The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past


Watch this video, it is laugh inducing

Developer: Nintendo

Platform(s): SNES, GBA

Release Date(s): Nov 1991 (SNES), Dec 2002 (GBA)

How do I even begin talking about a game that brought me so much joy?
The first game that I played in a series that has never been anything less than impressive.
A game that IGN rates as the greatest SNES game of all time. Click this link if you don’t believe me: http://ie.ign.com/top/snes-games/1
There’s no doubt about it. There is going to be a lot said about this game, some of which many might even find controversial.

The Set-up:
Awaking in the night to find his Uncle missing, young Link embarks on a quest. This quest will ultimately lead to the discovery of the Master Sword, battling the evil Ganon and rescuing the beautiful Princess Zelda. Along the way, Link will encounter any number of monsters and unusual inhabitants within the kingdom of Hyrule.

It takes an awful lot of serious dedication to be able to immerse a player into the game they are playing. This is especially true in the early 90’s, when computer game companies didn’t have access to cutting edge 3D graphics. Instead, they use creative and artistic talent to create a beautiful and engaging world that the player feels as much a part of as Link himself. There are a select few reading this who have played the game and are nodding and smiling. Because you know what I’m talking about. And then there are the rest of you who are thinking “…ah, come on!”

It sounds like ridiculous romanticism to talk this way about a game, and such an old game at that. However, the creators of the game themselves were romantics, and they were passionate about creating a true hero’s journey. This is so evident from the very beginning. You start the game waking to find your Uncle missing and so, naturally, you walk outside to find him. There is a raging storm going on outside, giving a sense of claustrophobia and urgency. At this early point of the game, you can’t appreciate the world around you, even though that’s what you spend almost the entire game doing.

A mainstay with the LoZ series is that you can spend a ridiculous amount of time simply exploring. Hyrule is a vibrant kingdom, where literally even the walls can speak. Kakariko Village must be one of the most memorable locations in video game history, and it manages this simply by being so charming and intricate. You can wander into any house and every inhabitant will have a story to tell you. Whether it is a young boy who got sick from playing in the rain, an elderly woman who confides in you that she knows you are a criminal (supposedly), or a blacksmith who misses his brother, everyone in this town is memorable for being simple and pleasant.

These characters are not confined to the village either, they can be found all across Hyrule. The King of the Zora’s (a fish like race) will sell you a pair of flippers at a price near the Waterfall of Wishing. Fairies reside underground, waiting to heal you, should you need it. And for some reason, a witch is always on the lookout for mushrooms and will trade them for magic powder.

Of course, none of this is any fun without a bit of conflict. This peaceful world is thrown into chaos when the villain, Ganon, attempts to control it with the Triforce, a relic said to grant wishes. In order to stop him, a number of other relics are needed to gain access to his hideout, and these relics are hidden in dungeons scattered throughout Hyrule. Herein lies the main challenge of the game. These dungeons are years ahead of their time in terms of ingenuity. Entire sections of dungeons can change shape depending on your actions.

The puzzles that need to be solved within these dungeons are not so difficult to be frustrating, but are exceptionally clever in design. Nearly every dungeon has its own theme also. A personal favourite is the Thieves hideout, which uses light to solve most of its puzzles. This same light must be continuously reflected until it reaches the bottom floor, where it can be used to fight the dungeon boss, who is vulnerable to bright lights.

The boss creatures are legendary. Each and every one is memorable in its own way, and fighting them is something that simply needs to be experienced in order to understand these simple yet brilliant encounters. None of these bosses can be defeated by simply hitting them with your sword (though this does often play a major role). They have to be weakened with another tool in your inventory first.

These tools are another reason this game enjoys such critical success. Anyone can make a game in which your character swings a sword around at people. (Probably not everyone, it might be a bit tough). But Link to the Past was one of the first games to give players a really vast inventory to add a bit of variety to the game. Spells, bows, hammers and even bug catching nets, all of these and more are at your disposal.

You might be surprised to discover that this is also a quite lengthy game, considering it’s age. It tricks you into thinking it is shorter than it is, building up to a major battle with who you think is the game’s main antagonist. However, once defeated, you are sucked into the dark world, an alternate version of the world you’ve been occupying up until this point. And that is when realization hits: You are not even halfway through the game yet.

This dark world is the antithesis of the light world in every way. It is a murky brown contrast to the lively greens and blues of the light world. Whereas 3D can age quite badly over time, 2D rarely ages if done well. And the artwork here is exceptional. Combined with a musical score that can be foreboding, enchanting and often incredibly uplifting, the entire experience can engulf the player if they are not careful.

Overall:
Link to the Past is a truly captivating experience. Given the chance, it will entice any player to explore every corner its vibrant fantasy world. An epic story and memorable characters, it is an absolute triumph in gaming. (Here’s the controversial bit), As it stands, it has yet to be replaced as the greatest Legend of Zelda game ever made, and easily one of the greatest games of all time.

Rating: 10/10

“Link, it is extraordinary that you won the Master Sword that makes evil retreat…
With this shining sword, I
believe you can deflect the wizard’s evil powers.
The destiny of this land
is in your hands.” – Sage Sahasrahla

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • This is one of the first games I ever owned and the first game that I got given out to for playing too much. Sadly, I very very stupidly traded it in for Street Fighter 2. A great game mind you, but definitely not a good trade!
  • In one of the houses in Kakariko village, there is a picture of Super Mario.
  • The music for Kakariko Village is inspired by Studio Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service, and the eyes that guard the doors in Turtle Rock are the same as those that appear on the crypt in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

This game is kind of like:

  • Befriending an old Dragon, voiced by Patrick Stewart

or

  • Luke Skywalkers’ outlook on life
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Published in: on December 31, 2011 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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