Review by Chaos Control

"Good things come in small packages"

The world is a huge place. Filled with many diverse species and environments, such a large place offers unlimited freedom to explore. So much to see! So much to do! And yet, how can a world this fantastic and boundless fit inside a tiny cartridge? This compact world, found inside a box with the word "Zelda" written in big, red letters, fits comfortably in your Game Boy Advance. In turn, this Game Boy Advance fits snugly into your pocket. What does this all mean? In a matter of moments, you too can pull out a huge adventure out of your pocket at any time and immerse yourself in the grandeur of one of the best gaming series in history: The Legend of Zelda.

Don't let it fool you, though. A Link to the Past is still faithfully similar to the original game on the SNES. While the game returns in the form of a Game Boy Advance game, it isn't alone. No, it brought along a new friend. The Four Swords is a brand new multi player game that is actually quite good despite the need for more Game Boys and game cartridges.

The general concept of the storyline is rather predictable, but still entertaining nonetheless. There is a bad man named Agahnim who has his ambitious eyes set on taking over the lovely land of Hyrule. As usual, the even lovelier Princess Zelda finds herself in trouble with the bad man, and the fate of the world rests on a single boy. This boy will travel across the land, through dungeons, and more while facing tough enemies. No pressure.

Link will meet all kinds of new people and find even cooler items. His adventure is far from a dull one, because he will be doing much more than fighting and puzzle solving. He will be abusing poor fairies by imprisoning them inside bottles. He will be slashing up weeds that seem to pour out money. Looting treasure is yet another thing our mischievous hero will do, all for a bit of money and weapons.

Both a "light" world and a "dark" world exist in this game, and while both are supposed to be the same, kind of, the worlds have completely different environments and monsters. I thought it was cool to be able to travel between such vastly contrasting worlds.

The idea with Four Swords is somewhat similar. As soon as Link touches the Master Sword, he is split into four. Link will still be running around dungeons, defeating bosses, and collecting hearts, but this time he won't be alone. Connect with 2-4 people to strengthen your teamwork and friendship as you move across moving platforms and rampant enemies.

The first part of the game play that you will notice is the battles. Like always, Link can take damage at any times from enemies. Soldiers, overgrown spiders, mutant octopuses, and even crows will be chasing after Link relentlessly. They will chase forever, meaning that they will continue their pursuit even if Link runs around in circles for hours. The good news is that they all die with a couple of sword slashes. Run up to the enemy and slash, guarding if they attack. That strategy will work against common enemies. As you progress and obtain cooler items like boomerangs and bombs. It gets really cool, as you can set a bomb on the ground and lure enemies to your trap. Just make sure you don't get hit in the process.

Boss battles are the highlight of every dungeon, and defeating these monsters will reward an awesome heart container! The thing to note is that there really isn't any room to run around, so Link can die fairly quickly if he gets cornered. That's why he captures fairies before the battle so they can breathe some life back into him. But all bosses will eventually succumb to Link's sword.

To even get to the bosses, Link will have to solve puzzles inside dungeons. Dungeons can get quite long and confusing. This switch opens that door, and stepping on this switch will open that door to that treasure chest. That chest contains a small key which I use to unlock that door, and behind THAT door, is another locked door. Now where is another small key? You may have to go through a lot of trouble to get even one key, so even getting to the boss may be frustrating without hints from a guide. And there are enemies populating the dungeons as well. Enemies that respawn as you enter a new screen and return. It's all worth it though, as dungeons usually have some unique treasure inside that is essential for beating the boss or hitting far away switches. Challenging as it is, nothing is impossible to solve.

The financial situation in Hyrule is stable. The money you get from weeding grass can be used to buy useful items like Blue Potions. You never have to worry about being broke because you can just head outside of the city and kill monsters for some more quick cash.

I'm also surprised that there are so many secrets to this game. I could be walking in Hyrule Field when I notice a crack on the wall that seemed intentional. Lo and behold, by placing a bomb and blowing dawn that broken wall, I found a secret fountains with free fairies! There are even special fairies that will upgrade your weapons if you drop them into their fountain! Even in towns, the whole deal with the attacking flock of chickens is still alive. By hacking a chicken enough times with a sword, you can anger it and prompt it to call its friends. You get a screen full of chickens that do a whole heart of damage chasing after Link until he enters a building or leaves the screen. There are definitely more secrets caves out there, especially in a world as huge as Hyrule.

Graphically, A Link to the Past does a good job with the characters and enemies, and an even better job with the environment. The battle animations are very repetitive, but it serves its purpose. Link will slash at the same way at all enemies, and he can also perform a spin move too. The animation is smooth and quick. The enemies also have added details, since you can now tell them apart. Soldiers have different shades of color as well. Enemies have detailed armor, faces, and more improved features. And of course, nothing beats hacking weeds and seeing money come out of them.

Considering the limitations of the Game Boy Advance, the environments are all nicely done. Bodies of water are clearly defined, as a lighter shade of blue signifies shallow water which Link can walk across and darker blue means deeper water. There are forests and groves of tree, as well as an aggressive abundance of wildlife. Hyrule Field is just as big and diverse as it should be, and there are many more places to visit, including hidden caves and more. The Four Swords graphics are a little different, and better than A Link to the Past in a way. Link moves in a different way, almost like 3D. For one thing, you can see the hair on his head move when he walks. Boss battles look cool, but not just because Link is thrown into a small arena with a big looking boss. Fierce, unbeatable looking monsters may seem overwhelming, but watching them die is just so epic.

As expected, there is a wide variety of music tracks thrown into the game. The first track I immediately recognized was the famous Hyrule Field tune that will play every time you are outside on the field. Dungeons and villages will have their own theme song, which are nice because they fit the mood. In total, there is enough variety in the tracks that they don't get too repetitive quickly.

The sound effects are also well done, in the sense that there is nothing wrong with them. Link will yell when he slashes with his sword, his sword will make a sound upon impact, and more standard stuff like that. While the sound effects themselves are really nothing special, they make the game seem whole and complete.

The main quest is long enough, with dungeons in the light and dark worlds, and with side quests and mini-games, the play time is actually quite long for a Game Boy Advance game. It is very likely for this game to take a few weeks before you beat it, and even longer if you get stuck somewhere in every dungeon. Personally, I get lost several times in each dungeon, so I had to run back to a guide to look for puzzle solutions. The dungeons get much longer and much harder as you progress, but Link gains more hearts and a wider variety of items. With the addition of Four Swords, the adventure practically doubles because you get a new story to play with somebody else. Beating A Link to the Past and Four Swords will be time consuming, but much fun in the process.

What makes this game so great is that it is actually worth replaying over again. While there isn't anything new in a new playthrough, the story is long enough that it seems like you're playing a brand new game. The replay value is pretty high and makes the play time last even longer. Even if this game has already been out for 10 years, the improvements made are definitely worth at least one replay.

Overall, this Zelda game took what worked before, and made improvements to it. With solid game play and an interesting story, this would definitely be one of the better quality games for the Game Boy Advance. I would recommend buying this game, because it is a fantastic game that can be taken anywhere in the world. When you purchase this amazing game, consider buying a second copy for a friend as well, since you get twice the fun.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/19/07

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