Review by Watcher19

"The best of the 2D Zeldas. It's simply perfection."

In 1991, Nintendo stepped up to the 16-bit era with the Super Nintendo. Arguably the best Nintendo console, its beautiful sprite-based visuals lit up television screens everywhere for the first part of the 90's. In addition to all-new series making their debut on the system, many classic NES series took the plunge as well. Super Mario Bros. 3 became Super Mario World, Castlevania III became Super Castlevania IV, and so forth. Legend of Zelda fans waited patiently for a 16-bit entry, with some worry. Zelda II had strayed from the classic Zelda formula with mixed reactions. Would the third Zelda have the same fate? The answer turned out to be no; Link To The Past not only went back to the traditional Zelda gameplay, but it improved upon it in so many ways that many consider it the best 2D Zelda.

The story set a Zelda first by being the first one to have a different Link and Zelda; these weren't the ones from the NES games. This trend would go on for many games, until it would become difficult to straighten out the timeline of the series, if there was one. As the legend in Link To The Past goes, many years ago there existed a parallel world to Hyrule, known as the Golden Land. Inside lay the legendary “Golden Power”, the Triforce. Many men sought out this power, but nobody returned. Evil began to come forth from the Golden Land, and seven wise men sealed the entrance. In the present time, an evil wizard named Aghanim is capturing the descendants of the seven wise men, and sending them to the Golden Land with his magic in order to break the wise men's seal. Princess Zelda, one of the descendants herself, sends a telepathic message to Link. Link frees her from prison, and sets off to find three pendants. Once he has them all, he obtains a legendary sword capable of defeating Aghanim; the Master Sword. Before falling in battle, Aghanim warps Link into the Golden Land, now twisted by evil. Link must now free the wise men's descendants, and purify the Golden Land.

The gameplay returns to the classic Zelda overhead view. You control Link and move him around a large world map, slicing your sword at enemies in your way. Occasionally, you'll enter a dungeon, and explore its passages while beating monsters, gaining new items, solving puzzles, and facing off against big bosses. Link to The Past adds many new elements to the Zelda series. There are now NPCs scattered across the world that give you more than mere cryptic hints. Towns are also added, making you feel less like a lonely wanderer in a monster-infested world. Several brand-new items and conventions were added, like a magic system allowing you to use certain items to cast magic spells at your enemies (limited by a magic point system that requires you to pick up jars to restore magic points). New to the series are several items that would re-appear, like the Hookshot, Hammer, Pegasus Boots, Flippers, and even an Ocarina( though it has no time-travel powers in this game). Dungeons now have floors to them, and holes in the floor can drop you down to a previous floor. Heart Pieces are scattered across the world for you to find; collecting four of them gives you an extra heart on your life meter. Link sports a new spin attack; holding the attack button charges your sword, making Link whirl it around rapidly when released. Perhaps the biggest addition is switching between world. You have a magic mirror that can teleport you between the regular world and the Golden Land, and this is needed to proceed in the game. A rock wall blocking your progress in the regular world might be blown wide open in the Golden Land. The “exploring two worlds” idea would show up in later Zeldas, with great success.

The sound and music are wonderful. The classic Zelda theme gets a 16-bit upgrade and sounds simply incredible. Towns sound peaceful, dungeons have a creepy sound to them, and the tainted Golden Land has its own masterful overworld theme. Sword slashes and magic blasts sound impressive, ensuring that your ears never get bored.

Zelda games are always enjoyable to play, but this one takes the formula to the finish line. With all the new secrets like Heart Pieces and hidden items to discover, players can spend their time searching every corner of both worlds for them. The game has some challenge to it, especially some incredibly tricky puzzles in the final few dungeons. A player with a good head will figure them out, though, and travel onward.

Link to The Past is one of the best Zelda games ever released, and certainly the best of the 2D Zeldas. It added many new features and items to the Zelda formula, while sticking to the classic Zelda gameplay the fans adored on the NES five years previous. If you're a Zelda fan, this game is a must-own. It was re-released on the Game Boy Advance for portability, and also on the Wii's Virtual Console. With these re-releases, the finest 2D Zelda lives on.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 09/26/07

Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (US, 04/13/92)

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