After the previous successes of the past 2 Zelda games on the legendary NES console, it seemed that developing a sequel to the original Zelda title would be and excellent way to use their newfound 16-bit technology, and in 1992 the company spawned the next addition to the Zelda line, "A Link to the past", the only title of the series on the SNES and one that is considered the most remarkable and perhaps one of the best in the franchise.
Once again Link returns and is living his peaceful life in the outskirts of the local village with his uncle, but as usual, trouble is afoot and this time in the form of dastardly wizard, Aganahim. The deluded power mad servant to the throne has imprisoned maidens, in order for him to divulge lightworld, wreaking havoc into darkness. The final maiden is princess Zelda, who's been guarded within her own castle and is, by means of telekinesis, contacting link and he ventures out, after his uncle, to the world of Hyrule once more. A Hero saving the princess, yep, that's right...but he's not really your stereotypical knight in shining armour either.
For its day, 1991, this is a breakthrough in graphical innovation. Powerful textured tilesets and subdued within a perfect world for adventure, exploration, imitate battles and encounters with ghastly beasts and strangers you'd want to destroy. The animation is fluid and funny in some occasions, locations; fantastic - a realistic vision of the developing mind. The conversion of light to dark worlds is fantastic, you can most definitely tell which is which due to the emotional quality of your surroundings. Every pane of grass can be cut; each hit of your enemy produces the same sense of achievement of some games today, and others that lack this quality.
Although it’s not a major thing, the graphics really do provide that extra sense of realism – although the colours are vivid and quite insane in places, for example, Link’s hair being purple, it’s evident throughout that the flamboyant world that our hero emerges in is still remarkable today as it was back in 1992. Each character looks and feels real, from their movements on screen to the intricate details – hair, helmets and even broom renderings, although miniscule, can be made out and it’s these subtle effects that enhances the world in which you travel. On the other hand, the animation is fluid and works extremely well for its time and still captures the movement that the conceptual artists wanted to portray in Link’s adversaries, the swift burying of the earthworm into the clean sand or the smug teleportation portrayed in the prat of a Wizard, Aganhim, it seems so refined. In terms of the backgrounds and tilesets, it’s evident that Nintendo opted for a mixed variety of styles. The actual atmosphere is portrayed in a very graphical way, although it’s replicated again and again, due to the nature of tilesets, it’s done to the very last detail – small post-box in a village house, to the bricks on Ganon’s tower, it’s art.
The sound represented in the only 16-bit title was of the best quality, in terms of music and effects, found in Zelda title. The already popular overworld tune, which we all know, was remixed and had some excellent instrumental renditions, literally pushing the console’s hardware specifications to their limits, with epic changes in scenery, the music always represented the mood of the area you were in. From the drab dungeons in both light and dark world, to the peaceful homestead of a small village cottage, sound was prominently used to heighten the dramatic effect employed to create a greater feel for the environment you were in. When it came down to the sound effects used in the game, although basic, they had some excellent renderings – sword slashes, breaking of pots and the temperamental cries from Link’s enemies, they were a little too repetitive but not so to ruin the experience somewhat.
It's a Zelda game from Nintendo, this is where the game probably excels the most - every pace you make will be useful, each location is as compelling as the next, even when you have to sprawl the lands of Hyrule just to get there. The overworld had the epic sense of space and the ways in which you would encounter an enemy around each corner added to the excitement, it was pure gaming joy without denouncing into a long spiral of being repetitive. The transition to each location you had to visit was equally as enjoyable, and interesting too – you never quite knew what to expect, and even playing through this title today, you won’t wish you could simply irradiate a long massive field or ocean, as, there isn’t. The closely packed regions but with plenty of expansion reveals something that other games perhaps don’t develop as much, and it’s the sheer expansion of the small regions that allow for simple exploration to be at equal grounds with the main quest as it were.
The dungeons or main levels are excellent, a true challenge to any gamer, something that other titles in the same genre lack, and it’s the expansive puzzles and the constant back tracking, but not overused, that emphasises the adventurous/exportation nature perhaps found in games of this amount of precision. In terms of battles/fights, the game excels in that department, although it seems that it’s primarily a timing affair – with combat relying on defence/attack at the appropriate times, or dodging particular combinations from enemies, but, sometimes it tends to be a little tedious where as a few enemies are unusually powerful or are simply unbeatable in a pack, but, this helps to raise the difficulty level and also boosts the game’s lifespan. General combat with the range of weapons is excellent, there are ranges of tactics the player can employ by beating enemies and this usually relies on using the mirroring weapon in Link’s arsenal, i.e. bow against archer etc, although almost all standard guards and creatures can be vanquished by the simple tap of the sword. On the other hand, bosses are very well controlled as not to be repetitive and so that they require some form of strategy or another, and it’s this tactic that allows for broader gameplay options.
But, is the aforementioned quest any good, the answer is simply, yes, with one of the most epic adventures to date that just can’t be eradicated into existence, one with memories that will last.
This is something in which I have a few concerns with in giving it a pure score. The reason being that it’s due to the player with regards to how long it takes to complete this epic adventure, but, overall, this is one long epic quest, a little tedious in places, but this adds to the excitement and challenge. The dungeons’ difficulty levels are varied, but, there is a constant learning curve throughout the game, it’s slightly varied in places and can be far too easy depending on your skills, but, overall, it is a title that has been fully developed to provide, even for the most skilled of gamers, a tough challenge that denotes some brainpower and also being one of best Zelda titles.
Even today, this is a tough classic - a game of epic class and charisma. Something that ever gamer should add to their collection, whether it be on the SNES, PC or GBA, it's one to look out for.
The side-on viewpoint actually works better than many Zelda-stalwarts would like to admit. Also, you are forced to face your oncoming enemies, rather than go around them, which adds to the fun factor on the whole.
Superb graphics. A range of clear graphics, character models are very well designed, small but accurate as well as the environments Link encounters – colourful, enigmatic and enough to portray a “real” imaginary world.
The classic Zelda theme we all know by heart is used well, and not so that it becomes annoying and also reflects upon the action on screen. This is particularly evident when Link enters the darkworld for the first time and the eerie replications pound into the player's head, addictive, surely so. But, the effects used in the game are a little repetitive but show a nice range of different properties.
Despite the adventure itself not being too long, and there not being too much replay value, the actual difficulty level will keep many gamers at bay for quite a while.
Although it's predecessor perhaps had a little too much variation for its own good, A Link to the Past deviates from the NES side scrolling adventure of the prequel and relates to gamers once more with some excellent gameplay, coupled with gorgeous graphics and the classic Nintendo style and charisma that the company had acclaimed to. The developers have done wonders with this title, heck, they even ported it to the Game Boy Advance, and memories will never die of one of the most grand Zelda adventures of all time.