"Thank you, Miyamoto."
-- Introduction --
Wow. Where to begin? This video game happens to be my favorite. Not just my favorite Zelda game, or my favorite game for the SNES, but my favorite game of all time. I literally fell in love with the Zelda series thanks to this game, at the age of 5. It is thanks to this game that Zelda is as popular as it is today. This game pushed the boundaries of the SNES, and showed it's true power. A Link to the Past is one of the games which paved the road for the adventure games of today. Zelda was the first to incorporate puzzles into an adventure game, and pulled it off with amazing success.
-- Gameplay -- 10/10
10/10 is not even near an accurate rating for this. If I could go above 10, I would. Gameplay is one of Zelda's strong-points, in my opinion.
You start out the game with nothing but the clothes you're wearing, and venture through the world to rescue the Princess, Zelda. Along the way you'll discover various other items, each with their own special ability which will come in handy at some point. However, this is not the beginning of it. There are two parallel worlds, the Light World and Dark World. Each shows similar characteristics, but in the Dark World, things come a bit more challenging. There are over 10 dungeons which you have to enter, navigate your way through, collect the item from that dungeon, and defeat the boss at the end. Aside from the main quest, there are also other sub-quests which you can go on. These usually give upgrades in items, pieces of heart, new items, etc. The range of items is great. Like any medieval game, you have your main weapon, the sword. Besides that, you also have bow and arrows, a boomerang, bombs, magical medallions, magical rods, you get the idea.
The land of Hyrule is immense, ranging from murky swamps to the Lost Woods, from Death Mountain all the way down to the desert. From local villages to Lake Hylia, this world is huge. And to add on to all of that, the Dark World is just as huge, and can be travelled freely from one to another. Changes in the Light World can affect the Dark World, and vice versa. This technique went on to play a role in games such as Majora's Mask, Oracle of Ages/Seasons, the Wind Waker, and even into other non-Zelda games. For example - to travel from the Dark World to the Light World, you have to look into your magical mirror, and to travel from the Light World to the Dark World, you have to enter a portal. Some ledges and spots are remote, and unreachable in the Light World, but open in the Dark World, forcing you to travel between the two to reach your destination.
Puzzles are a big part of any Zelda game. The Dungeons themselves could be considered puzzles. There are keys, compasses, maps, and items in each and every dungeon, and every item will help you reach the end. There is not one dungeon where you can go from one end to the other, there are always choices you can make. The top door, or the left one? Should I bomb this wall, or jump down to the floor below? Should I stand on this switch, or move a statue onto it? You will more than likely find yourself asking questions such as these when navigating a dungeon. The difficulty of dungeons vary, obviously. The early ones are easiest, with few choices you have to make yourself, however the later ones give you countless dead-ends, pitfalls, and wrong turns. However, no dungeon is too difficult. I completed this entire game with no help at age six, however it was very hard for me at that age. Some points are nearly impossible to figure out on your own though, which is why you must try everything in a room before continuing. For example, you could overlook one stone block in a room and because of that, be unable to continue. Regardless, it is not an extremely hard game at all, yet it is not a cake-walk. I'd call it a fun challenge.
-- Graphics -- 10/10
For the SNES, A Link to the Past had very nice graphics. There are some games which have better, but they are not bad at all. Considering this is a 2D adventure game, just like The Legend of Zelda on the NES, I see little room for improvement. The only thing I'd rather see improved upon is weather effects. For example, in the beginning of the game, it is raining. You see the rain coming down while you are playing, in the background. This adds a very nice feel to the game, and for one of the first times in gaming history, made you feel like you, yourself were in the game.
For the most, graphics do not matter to me. I get more enjoyment from playing Tetris on the original Game Boy than I do playing some cruddy game that relies on it's graphics to make up for it's terrible gameplay. The only time I do not like graphics is when they hinder your performance in the game, for example, pixels out of line in Donkey Kong Land, or the size of things in Super Mario Land. Despite the fact that I tend to overlook graphics when playing a game, A Link to the Past deserves a 10/10.
-- Control -- 10/10
I've seen young kids, as young as age three, play this game and understand what they are doing. The controls are put very simple, easy to remember, and can be picked up in 30 seconds. Because of it's graphics, it is very easy to understand what you are doing. It makes it obvious what will hurt you, and what will heal you. No two objects look alike, (with obvious exceptions to magical medallions), and it is very simple to understand what is what. Reaction time is quick and on the dot. Sword strokes happen within milliseconds after pressing the button, and items are used the same way. There is no time in between slashing your sword such as in Zelda 1 and 2 - In other words you can be a button-masher and mow down a group of enemies with just your sword, which does not give too much of an advantage to the player, but makes it far more enjoyable to play.
-- Music -- 10/10
Koji Kondo is given my personal thanks for his work. I love Nintendo themes, but out of them all, this game could reduce me to tears with it's music alone. Perhaps it's just the memories attached to them.. but regardless, the music is the best I've ever heard out of any Zelda game, even out of the SNES. The music truly brings out the feelings you have of the game. During a boss battle, for example, the music is frantic, fast-paced, and a bit louder. When talking to one of the maidens after completing a dungeon, Zelda's Lullaby is played slowly and is.. well, more of a lullaby than anything (if it's not already obvious). I remember actually staying in the conversation with a maiden just so I could listen to it. The ending credits are not a catchy tune at all, but more of an accomplishment, which gets you thinking back to all the hard work you've done to complete your quest. Considering sound effects, I see no problem. They work perfectly with the actions you are doing and the places you are in. Even fifteen years later, this game is still my favorite, considering music.
-- Story -- 10/10
If you still have the instruction booklet.. read it! The Storyline of Zelda games tell A LOT about what you are doing. And, unlike most games, the storyline is actually in the game. When you begin a new file, you can watch a mini-movie of the events up until your time. I, myself, love to connect myself to the game. I read every bit of text there is, pay attention to everything said, read signs, talk to NPCs, everything! And it's true in many games, but in Zelda especially - if you read these and understand them, the game will make much, much, more sense. One game which does this terribly is Donkey Kong. I got Donkey Kong Land 1 and 2 for the Game Boy from a yard-sale, and never got to see the box or instruction booklet. I had no idea of the storyline, or what I was even trying to get to when I started to play. The same goes for various Mario games, and countless other video game series.
Also, on a side note, this game comes with a fold-out map of Hyrule, along with tips and hints about places, things, dungeons, etc. I wish games still did this, it really can make all the difference. Zelda games have always pushed the boundaries of what was expected in video games. Not only an instruction book, but a map too. Not only one world, but another parallel world which was just as big, well.. actually, a bit bigger than the normal one. Not only one quest, but a second one! (not talking about this game).
-- Replay Value -- 9/10
I'm a bit confused as to how to rate this. Not many adventure games are intended to be re-played, but considering games like Pokemon, which rely on replayability tremendously, I had to give this a 9/10. Now, I know what you're thinking - that I gave it a 9/10 because I simply love the game and couldn't bare to give it a lower rating. Well, no. There IS replayability to this game, and much of it. For one, this game was RE-MADE on the GBA. Now think about it.. if a game is re-made, it must be loved by many people and deserve a re-make. But, considering the gameplay, there are still pieces of heart to collect (which is much more easier said than done. Some of these pieces of heart are very difficult to obtain, with huge puzzles to get to them.), along with collecting every item. Those are pretty much the only things I can think of for replayability, however, this game is a lot of fun, and chances are that you will end up forgetting the layout of a dungeon, making it just as fun the second time around. The heart piece collecting alone gives replayability a 9/10.
-- Difficulty -- 7/10
This is not really a rating as to how good it is, but to how difficult the game is. As I said, this game is not too hard, or too easy. 5/10 would be considered a cake-walk, and 10/10 would be considered as, you have to pretty much be a god at the game before thinking about completing it (Zelda 2...). I gave this a 7/10, because it is a relatively challenging game, but the answers will come with time. At first it may seem as if there is no way out of a dungeon, that you explored every part of it, and you are stuck at a dead end. You probably get to thinking "stupid programmers messed up my game!" or something, but thats where exploration comes in. Kill every enemy, push every block, press every switch, bomb every wall, anything you can think of to find a route through the labyrinth. The difficulty is relevant to what you are doing. For example, it will be much harder to make your way to the boss room of a dungeon than it is to get the dungeon map - things have just the right amount of difficulty.
-- Overall -- 10/10
As if it isn't obvious, I'm giving this game a 10/10. I truly wish the scale went above 10, though. The only thing that could be better at all is replayability, which alone is amazing. If you are a SNES owner, or even a GBA owner, you need this game. I cannot stress enough how important this game was in preparing the gaming world for future adventure games. If you've never played a Zelda game before, THIS is the one you should start with! This is one of the most user-friendly Zelda games, let alone one of the most user-friendly games in the world. Simple controls added with excellent gameplay result in this masterpiece. The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/19/07
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (US, 04/13/92)