The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past — Retro Review

Welcome to Power Cord’s Retro Reviews! Today, we look at the classic SNES adventure, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Over the past few years, Nintendo’s classic, A Link to the Past, has served as one of my few go-to distraction games — the sort of game that you put in 20-30 minutes here and there when there’s nothing else to do. Playing the GBA version, it was always a fun little game for me to flip on and play alongside other titles like Metroid Zero Mission and the old Pokemon games for bit of nostalgia and entertainment. But it was only recently I realized I had never actually beaten the game. So, determined to see the quest through, I set off to save the land of Hyrule once and for all. Once I had finally felled Gannon, I felt compelled to review the game I had finally beaten after all those years.

On the surface, A Link to the Past is just like any other Zelda game: an evil antagonist has either doomed the world, stolen the princess Zelda, or both, and you as the player take control of Link to explore dungeons, find magical items, and ultimately save the kingdom and the princess.

The game opens with that exact scenario having taken place — an evil sorcerer has stolen the princess and taken over the kingdom —  resulting in the apparent death of Link’s uncle. Link takes up his uncle’s sword and shield and sets off to stop the evil sorcerer who has been kidnapping maidens all over the land to open a portal to the dark world.

The game is set in a massive world, filled with caves, dungeons, and hidden secrets to explore. There is a sense of open-ended exploration in A Link to the Past. There’s a certain order in which to do things, but much of it is up to you and how you decided to tackle each objective. Or, more likely, when and where you finally figure out what you’re doing.

A Link to the Past does very little in terms of handholding. Other than small markers on your map screen, it’s often difficult to remember where you needed to go or who you needed to talk to. This sort of thing is fine in some aspects of the game, such as the numerous hidden treasures around the world that can only be unlocked after you’ve completed a dungeon and found a new item, but when you can’t reach a place clearly marked as your next objective because you forget to talk to an old lady in town, the game becomes frustrating. This is of course a sign of how games were back in the day, but no matter how good you are at exploring an open world, obesseively checking every nook and cranny doesn’t feel as fun when the game is tight lipped on what you’re doing wrong. There are games of this generation that did exploration far better than A Link to the Past (say for instance, Super Metroid).

But for the most part, the exploration was fun enough that figuring out where to go or what to do was easy, or at least not much of a chore. The sprite graphics are bright and the world well designed, but the animations aren’t very good and the setting felt rather bland, with the exception of some spots in the dark world. Still, traipsing around the countryside to the soundtrack of classic Zelda tunes is a fun distraction.

It probably goes without saying, but the formula is bland, and the story utterly cliche. Of course he’s Gannon. Of course it’s hidden in a dungeon. For many, A Link to the Past is the zenith of the Zelda franchise’s 2D experience, much like Ocarina of Time is series best 3D game. But for me, when it comes to both titles, the best Zelda experience lie in other games; one’s that change up the story and formula in much bigger and bolder ways. It’s a fun nostalgic title, but isn’t much more than that.

Pros: 2 big worlds to explore with plenty to do and see; adventuring to classic zelda tunes is fun; good, simple gameplay.

Cons: Graphics are lackluster; some parts are infuriatingly confusing; uninspired story; if you’ve played a Zelda game before, the formula feel boring.

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