Released on: April 13, 1992
Available Platforms: Super Nintendo, Game Boy Advanced, Wii, Wii U, New Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch
Price: Free (With Nintendo Switch Online subscription)
To say that the Legend of Zelda is ubiquitous among gamers would be an understatement. Like Super Mario, those who aren’t into video games know of Link and his adventures in Hyrule. My exposure to the Zelda franchise started when I was seven. Since our family didn’t have a lot of money, we liked to rent games from the corner store. It was a tiny, rural store where everyone knew each other (or heard of each other in passing). Usually, my mom would have to drive me over to the city to rent newer games, but I would sometimes be pleasantly surprised by the stuff I found at our local convenience store.
One game I loved renting as a kid was the first Zelda game I ever played: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I remember getting stuck on one part of the game that opened up a world of secrets, formidable bosses, and adventure when I finally figured out how to get past it. It is the Zelda game that stuck with me the most. The game is so legendary that there are mods for it where items in chests are randomized and one where the player explores both A Link to the Past’s world and Super Metroid’s world at the same time.
Today, however, we are looking at the original Super Nintendo release of the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past with no mods, just played on the Nintendo Switch using its Online service. It’s been a while since we took a look at a Zelda game here on Sergie Reviews (with the last one
being Link’s Awakening on the Switch) so taking a look at another game in this legendary franchise is long overdue. Did A Link to the Past help pave the way for its successors?
On a dark and stormy night, our hero (the player) wakes up to a telepathic message from Princess Zelda. She informs Link (or whatever the player decided to name him) that she is trapped in the castle dungeon and needs rescuing. As soon as the message ends, Link’s uncle wakes up and tells Link to stay put while he goes to the castle to help the princess. This is where the player takes control of Link and disregards their uncle’s orders.
Link heads to the castle and finds a secret entrance. He discovers his injured uncle at the start of the entrance. His uncle scolds him for leaving the house in the rain and for following him. Nevertheless, his uncle can’t go on and gives Link his sword and shield. Link then finds out the guards are hostile, and they are the ones who put Zelda in the dungeon and injured his uncle. They are under someone else’s control. It’s up to Link to save the princess and the kingdom of Hyrule.
While A Link to the Past doesn’t aggrandize its story using cutscenes and cinematics, it is still a fascinating tale. When boiling down the plot, it is about rescuing Zelda from evil wizards. Thanks to the dialog from villagers, books, and certain enemies, however, the world-building comes to its own. My favorite tidbit is when Link talks to a villager about the Master Sword, a weapon said to be “evil’s bane”. That tiny bit of expositing is just enough to make the Master Sword feel
like the legend that it is.
A Link to the Past might not look super impressive by today’s standards, but I still feel comfortable calling its graphics iconic. Using an overhead perspective, A Link to the Past’s visuals are clear and concise. The only parts where it isn’t clear is when Link goes through a dark cave, but then the obscurity is the point in that case. One part that stood out for me was the Lost Woods, where the trees shade the forest floor from the light above. Another time was when I climbed to the top of Death Mountain. There are spots where the player can look down the mountain to see the forest down below.
What kind of reviewer would I be if I didn’t mention A Link to the Past’s outstanding soundtrack? We have the classic overworld theme (the Zelda song most people recognize), but some of my favorites are: the Lost Woods theme, Hyrule Castle’s theme, the boss battle theme, and the song that plays in the Dark World on Death Mountain.
Gameplay in A Link to the Past is as straightforward as they come. The game is in a top-down perspective (meaning the player has a bird’s eye view). The player can move in any direction, and their primary method for disposing of enemies is with a swipe of their sword. Exploration is the name of the game, as the player will find all sorts of hidden nooks and crannies all over the world. Link must make his way through the ten dungeons, beat its bosses, and save the princess.
What I like most about A Link to the Past’s world design is that it isn’t afraid to hide essential items off the beaten path. There is an item, for example, that the player needs to defeat a boss that they have to find by exploring a section of the world that, while still prominent, is easy to skip over. Many hidden caverns in A Link to the Past house many important goodies like rupees, heart pieces, and miscellaneous items. Some of those latter items are optional but extremely helpful if the player manages to find them. The game doesn’t hold the player’s hand too much, and I like that.
I guess my only real gripe I would have with A Link to the Past would be that its puzzles are a little obscure, especially for younger, less astute children. I remember trying to get to the last dungeon before getting the Master Sword and it having an entrance puzzle that had me stumped for the longest time. Once I figured it out, the whole game opened up for but I could see some people dropping the game if they get stuck somewhere.
While this is always a matter of perspective, the later bosses in A Link to the Past might give some players grief. Some of them have screen-wide attacks that the player has to dodge or take a considerable amount of damage. Others constantly shoot fireballs at the player, applying constant pressure. With a bit of persistence, the bosses will eventually fall, but they will put up a fight before they do.
Those who’ve never played a Zelda game are doing themselves a great disservice. I would recommend anyone give a Zelda game a try and A Link to the Past is a great place to start. For Zelda fans who haven’t played A Link to the Past wondering if it’s worth checking out, that would be a resounding “yes” from me. Those that have a Nintendo Switch Online account should give A Link to the Past a shot.