Throwback Gaming Thursday: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – Retro Review

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is perhaps one of the greatest Zelda games to be installed within the Zelda franchise. The game takes what was introduced in the first Legend of Zelda game and perfects it, giving us a sense of direction while maintaining its theme of being able to freely explore the world at your own pace which was Shigeru Miyamoto’s vision of what Legend of Zelda was meant to portray. To be a symbol of the feeling of adventure he experienced growing up as a child, a feeling he wanted to share with us through the Legend of Zelda.

I was never the biggest fan of the Legend of Zelda, but I respected it for being one of the classics. I never thought of getting into it since I thought it wasn’t my cup of tea until Breath of the Wild showed up. It got me intrigued and interested at the franchise that it made me want to explore more into the whole Legend of Zelda titles; and so I decided to start off with A Link to the Past. So yes, this is the first Legend of Zelda game that I’ve played and, in fact, my first time playing the game and it was a decision I would never ever regret.

The game is a classic, so I shouldn’t really be talking about the plot since it’s probably common knowledge and it can be easily searched in the internet anyway, but for the sake of those who are thinking of getting into the whole franchise before BotW arrives, then I’ll do a quick summary. Oh and yes spoiler alert (I guess?)

The game starts off with you being shown the traditional scene of Link being asleep and getting a wake up call from Princess Zelda, urging you to come to her rescue.We are told by our uncle to stay as he leaves but we disobey those orders anyway and make our way to Hyrule Castle where we uncover a secret passage. Inside we see our dying uncle, he hands us his equipment and pleads us to save Princess Zelda from Agahnim just before he dies. We manage to save the princess and is immediately sent on another quest to retrieve the legendary Master Sword, the Blade of Evil’s Bane, in order to stop Agahnim, only to uncover a greater scheme involving Ganon and the Triforce.

Link holding up the Triforce

Now for the review proper. The game does a great job of immersing you into the world of Hyrule and its events. Even just a few minutes into the game, ALttP already got me hooked. Even bits of information that you get from simple dialogues with various NPCs could pretty much well be side-quests which prompts you into exploring every corner of Hyrule. Its dungeon-level designs are well put and each dungeon is challenging enough on its own, coupled with puzzles and difficult boss which are really hard to beat if you act carelessly.  With the fun experience, you gain and the useful items you uncover as you explore Hyrule, you are rewarded well for the time you take into exploring and solving the puzzles hidden within Hyrule.

The plot isn’t convoluted and is pretty well contained, it isn’t hindered by the fact that you can freely traverse out of proportion. If anything, even without cutscenes, the game’s plot, or pretty much even the game itself is pretty cinematic in its own right.

Hyrule Castle Theme, Zelda’s Theme (now known as Zelda’s Lullaby), Dark World Theme, these are some of the few soundtracks that A Link to the Past has spawned, adding in to the iconic Overworld Theme of the Legend of Zelda. The soundtrack does a great job of instilling you a sense of exploration, adding in into the immersion of the world. Each theme is well suited whenever they are being played. Be it a sense of mystery when the Dungeon Theme plays, or a sense of exploration once the Overworld Theme or the Dark World Theme plays, or even a sense of authority when the Hyrule Castle Theme plays, the soundtracks, are personally what I would treat as being one of the pillars that holds up ALttP’s success.

Map of Hyrule displaying both the Light World and the Dark World

The details that it adds to its terrains in its top-down view makes you appreciate the beauty the A Link to the Past presented in the SNES back in its day.

Having played A Link to the Past truly made me understand why it’s being held up there as one of the best games within the Legend of Zelda franchise. Its story, its soundtracks, the added details to its map, the sense of meticulously exploring the entirety of Hyrule hoping not to miss anything, all these really makes you appreciate it as a game. The game does a really good job of getting you immersed and lost in the story, giving you a sense of control yet at the same time not giving out too much hints so that the game doesn’t hold your hand too much. In A Link to the Past, I definitely felt that I was Link. I can barely find anything wrong with A Link to the Past, my only nitpick was the first battle with Agahnim since I wish it’d be more rather than just sending his blasts back to him, but other than that, nothing. This just goes to show that even the past still has something to give.

For the review of this game, I used the original 1992  SNES version of ALttP. I am aware that there is a GameBoy Advance version of the game.