. As long as you don't go in with the highest expectations, you will not be disappointed.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/10/04
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