‘A Link to the Past’ Review

 

A ‘Link to the Past’ Review

So for the 1st anniversary of the Nintendo Switch online service, they finally released Super Nintendo games for the Switch. I have been waiting for these games forever, and now that they’re here, I decided it would be a good idea to review one of my favorites: The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past. This game is incredible and ahead of its time, and I’m about to explain why.

Graphics

A lot of gamers today are super obsessed with good graphics, which is ridiculous considering how many people play Minecraft. I grew up playing a Wii, so I never really had the luxury of caring about graphics.

I initially thought that the pixelated graphics would be a detriment to the game. I was wrong.

A Link to the Past was originally released on a 16-bit system, so you would think it wouldn’t hold up today. You would be wrong in that assumption. A Link to the Past looks great for it’s time, and a cartoonish theme can be distinguished from the pixels. 

The biggest complaint I had with how the game looked was the repetitive assets. Every tree, rock, and bush looks identical, and at times it got a little boring. 

However, all the repetition makes you notice when something is different. A single tree on the map is slightly lighter than the others, so it’s no surprise that running into it reveals a secret cave.

Sound Design and Music

A Link to the Past is part of the Zelda games, a series that is known for its stunning music. Even though this is only the third game in the series, it has some of the best music. 

The main Overworld theme is a new rendition of the Overworld theme from the first game, created to sound triumphant to fit the setting, while not being so good or loud that it distracts the player.

The Dungeon theme isn’t as good, but it serves a more important purpose than sounding awesome. The dungeons are the most difficult areas of the game, and they have a sense of danger that you don’t feel in the overworld, even when exploring dangerous areas. The dungeon music also makes you feel relieved when you exit a dungeon, and makes you feel like you’ve just been in a movie theatre and just went into the sun for the first time in hours.

What I really love about this game is that it feels satisfying to hit an enemy with your sword, all because of the sound design. Every successful hit from a sword rewards you with what sounds like a tiny vibration, and a miss is signified with a little dink. It actually frustrates me every time I miss an easy shot because of that sound, and incentivizes me to improve my aim and therefore my skill in the game.

Story

I love a Link to the Past’s approach at storytelling. You start out on a set quest that you have to complete before the world is open for you to explore. This quest sets up the main villain of the campaign, the ways you can attack, how to use an item, how to solve puzzles, how to interact with the environment, and most importantly, rewards your exploration. 

When you do get out of that first dungeon, you have options. The main quest tells you to go to Kakariko Village to talk to this lady, but you can completely ignore it and head for the next dungeon, or explore the world to get upgrades. 

Upgrades and hidden items play an important role in exploration. As an adventurer, you want to become more powerful, so naturally you seek out as many of those upgrades as you can. However, some items require certain items to get, items which can only be found in dungeons. This invisibly makes the player want to do more dungeons to get more loot, and that’s how they provide you with story.

Gameplay

A Link to the Past features a top down zoomed out camera angle, which is perfect because it shows just enough of what is ahead on the map and gives you enough time to maneuver around enemies and other obstacles.

The main weapon in Zelda is the sword, but every other item you get is just as useful. You have a green magic meter on the side of your screen, which limits how much you can use some magic. If I am being totally honest, the magic meter is a bit too limiting, even with the upgrade that halves how much magic you need.

The dungeons are one of the greatest parts of the game. Each one provides a unique theme and has interesting puzzles. My biggest complaint is that many of the enemies are reused, and it got a little frustrating to kill the same things so many times. 

The puzzles in the dungeons are great. They require a perfect balance of using your items and using your brain. If you get around to playing this game, try not to look up the solutions for any of the dungeons. The moment of satisfaction you get when you figure it out yourself is worth it.

I Just Like This Game

I just have to say it, this game is awesome. It’s one of the best additions to a legendary game series, expanding on the first of its line and setting the formula for the dozens of games that followed it. 

Every random feature of A Link to the Past amuses me. There’s this one part where you drain a lake in the light world to gain access to the dungeon, and it’s a great way to do world building.

In that same lake, you can find a fish that you can carry for absolutely no reason. If you bring it to a man in Kakariko Town, he’ll randomly give you a bunch of items in exchange for it. I have no idea why this is a thing, but it’s awesome.

The Master Sword, the main weapon of the game, is talked about in literal terms. People describe its power, and going back to what I said earlier, you want to find it to make yourself more powerful.

There’s this mushroom you can find in the Lost Woods, and if you bring it to the witch she’ll give you the magic powder. You can sprinkle this on monsters to turn them into weird creatures, an example being it turns electric slimes into these goofy monsters with handlebar mustaches. You can also sprinkle it on anti-fairies to turn them back into fairies to heal yourself.

Every item has a double use. The Cane of Somalia can be used to create blocks to hold down switches, but you can throw those blocks and make them explode by pressing the Y button again. The Hookshot can be used to zip across rooms and over gaps, but can also be used to stun enemies.

A lot of people complain about the difficulty of games that came out before they were born, and most of the time, they’re right. The original Super Mario Bros game is difficult, so much so that I’ve never beaten it. But A Link to the Past doesn’t have any super huge difficulty spikes, and the more you play the more you naturally get better in certain situations. 

They could’ve made this game very dependent on items, but instead it was very freeform. The item you get in a dungeon is sometimes optional, and sometimes you don’t need it for that dungeon but the next one. Sometimes you need to beat a dungeon with an item you got in the overworld. There’s this one point where you need to grab a book to translate the text outside a dungeon, but that same book can be used to translate certain texts throughout the land to gain magical pendants.

Every sword upgrade is found in a different way. The Master Sword is discovered by collecting three pendants from different dungeons. When you finally get to it, the moment is epic, as the three pendants collide and you finally draw the Sword that seals the Darkness. You can temper your sword by rescuing one of the dwarves trapped in the dark world. He’ll power up your sword as thanks. You can increase the damage output again by throwing it in a fairy pool.

Everything about this game is unique, and it never pulls the same trick twice. I’ve only put it down for a few days, and I’m already itching to play it again. If you have a Nintendo Switch, or a SNES classic, or even a Gameboy Advance, I highly suggest playing this game.

My final rating for this game is a 9/10.

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