Review by UltimaterializerX
"Like with many ports, technical issues mar the benefits."
Link to the Past, to be blunt, is one of the greatest games of all time. Perhaps even the greatest. Almost anyone could see this from the moment they put the original SNES cartridge in the system. But those were on the days of the Super Nintendo. Recently Nintendo has been releasing a whole slew of old games as Game Boy Advance remakes, for whatever reason. The games are all nice to have for those that never got the chance to play them when they first came out, but having now played some of them myself I find that there is little reason to go out and buy a game you already own. None of the games feel or play the same as they do in their original forms, and rightfully so. When you get used to playing a game on a large TV screen with a larger controller, it simply does not feel right to shrink everything down to portable size. It makes the controls annoying and certain parts of the game more difficult simply because things are harder to see. Link to the Past, which is a game that requires the utmost of concentration, greatly suffers from this. The bright side is obvious enough in that you can carry around some of the greatest games ever made in your pocket.
On the Super Nintendo, Link to the Past was and still continues to be one of the best games ever made. From the items and story elements first introduced in the series to the amazing boss battles, difficult dungeons and more daring a design while still holding true to the Zelda series, that game had it all. So it makes perfect sense that such an amazing game would one of the many classic titles to reappear on the Game Boy Advance. It came complete with all of the necessities of the original Link to the Past, and it even has The Legend of Zelda: 4 Swords on it to boot. There are also some improvements made to your old title that you may or may not notice, the biggest of which being that there is a whole new column on the item screen to fit your four bottles, rather than being annoyed by a separate menu screen showing up altogether every time you move over the bottle. Another nice little addition was the fact that you finally see the names of the places you're in when you enter them. Sure we all read that the name of Level 6 was Misery Mire, but did the game actually tell us this? No. The Game Boy Advance version however tells you where you are right when you walk in the front entrance.
The story elements are all exactly the same. I only noted one difference in that the game calls Ganon Ganondorf at one point where they called him Ganon on the Super Nintendo version. But again, nothing was changed to actually make the game bad. In fact, the game itself was better with those story changes, minor as they were. I just think that it should have been done this way for the Super Nintendo version, as this one simply doesn't feel the same. One of the problems would be the graphics, obviously. Even with the back-lit screen of the Game Boy SP, those who know the game well could still have trouble finding certain hard-to-see things in the game. The Game Boy Advance systems aren't exactly the most gentle system on the eyes to play games on, and not even the legendary Link to the Past can change this. There is also the issue of the enemies being harder to see, which can cause quite a bit of frustration. Again, it is difficult to see the game at times even while playing at night with a back-lit screen. Playing during the day only makes it worse, as a glare on the screen is the worst enemy of the Game Boy.
There is also the biggest problem of them all, which is the muscle memory correlation -- or lack thereof -- between the Super Nintendo and Game Boy Advance versions of the game. On the Super Nintendo, the B button was used to have Link swing his sword, the A button was used to have Link grab a stone or bush, the Y button was used to have Link use the item he currently had selected, and X was used to display the map for the area Link was currently in. Not only that, but Start brought up the menu. In the Game Boy version of the game, the entire system was messed up to the point where it can take you until the Dark World to get used to it; even then, you may have some trouble. Remember how B and Y were used for items and spells on the Super Nintendo version? Well on the Game Boy, there aren't enough buttons to go around properly, so they compensated by switching the buttons around. B is still used for sword attacks, but now A is used for items. This is a complete reversal of what was done on the Super Nintendo, and I can't even begin to tell you how many items I've wasted by getting it backwards. The item and sword buttons were on the left and right in reference to where your thumb would be on the Super Nintendo controller. Now they entire thing is backwards, which muscle memory cannot figure out on its own. Now you're stuck retraining yourself to use a control set that should have been left alone in the first place. The other buttons make enough sense for where they are, but using R as the action button -- that is, lift, run, swim, etc -- feels normal on the Game Boy Advance, but not so much on the SP. The R button is much more fit to your fingers on the Game Boy Advance version than on the SP, which can cause another problem if you're playing the wrong system.
Other than that, all is fairly well. It's still the same game; it's just that the controls and the vision are such a pain in the ass that it makes the game frustrating at times. But since it is still the same game underneath the rough exterior, it still gets a respectable score. You also can't beat being able to carry Link to the Past around with you on the off chance that you're standing in a long line at a concert or something, so the game still has its upside despite the faults.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 07/01/04, Updated 01/26/10
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (US, 12/03/02)
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