Directed By: Takashi Tezuka
Produced By: Shigeru Miyamoto
Release Date: November 21st, 1991
After the less-than positive reception of Zelda 2, Nintendo decided to go back to the drawing board and return to what made the first game in the series so beloved. At the same time, they decided to expand upon it’s foundation by enhancing it’s story, giving the player more fun and unique items to use, and making the world feel more varied and alive.
How did they accomplish this? Simple! They used Super power!
With the enhanced capabilities of the Super Nintendo, as well as some incredible design that builds on the foundations of the first game, A Link to the Past quickly became recognized as the greatest Zelda game to come out up to that point. Hell, many fans still consider it to be the peak of the franchise!
Which is the first Zelda opinion held by the fans that I agree with.
I fucking love this game! When I found my Super Nintendo at my local second-hand game shop (thanks, Marios!), I got a cheap deal on a nice cartridge of Link to the Past along with it. I’ve sunk well over a hundred hours into this game across numerous playthroughs. I’ve gotten all the items, tried (and failed miserably) to speed run it, and sunk even more time in the fan-made Randomizer builds.
Oh yeah, quick side note: A Link to the Past Randomizer speed runs are kind of the coolest thing ever and you should check them out. I’ll leave a link to my personal favorite runner at the bottom if you want to check them out.
This game has a simple story that would go on to be the building blocks for many Zelda games to come. After receiving a distress call from the princess in his dreams, Link (or whatever you’d like to call him) stages a rescue that sets him off on a grand adventure to save the kingdom of Hyrule from the evil Agahnim (who totally won’t be possessed by Ganon in the end, we swear). However, after gathering three magic pendants and drawing forth the Master Sword, Link’s adventures only spiral further into madness as he delves into the Dark World to save the seven maidens and save not one, but two kingdoms.
It’s an incredibly simple story, but it’s solid by SNES standards. In the end, this game isn’t about the narrative. It’s only there to add extra incentive for the player.
An incentive that shall be ignored, cause I’ve got to toss a skull in a pond and get a magic medallion! I don’t know if it’ll help me on my adventures, but it’s cool to have!
This game improves on everything from the original NES Zelda. Before, many of the environments bled together because of the limited pallet of the NES. Now, every area is varied and unique, and each screen is easy to memorize, which makes traversal a lot easier and more fun. Each dungeon feels more unique and grand, and fighting through them feels challenging but never impossible.
The number of fun and creative items has also skyrocketed! Many series staple items found their start in this game, and I adore every single one of them. The Hookshot, the Hammer (which would go on to evolve into the Megaton hammer in Ocarina of Time), the Fire/Ice wands, the Cane (which needs to come back, I want it so bad!) the three magic medallions, the bug net, and so many others are all featured in this game. Each one has their own use that helps you on your adventures in major or minor ways.
They also added an upgrade system to the sword. Before, it was very cut and dry: get a wooden sword that sucks, then get a sword that doesn’t suck, then get a sword that’s really good. Now, it’s not just “get sword, then get better sword”. Once you get said better sword, you can later upgrade it to be an even better sword! This system makes it so you feel as if you and your arsenal are becoming stronger, not just slowly adding more shit into your massive backpack.
I also really enjoy the boss fights in this game. Each of them feels more like a puzzle than a straight up battle, which is a good thing. It tests your wits as well as your skills, which makes it all the more gratifying when you conquer them. There’s also plenty of variety in how you kill them, as you can defeat them with methods aside from the classic “hit big guy with item you got in dungeon”. That’s the easiest way, yes, but you can go about it your own way if you want.
The use of the Dark World is also super fun and creative. Traversing between the Light and the Dark makes the game feel expansive in a great way, and it opens up tons of unique possibilities for puzzles. This would become a staple in the series, what with the Future and Past levels in Ocarina of Time or the Twilight Realm in Twilight Princess. Hell, the Dark World is so good that they brought it back for A Link Between Worlds, another one of my favorites!
This game still holds up to this day, and it will for years to come. It’s a ton of fun to play, and it’s easily the best Zelda we’ve seen up to this point. If you still haven’t played it, then you are missing out. It’s a classic through and through, and it deserves it’s place in the history of video games.