Retrospective: The Legend of Zelda – A Link To The Past
Arguably the best game in the series, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the past was the first game of the series that I really made me feel like I was actually embarking on an adventure. Gone where the somewhat generic landscapes of the original and the linear side scrolling of Zelda 2. A Link to the past took players into the land of Hyrule, featuring mountain ranges, wild plains, deserts and great lakes to name a few, each offering a perfect mix of action and puzzles amongst its breath-taking scenery.
The summer of 1995 was the first time I played the game, a whole three years after it’s initial release. I remember a friend of mine had it and I was watching him wandering around with the bow and arrow shooting at enemies and journeying the various landscapes, up until that point I had never seen a action-rpg before and had always assumed they were boring and slow, within minutes of seeing a Link to the past my opinion had changed entirely, I had been converted. My next thought was, how can I get this game!?
Being a kid £40 did not come around often so I had little to no hope of buying it! I resigned myself to accepting that I would have to wait until Christmas, a whole six months away, a lifetime when you’re a kid! And then a miracle happened. About a week later my older brother came back with it out of nowhere! He had bought it from a friend! I couldn’t believe it! I remember looking in the box and the cartridge was still as good as new in it’s packaging with that familiar smell of a new generation game that all retro gamers will know. In the box you had the usual game booklet but also a map and guide detailing how to get through the first part of the game. The presentation was excellent and I would use this to navigate my brother what to do whilst he had the controller.
Many a late night was spent on it and tired school days followed but it was worth it just to get that bit further in the quest. That summer me and my mates would explore the woodlands that surround the village we lived in, we would buy local maps to find new areas, almost like living the game in real life. It created many great memories such as the time we bought hammocks to camp up the woods, thinking it would be like Zelda, in reality trying to stay in the hammocks bought from the army surplus shop was nearly impossible and we ended up trekking a couple of miles back home in the early hours of the morning, having to break back into our houses as we had forgotten our keys! Another memory is the time we walked miles and miles exploring with no food and water and had to reverse charge our mam to come and pick us up in the car! She was livid!
In the game you play as Link, a young hero who’s mission is to rescue princess Zelda and seal Ganon in the dark world forever. The game is effectively split into two parts. The first part of the game, you are required to acquire three pendants from three different dungeons. This allows you to gain access to the ‘master sword’ an upgrade of your original sword. You then rescue the Princess by defeating the evil wizard Aganham. That in itself would make for a great game. However, you are then transported into the dark world where you must find the eight scattered pieces of the broken triforce. These are found by completing eight dungeons, each increasing in difficulty, only then can you progress to Gannon’s tower to battle Ganon himself and seal him in the dark world thus completing the game.
To get through the quest, you need to do several side missions and meet with various folk from Kakariko village in order to get the items needed to proceed further in your quest. My brother and I would spend hours looking for people and clues to help us progress. You learn of a man who’s son went missing and you later find him in the dark world trapped in a tree, he then helps you get the ocarina to easily fly from area to area. You speculatively throw items into fairy ponds in the hope there will be a reward, thieves in the woods try to steal your items, in one of the dungeons you rescue a girl who ends up turning into a monster whom you fight as the end of dungeon boss. That was the beauty of the game, you really felt like you knew the different characters and the excitement when you found an item that allowed you to progress further and explore a new area was second to none.
Graphically the game is excellent, the landscapes are detailed, the enemies are well designed and there are some epic boss battles. But the main thing that brings out the true emotion associated with adventure is the music. For those familiar with the Zelda theme on the original Nintendo, imagine that played by an orchestra and you will have an idea of the quality of the games music. The dungeons play a menacing theme, it gives a true feeling that danger lurks round every corner. The boss battles have a faster dramatic theme all in comparison to the laid back relaxed music when visiting Kakariko village. It is the first game I played that was almost movie-esque in its soundtrack.
A Link to the past was met with rave reviews and was the title that really brought the series to the masses. A Link to the past sold over four million copies worldwide and was re-released on the Game Boy Advance in 2003 and most recently available as a download on the Virtual console. A Link between worlds followed on the 3DS and is a direct follow up to a Link to the past, using the same map layout, in itself a great game with a nostalgic feel. The main Zelda games since have been 3d , but have always followed the same action and puzzle style that made A Link to the past such a success.
A link to the past is 25 years old now and I played it from start to finish recently and although it seems easier than first time round it still had a great feel. Was it as good as I remembered all them years ago? No. Was it as epic as I remembered? No. If anything it felt basic and straight forward and not as well thought out as later Zelda titles. But all in all I feel the game has stood the test of time. It looks and sounds great, it has good playability and keeps you wanting to get that bit further. It’s like motion pictures, special effects have come a long way, but you can’t beat a classic. A link to the past, although nowhere near graphically the contemporary of the newer titles, is the one that moulded the Zelda game model and for that reason alone it deserves it’s place as one of the greatest games of all time.
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