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The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) artwork

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) review


"Itís hard to imagine that great fights against Turtle Rockís three-headed dragon, the near-invulnerable Moldorm or evil olí Ganon, himself, could be in the same game as a giant moth whose main threat is caused by its good fortune to reside in a spike-laden room with a floor composed of conveyor belts. A handful of other bosses seem a bit redundant, as one seems little more than an enhanced version of the Patra mini-bosses in the original Legend of Zeldaís final dungeon, while the fight with Blink the Thief could best be described as a confrontation with a mobile Gleeok."



There comes a time in a young manís life where the call to action consumes his very being -- when the threat of impending doom is enough to rouse him from blissful slumber and cause him to rise above his humble stature and become a legendary hero.

That never happened to me, which makes me all the more jealous of Link. An unimposing little fellow, heís been a hero in roughly a gajillion video games, as heís evolved from the physical equal of tiny slimes and bats to a brave warrior skilled enough to dispatch multi-headed dragons while barely breaking a sweat. Out-of-shape computer geeks like me canít compete with that....we can only control Link and pretend weíre him for a blissful few hours.

And I have done that many, many times, playing most of his games more than once. Iíve always felt his two NES outings were two of that generationís top efforts -- so well-designed that even now, many years after their release, they still seemingly still show no signs of fading past their prime.

However, Linkís SNES adventure, A Link to the Past, doesnít quite match its predecessors. Donít get me wrong -- I find it to be an excellent game....itís just easier to criticize than either Legend of Zelda or Adventure of Link.

Nintendo did an admirable job of making sure A Link to the Past wasnít a carbon-copy duplicate of its predecessors, but in some ways, that leads to the gameís problems. On one hand, there are a number of neat innovations, as well as dungeons that are far more atmospheric and appealing than those in the two NES games. However, there also are a few tedious fetch-quests and some of those innovative dungeon ideas simply fall flat.

None of those negatives are apparent as the game begins. The soon-to-be-hero Link is woke up by the telepathic voice of Princess Zelda, begging him to help. The lad sneaks out of his house to follow an uncle, who apparently also heard the voice. Unfortunately for Linkís elder, he apparently has no skill in melee combat, as when the youngster next meets him, heís laying wounded in a sewer under Hyrule Castle. Link grabs his uncleís sword and heads out to rescue Zelda.

It doesnít take long for him to outmaneuver Hyruleís collection of inept soldiers and free the princess from her captivity in the bowels of the castle dungeon, but thatís just the beginning for him. Keeping Zelda free is easier said than done, as the dark forces led by the vile Ganon and his wizard sidekick Agahnim will be a thorn in Linkís side for the duration of his first (and only) SNES adventure.

Helping Link as he romps through a goodly number of dungeons and caves will be a slew of items, nearly all of which will be of use more than once. A mirror offers transport from Linkís world to a parallel dimension heíll spend a good deal of the game journeying through. To prevent that world from corrupting him and transforming him into a helpless critter, heíll need to find a magical pearl. Other items are more often used to solve puzzles or get past pitfalls. The hammer pounds stakes into the ground, while the hookshot can grapple virtually anything to propel Link over chasms. A number of these items give A Link to the Pastís dungeons an element of problem-solving that goes far beyond simply pushing blocks to open doors (although that ďpuzzleĒ makes its appearance more than once).

Some of these dungeons seem near-perfect. The Ice Palace confronts Link with a number of twists and turns, including a late puzzle that forces the player to backtrack a good ways to find an alternate path. Misery Mire has a non-linear design, giving Link a lot of latitude to explore and only keeping a few key rooms initially barred to him. A handful of the early-game dungeons, while simplistic, also contained their share of charm, reminding me of graphically-enhanced versions of those in the original games.

Unfortunately, other dungeons came out a bit flawed, as it seemed Nintendo eventually started running out of good ideas. While the boss fight in the Turtle Rock dungeon is one of the best in the entire game, getting to it is an arduous task that revolves around creating blocks for transport, magically opening doors and hoping Link can get to them before they close. Another dungeon also is somewhat of a ďone-trick-ponyĒ, as much of its difficulty lies in Link having to constantly be on the move in order to avoid Wallmasters unceremoniously carrying him back to the entrance.

Just like the dungeons, bosses in Link to the Past are a mixed bag, ranging from wonderful to merely mundane. Itís hard to imagine that great fights against Turtle Rockís three-headed dragon, the near-invulnerable Moldorm or evil olí Ganon, himself, could be in the same game as a giant moth whose main threat is caused by its good fortune to reside in a spike-laden room with a floor composed of conveyor belts. A handful of other bosses seem a bit redundant, as one seems little more than an enhanced version of the Patra mini-bosses in the original Legend of Zeldaís final dungeon, while the fight with Blink the Thief could best be described as a confrontation with a mobile Gleeok.

Still, I have to say these dungeons and their bosses composed the most enjoyable moments in A Link to the Past. Most of their flaws were more than counterbalanced by the sheer amount of fun I had meandering through them, searching for the path to the boss and hoping I could find the necessary items to access it along the way. While the gameís overworld areas both give Link plenty of stuff to do, those tasks are not nearly as addictive.

Pieces of heart containers (to give Link more life) are scattered all over both overworlds, while treasure chests overflowing with rupees are even more common. Link also can (and in most cases, must) find a trio of magic spells, a quartet of potion-holding bottles and a vast assortment other doo-dads and gizmos, many of which were mentioned earlier. Some of these items are found in dungeons, others are located in the gameís numerous caves, nooks and crannies.

However, obtaining others forces the player to undergo a number of less-than-enthralling tasks. I wasnít overly fond of spending nearly a half-hour repeatedly playing a digging game until I finally obtained the randomly-placed special item located in its field. It also got old to repeatedly throw money in one fountain to earn the right to hold more of certain items.....or to throw virtually everything I owned into other fountains in the hope a couple of them would be magically upgraded.

Still, while I definitely found A Link to the Past to have its share of annoying traits, itís hard to be too harsh on it. One thing Iíve always treasured about the best role-playing games and adventures is their ability to make me feel like I truly was exploring a vast land full of surprises. Many games donít succeed in that regard, but this one does. It seems that virtually every screen in both overworlds has some sort of secret -- itís just a matter of collecting the proper tool to find it.

And A Link to the Past also is extremely atmospheric, possessing great music and surprisingly good graphics for an early-generation SNES game. Starting out with a ďdark-and-stormy-nightĒ intro, the game moves on to unforgettable locales such as a mist-coated forest, desolate desert and, my personal favorite, the Death Mountain region. In both overworlds, this area is similar, forcing Link to navigate his way through a convoluted, maze-like series of caves, hoping to find his way to the top of the peak where, undoubtedly, amazing secrets await.

While A Link to the Past doesnít quite match the overall excellence I found in both Legend of Zelda and Adventure of Link, it does deserve credit for, at times, achieving a level those older games couldnít reach. With a handful of excellent, creatively-designed dungeons, as well as a few bosses that provided far more entertaining opposition than any Iíd taken on in the seriesí previous games. I just wish things could have turned out a little better, as there were a few dungeons and bosses that were less than memorable, while many of Linkís overworld tasks can feel like busywork, rather than an actual fun experience.

Rating: 8/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (March 17, 2006)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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