"The easiest Zelda title, but it's still damn fun"

The Legend of Zelda series. You know it, you love it. If for some reason you don’t love it, well, I just feel sorry for you. For years, gamers young and old alike have been entertained by the wonderful series that is the Legend of Zelda.

The Story
It is a dark and stormy night, as young Link sleeps peacefully in his bed. Suddenly, he hears a voice in his head. The voice introduces itself as Zelda. She has been captured and held in the palace dungeon and begs Link to come and save her. The evil wizard Agahnim has kidnapped several other girls, but they have disappeared, so who knows what fate is in store for Zelda...

Link awakens to find his uncle preparing to leave, fully equipped with a sword and shield. He tells Link that he is going out for a bit, warns him not to follow, and runs off. Well, Link sure as hell wasn't going to stay put when his uncle runs off in the middle of the night in full battle attire. So he grabs a lamp and prepares to head out, when Zelda contacts him again and tells him of a secret passage into the palace. When Link gets into the palace, he finds his uncle laying injured on the floor. With his dying words (or, falling unconscious words, I can't be sure), he gives Link his sword and shield and tells him it's his job to go save Zelda.

From here the long and enjoyable story of the game unfolds. He gets Zelda out of the palace, finds a wise man's descendant who leads him to magic pendants and the Master Sword, he jumps back and fourth between Dark World (the residence of the Triforce, turned bad) saving maidens and preparing to fight the evil Ganon. There is a lot to the entire Legend of Zelda story, and this is the first game to cover a good deal of it.

The Controls
The controls in Zelda games are typically quite simple, and Link to the Past is no exception. This time, we are granted two extra buttons. Well, really four new buttons, but two of them aren't used. The directional pad is used to move, start pulls up the menu, select pulls up the save/quit/continue options (I'm glad they improved this, as it was annoying having to hold buttons on controller 2 and go through a pointless process just to save in game in Zelda 1 and 2), X to view the map, Y to use items, A to pick things up, and B to use the sword. You get used to using it all rather quickly.

There is one thing I wish they had done differently with the controls, however. In some area's you'll be switching a lot between bombs and the fire rod and arrows etc. In order to do this, you must press start every time and go though the items and select the one you want. This isn't exactly difficult, but some times it can get in the way of a fight. Some of the bosses and enemies have weaknesses that aren't entirely obvious, so you need to switch around with various weapons to find the effective one. Pausing and unpausing can make you lose track of where they are, and thus get attacked. The L and R button should have been used to scroll through the items outside of the menu. It would be quite a helpful feature in the heat of battle.

The Sound
Sound effects do not come in very great supply in Link to the Past. Actually, most of them are very generic and reused throughout the game. We have the sword slash noise, a couple of metal-hitting-sword noises for the solid or hollow walls, what can only be called grunting sounds which appear when he lifts something or gets hit (it doesn't sound like grunting, more like a light cough), the pitter-patter of running, a explosion noise, and the moan of the hurt bosses. None of it sounds to convincing, save the boss moan and the running noise. I guess I just expected better, since this isn't the NES any more.

The Music
While they may have slacked off on the sound effects, the music was excellent. Most songs fit the situation they are played in. It's alarming when there is a storm and Link has to run out in the middle of the night. Dark World's tune is like some ominous war tune, which is quite fitting since Ganon is all ready for a war. The Lost Woods sounds mysterious. And then of course, in Light World, we get the beloved Zelda over world theme. It was strangely missing from Adventure of Link (one of many things wrong with that game....but that's for another review), and it was very nice to see it redone and brought back in all it's glory. For some reason it's been missing from Zelda games ever since, despite being recognized as the Zelda theme. At least it has come back in some games, like the Smash Bros. titles and the Zelda Collector's Disc.

The dungeon music could have been better. None of the songs were very unique, or fit the dungeons very well. It feels more like they took a couple of songs, shuffled around the beat a little, and used these ''new'' songs in every castle.

The Sights
If I had to describe the graphics in LttP in one word, it would be this: colorful. Everything in this game is very bright and colorful. With the exception of the 2 storm sequences and the caves, practically everything and everyone is about 5 shades to bright. Grass shouldn't be that green. Walls shouldn't be that brown. Knights definitely shouldn't be that green, blue, and red. Link's hair shouldn't be that....pink?

Yes, you read right. Link, ever the legendary blonde-haired hero, has pink hair in LttP. I'm really not sure why; perhaps Link was being rebellious, perhaps one of his ancestors hooked up with an Irish-rabbit girl, or maybe Shiguru Miyamoto simply went color blind at this point. But what is even more amazing is that when his suit changes, so does his hair color. Over the course of the game his hair goes from pink to brown to a dirty blonde. But when he goes to Dark World the first time, he is a big pink bunny, which goes back to my Irish-rabbit theory.

The Gameplay
Probably the main reason Zelda games have been enticing people for so many years is the stellar and challenging gameplay. Sadly, the gameplay in Zelda: A Link to the Past is not what I would call challenging. I wouldn't call it stellar either, as I just realized that this means relating to stars. It's not that there is a lack of things to do; there are plenty of items to collect and upgrade, and more then the standard 8 dungeons in the game.

First of all, the world map is far to small. Remember the absolutely huge map in Zelda 1, where you had to search all over screen after screen, making mental notes of what was where and at times had to blindly search for the next dungeon? And this was all in an NES game. Surely with a system that is twice is powerful, we are in store for a huge map, right? Wrong. The entire world map is about 1/4 the size of the original one.

The small map poses a few problems. The first is that exploration is practically non-existent. You are immediately given a map with the entire terrain and the buildings all laid out. When you see everything for the first time, it's all wonderful and new, and then....that's it. You'll go through the same areas over and over to get to the dungeons and items and what-not. In Light World, you can go everywhere on the map from the get go. In Dark World, a few area's are cut off from you until you get the appropriate items. But the wait isn't really worth it, as it's all just slightly altered terrain from Light World.

The second big problem is the location of the heart pieces. Another fun part of Zelda games is tracking down the heart pieces. In Zelda 1, you're only given vague clues of some of the heart locations. In Zelda 2, you literally have to stumble upon them. The other Zelda titles require a massive and rewarding search for them all. But because of the small map size, hiding places for heart pieces is very limited. The result is many very obvious and easy to find heart pieces. You don't have to work and look for them; some are literally in your path (e.g. when you start off at the pyramid is Dark World, walk to your right, and there is a heart piece), and several are pointed at by an arrow of bushes. It is impossible to get through this game without finding half of them without even trying. This lack of a challenge also makes the game a good deal shorter.

There are other negative points I could reflect on (such as FAR to easy bosses, irritatingly linear dungeons with no hidden rooms what so ever, basically just a lack of difficulty on many points), but I don't want to make this sound completely negative sounding. Trust me, I DO like the game, very much so. So many things about this game felt so....Zelda, in a way that Zelda 2 steered far away from. I love getting new items that let's us beat the snot out of bad guys in so many way. I love running around saving females and such, destroying a seemingly endless army of regenerating bad guys, literally buying more arrows and bombs from a faerie, and irritating a fat faerie. I especially loved beating Ganon, the only boss worth fighting in the game. Don't let my 4 paragraphs ranting about the small map steer you away, this game is very good, hence the reason it gets an 8.

The Conclusion
Despite it's short-coming of being the easiest Zelda title I've ever played, I still enjoyed the game very thoroughly. And who knows, maybe I've just gotten to good at games like this over the years, and you will find it quite challenging. People have disagreed with me before, so you wouldn't be the first. If you enjoy fun adventure, RPGish games, then you will love this one. Even if you don't like those types of games, you will still love it. I recommend Zelda: A Link to the Past whole-heartedly.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/27/04

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