The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the third installment in the Zelda series for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. There is also a Game Boy Advance port, which is the one that I played. The game is a Zelda game so if you don’t know the basics of what a Zelda game is like then check out my review on the first game The Legend of Zelda. This is the game that basically standardized what we know as the Zelda formula. You play as Link. You’re trying to save the land of Hyrule from the evil wizard Agahnim, who has kidnapped young maidens that descended from sages in order to uncover the golden power of the Triforce. You can explore a large overworld to find secrets and items to help you on your quest. You’ll need to fight through a number of themed dungeons, each with their own enemies, puzzles, gimmicks, and bosses. Once you have defeated all the dungeons, you can take on the evil wizard that has been threatening the land. Part of the way through the game you get the ability to go into the dark world, a parallel universe of the land you once knew. Going back and forth between the two is interesting for puzzle solving and exploration ideas, not to mention it doubles the size of the overworld without taking up too much memory space. You collect items along the way that help you fight more monsters, solve more puzzles, and progress through the game. You can get heart pieces to increase your maximum health and upgrade many of your weapons into more powerful versions. Many of the screens scroll a bit before you’ll hit the edge of them and go to the next one. The graphics and sound are very much a product of the SNES era. Honestly, there’s really not a whole lot wrong with this game. The design is pretty solid. There’s lots to explore, find, and overcome as you go along. Still, no game is perfect, and I DO have some issues with this, as great as this formula may be.
This game is where the tradition of hand-holding in Zelda games started. It’s not too bad, but it’s certainly present. The main parts are whenever you talk to Sahasrahla in person or through walls and when you notice that every dungeon is not only marked on your map but also numbered. You can also talk to fortune tellers if you get stuck, but at least you have to pay them so it’s like a punishment for either forgetting what to do or being too lazy to figure it out for yourself. The dungeons are all themed, but they’re still not all that distinct. Some dungeons stand out, like the ice one, for example. Others just seem like the same brick walls and assets with palette swaps. There’s also a weird pace to the game. The boss battles are the most exciting moments in the game that are presented with proper importance. However, sometimes getting items and completing puzzles just feels underwhelming. I don’t need tons of fanfare all the time, but some satisfying effect or sound for doing things properly would be nice. Plus the game seems to move pretty fast. It feels like you finish it before you know it, and without any big feeling of progression it doesn’t seem to feel like a long journey. I guess that’s not necessarily bad, but it didn’t leave me feeling quite as fulfilled as I would’ve liked. The swordplay is also a little funky. You have a swing this time around that you can swing pretty quickly in a row, but it does have a tiny bit of delay and weird hit detection. Sometimes it feels like the sword goes through people without hurting them. Maybe it’s just me as it is pretty minor and it’s not hard to get the hang of it. The graphics and sound don’t appeal to me much since I’m not a big SNES fan, but that one is really nitpicky so it probably won’t be a problem for you.
Most of my complaints are just personal taste issues. They didn’t keep me from enjoying A Link to the Past for what it is. It’s a great game that formulized the Zelda series and helped make the franchise what it is today. If you like Zelda games and haven’t played this one, play it. I’m very positive you’ll enjoy it. The exploration, action, puzzles, and even some of that atmosphere are all here as you’d expect them. There’s definitely a reason this game is one of the most praised Zelda titles. It may never be one of my top Zelda games because it took me so long to finally play it, but there’s not much mystery as to why other people love it so much. It’s a classic Zelda experience that everyone identifying as a Zelda fan must play.