Iconic doesn’t cover it.
Few videogame series have earned the reverence that the Legend of Zelda has managed over the years. From its origins on the NES through to the modern 3D outings, there are few titles that have captured gamers attention with such vigor. Yet come to discuss which of the games is the best and you end up with the quite the debate. Do you lean to one of the more 3D offerings, or do you choose one of the more iconic 2D adventures? For my money, there’s only one game in the series that can hope to lay claim to that title – 1991’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
The story of the game doesn’t stray away from its series formula and it is even considered to be the prequel to its predecessor. The by now famous damsel in distress, Princess Zelda, is kidnapped by an evil sorcerer and held in Hyrule Castle. Zelda telepathically contacts our young protagonist, Link, to come to her rescue, but instead, wake’s up to find that his uncle has left for the castle. Link follows until he discovers and underground passage and his uncle injured inside. Link proceeds to pick up the sword and shield and continues on-words through the castle to save the princess. After his triumphant victory, the two go through an underground chamber and go into hiding. Link is then tasked to find a powerful sword , the Master Sword, in order to defeat the wizard and bring peace back to the land of Hyrule. Whilst on his journey the evil wizard, Agahnim discovers the whereabouts of the princess. When the news reaches him, Link rushes to the castle with the sword to defeat Agahnim. However, he arrives too late. Agahnim transports to another world and our heroic protagonist is forced to follow him, overcoming numerous obstacles along the way and even finding out that the wizard is just a pawn, working for a dark overlord named Ganon.
The most interesting aspect of the game is its lore, which is both interesting and immersive to follow even today. A Link to the Past is set in the fantasy world of Hyrule which was created with a powerful relic known as the Triforce. This relic was contained with the help of seven sages, but soon things turn for the worst, when a thief by the name of Ganandorf kill’s all of the seven sages and obtains the power of the Triforce for himself. Before he could finish them off however, the sages used a magic seal and divided the world in to two realities in order to keep the forces of evil in one, thus were created the Dark World and Light World.
If this seems complicated. that’s because it is. The game isn’t afraid to play fast and loose with the series canon – being the first to play with the idea of multiple timelines. In the Dark World, a warrior fought Ganandorf with the Master Sword and failed in his quest. That warrior is the descendant of the Link in an alternative timeline. Kensuke Tanabe, the games writer, wanted the series to feel deeper than it had been allowed to be before. We certainly think he managed it.
Of course we have to give special nod to the game play, which shifted away from Zelda 2’s controversial side scrolling experiment. As with every Zelda title, it’s mostly a high-fantasy action-adventure game intended for single-player, so you might be asking yourself why is that interesting. Well the reason why the game is so attractive is because of its wast open-world which was back in the 1990’s a big deal. A Link to the Past demands for the player to explore the surrounding, since that’s the only way you can progress with the plot. There are so much items, hidden rooms to find and this chore suddenly becomes an enjoyable adventure instead of a nuisance. There are over 50 items that could be found ranging from swords to bows, bombs, and shields.
In every dungeon, the player can find a unique item that is useful for traversing set dungeon and will come in handy later in the game. Most notable weapon in the game is the all-powerful Master Sword, that can fire magic if the player is at full health. Besides that other items can be found at multiple locations and could be bot with rubies. The concept of traveling through different worlds is also one of the new features that the developers incorporated in this title. At the middle of the game, players were able to enter the Dark World in pursue of Agahnim, and could at any given time return to the Light World. This mechanic is groundbreaking, since when traveling to a different world the environment would shift and change, making some terrains and objects visible then in the other realm.
It wouldn’t be fair to talk about a Zelda game without mentioning the bosses, and this title holds one of the best in the entire series. At the end of each dungeon the players would encounter the boss, that doesn’t take to kindly to the protagonist. Every boss has a different style when it comes to combat, patience is of utmost importance in order to learn the enemies weak spot. By far the most interesting boss in the game was that of Moldorm, a gigantic worm-like creature. You fight this monster on-top of a small platform and the key is to target his tale in order to defeat it, but there is a catch. If Moldorm is hit anywhere else the player will bounce off of him and might even fall of the platform. Although the character won’t die, he will have to go back all the way up to Moldorm and fight him from the beginning, meaning if you hit him once in your last encounter it doesn’t count. The developers thought of every boss individually and did them with such care, making sure that rushing in blind won’t show much result. Other notable bosses include Agahnim, Helmasaur King, Arrghus and Trinexx, while the most dangerous is of course the final, Ganon. While other enemies reward the player with a hearth container and a specific item, Ganon’s fight provides the biggest reward in a form of an epic ending worthy of the series.
But all this is side discussion to the real show stealer. To this day, A Link to the Past remains one of the most beautiful 2D games of all time – influencing countless pretenders and helping to set a bar that arguably wasn’t surpassed on SNES. A Link to the Past felt like a breath of fresh air after Zelda II: Adventures of Link. Every aspect of the Kingdom of Hyrule is gorgeously realized, all the more impressive when you realize the technical limitations that could have shelved this. Being released on the SNES, the developers didn’t have many options in terms of graphics and as every other SNES game, it was limited to native 16-color tiles. However, that didn’t stop Miyamoto playing around with his product and added something that has never been seen before, the use of multiple layouts in dungeons.
There isn’t any significant difference between the Dark World and Light World, but both worlds unique in their own way. The Light world is inhabited mostly by people with a few monster, while the Dark World is a place where only monstrosities and beasts reside, and we can’t forget about the dungeons. Every dungeon has its own layout, which mostly depends on where is it placed, be it in the desert, on a mountain, or on a normal plain. All of this is accompanied by a brilliant soundtrack by Koji Kondo (who also composed for Super Mario, Star Fox…), with the “Overworld” theme being the most iconic. Fans of this respective series will tell you these are defiantly the reasons why this is such an amazing game.
At the time of its release, it was a majestic hit that even holds up today, and gamers around the world were buying their SNES consoles especially for this particular title. Reviews were positive and A Link to the Past was praised in the gaming community and also won multiple awards. Even though The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is also considered to be the best game of the series, we considered that this title is much better, since all future games from the this series borrowed the already well-established formula. The game was eventually ported to the Game Boy Advance, but isn’t as near good as its SNES counterpart. Nintendo even went far to please the fans and created a similar title The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for the 3DS in 2013, which is an also amazing as it’s 1991 influence. It was also considered a must play by many gaming magazines and sites, and we advise the same. And while we brag on about this brilliant title, there is still one question that we would like to know, why is Link’s hair pink?
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of the greatest games ever made without any discussion. This title was intended to be the game that would defy the 4th generation of gaming and it can stand strong and proud as it achieved it’s purpose. There are so much things to explore in the rich land of Hyrule, so much to be found, items, areas. The sheer amount of great things can be said about this game, but in order to experience this adventure you need to replay it, to see for yourself. You owe it to yourself to get your old copy out and give it a go one more time.