Review by NT220
"RPG? Action? Adventure? Who cares? I love this game!"
Zelda. Perhaps the most revered game series of all time, and the crowning jewel of Nintendo's glory. Ever since the original Legend of Zelda on the NES, every Zelda game has been a bestseller. Zelda: A Link to the Past, also known as Zelda 3, is the closest to the original out of the series, and some consider it to be the best Zelda game ever.
Considering it's from Nintendo, the story is surprisingly good. Link (or whatever you choose to call him), the chosen hero of the land of Hyrule, is awoken from his sleep by a girl named Zelda pleading for him to save her. When he fully awakes, he finds his uncle preparing to go out, armed with the family sword and shield. He order for Link to stay at the house until he is back. Link, of course, doesn't listen, and goes out in the rain in pursuit of the mysterious Zelda....
You begin in the overworld, Hyrule. It is fully explorable and contains the enterances to the dungeons, where most of the action takes place. Unlike the original, you don't have to wander around cluelessly to find the dungeons. Instead, a map will mark out your next destination for you. There are also many things to do outside the dungeons, as we will see later.
There are 11, 12, or 13 dungeons (depending on what you count as a dungeon) in the game, all complex and well-designed. In each dungeon, you must navigate the maze of locked doors, rising and falling barriers, and various puzzles to find the boss, who guards a valuable treasure you must collect. Aiding you on your quest throught the dungeon are the Big Key, which you use to unlock the big chest (which usually contains the key item for defeating the boss) and the door to the boss lair; the Map, which will provide a plan of the dungeon, including entrances, stairs, and your location; and the Compass, which will mark out the boss's location on your map.
There are also plenty to do outside the dungeons. You can talk to the non-playable characters (NPCs) to see if they have anything interesting to tell; you can try to find the heart pieces, which add to your health; or you can try to find some of the items, which are very well-hidden and are sometimes required to move on.
Speaking of items, there are an incredible variety of them, ranging from the basic lamp-lighter to the Magic Cape, which makes you invisible (and therefore invulnerable) for a short period of time. Old favorites such as the Bow and Arrows and the Bomb also return. Most of the items are mandatory for completing the game, and you must use them creatively to solve some of the game puzzles.
Your main means of defeating the enemies, however, is the sword. Starting from the sword that your uncle gave you, you can then upgrade it three times. You also have the shield, which you can upgrade twice. Each upgrade will protect you from another attack. Finally we have your armor, which you can upgrade from the Green Tunic that you start out with to the Blue and Red Mails.
Hence, this game includes exploration, combat, and puzzle elements. But if you analyze them separately, you may notice that it does none of them too well. Exploration is perhaps the best single element, but it seems hideously cramped with all the maps the game gives you. Save for bosses, combat is laughable--walk up, slash, retreat to duck counter-attack, repeat for all eternity. The attack items like the bow or the hammer are barely needed save for the puzzles. And speaking of the puzzles, they'd bend your mind... to the bendiness of a locomotive. The most complex puzzle involves pushing a tile into a hole in the floor so that it toggles a switch on a floor below--hardly what I'd call difficult. Trying to figure out the floor plan of some dungeons is a bit harder, but still this game is no Lufia 2 in puzzles.
But I must say that the sum of all three elements is something far, far greater. Even though they are pitiful while apart, together they are something bordering on amazing. There's simply so much to do in this game, and such wildly different ways to do them. You have nearly complete freedom to do whatever you please, and it feels very, very special.
The controls may seem a little odd, but soon you'll be running, jumping from high ledges, and using special items with ease. Each face button has a different use: A is your action button, allowing you to examine, lift, throw, etc.; B swings your sword; Y uses the special item you equipped; and X opens the map. This control system works very well, but I wish that the shoulder buttons have been used, maybe so you can equip 3 special items at one time like Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Ugh. The graphics aren't too good in this game. Sure, the use of colors are great, the bosses are huge, and the explosions are pretty cool to watch, but overall the game looks pretty bland, with its pathetically small sprites and incredibly unvaried dungeons. Everything is very easy to see, but you won't be staring at it marveling at its quality.
SOUNDS AND MUSIC (8.2/10)
The overworld theme is back, and sounds as good as ever. The rest of the soundtrack is rather forgettable, but they do set an atmosphere, from the faint, low-key dungeon theme to the warm, welcoming village song. The sound effects are nice, although I do wish that the sound Link makes when he's hit sounds more like an actual groan.
While I don't really agree that this is the best game ever, I do agree that this game is a must-play for anyone who owns an SNES--heck, it's a must-play for anyone who owns a game system! If you don't have it yet, be sure to hunt it down. You won't regret it.
FINAL SCORE: 8
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 08/20/01, Updated 12/29/01
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