There’s a lot of things I was thinking on writing about this week. The Mormon church was found out to be a group of unethical bullshitters (in a discovery that should shock no one), E3 was won by Nintendo in a landslide, and BP is being rightfully reprimanded for their incompetence. My issue is that I think with a new blog that I should start small before I work my way up to human rights issues or my body not being ready for Reggie Fils-Aime; therefore, I decided to go with reviewing an old classic that I’ve been nostalgia-bombing about.
Hailed by some as the greatest vidya game of all time, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past blends puzzles with fighting almost seamlessly, with interesting dungeons and fun bosses.
Be warned once again that this segment will contain spoilers for the Zelda series, as if you don’t already know everything about these games.
It’s difficult to even begin to describe this game. As a young spawn of about 8, the introduction to this game alone blew me away. For something that came out in 1992, it was unique. Gripping, even. Here, see it for yourself:
Holy shit! A new villain? One that isn’t Ganon? Today, it’d be really obvious who Agahnim really is, but for that time being Hijacked By Ganon hadn’t become a staple of the series yet.
One of the other reasons this works so well? Ganon himself is a really uninteresting villain.
Don’t get me wrong: Ganondorf is an amazing villain. But one of the reasons for that is because he’s actually subtle in human form. For a sorcerer wielding the Triforce of Power, he uses an awful lot of trickery and deception to get his jobs done, whereas in his monstrous form he’s, well, just another big monster for Link to kill. Twilight Princess even played with this by having him transform into Ganon and then back to Ganondorf because no one gives a shit about Ganon. Agahnim is somewhat like the ‘human’ form for Ganon in this incarnation of Zelda, and he actually works well, only transforming into the king of evil just before the final confrontation.
Another reason Link to the Past really hits home with me is that it’s the first Zelda game that really did things right. Zelda for the NES is an atrocious game (and yes, I know people reading this are going to hate me for saying this) and Zelda 2, while extremely difficult compared to the rest of the series, was not a definitive, ground-breaking puzzle game to say the least.
Link to the Past remains good today because it is the 2D Zelda game. Some may argue for Link’s Awakening, but even that’s a sequel to this game. This is why Ocarina of Time is still so popular today. They nailed the 3D formula for Zelda perfectly (also take notice that some, including myself, prefer Majora’s Mask which is also a direct sequel).
With the good things out of the way, let’s move onto the bad stuff. This is going to be amazingly short since, well, there’s barely anything to rip into in this game, but with my next review I can at least promise to review a bad game to destroy.
Let’s start with the digging minigame. To collect a piece of a heart, Link has to dig in random spots for 30 seconds, making him one of the first SNES heroes to be forced to become a servant of the Random Number Generator God (I can at least get behind that one) and pray to find a piece of heart hidden in a randomized tile. The only upside to this minigame is that usually you find enough rupees to pay for itself, so it’s just a matter of time until you find the heart piece. Why not just make the Heart Piece in a set place? It would save people hours and it’s not like there’s any skill involved with it in the first place. Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow would pull something of similar “quality” with Lt. Surge’s gym a few years later, but even that gave you a hint after you found the first switch!
The second issue with the game is upgrading your bombs and arrows. Each time you want to do so, you have to charge back and forth out of this one fairy chamber, giving only 50 rupees each time to the fairy who upgrades them for you (it takes 100 to get an upgrade). Not only is this incredibly expensive, requiring you to come back here an obscene amount of times, but why not allow the player to donate as much as they want right away? Why make them leave the room to have to donate more?
That brings me to my last complaint, which is incredibly minor that it seems picky. Which it is.
If you defeat Ganon, the king of evil, and are somehow so astronomically stupid that you fall off the edge of the screen, you will return to the room only to find that Ganon is completely unharmed and ready to fight again. I didn’t think Ganon had clones of himself ready to jump out at the first opportunity that someone left the room, but apparently his minions were wrong: you don’t need to scatter the blood of Link over Ganon’s ashes to revive him, you just need his soul to become mind-numbingly angry at the incompetence of Link.
With the nitpicking out of the way, I can safely say that The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of those few games that I replay every few years just to remind myself why vidya games are still worth playing. With the announcement of Skyward Sword coming soon, I can only hope that they continue Zelda’s fine traditions of dungeon-crawling fun and sword-swinging action.