The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past — Retro Review

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was developed by Nintendo EAD and published by Nintendo in 1992. The game chronicles the adventure of a boy named Link as he is guided by an elder named Sahasrahla to save Hyrule from the evil of Agahnim, and eventually the dark wizard Ganon. He accomplishes his mission by gathering three magic pendants in order to obtain the Master Sword as well as save the seven descendants of the Seven Sages in order to dispel a magic barrier Agahnim erected around Ganon’s Tower and confront the evil within.

Normally I have compunction for reviewing games more than ten years old —I am by no means the Angry Video Game Nerd. However, I have taken special exception to this one as it is a recent play for my part, and therefore I am unswayed by nostalgia. As a result, I am able to perceive this game from an unbiased point of view and can therefore judge it objectively. To those with a great fondness for this game and a weak constitution, you would do well to turn away now.

This is a 2D game played from a three-quarter top down perspective. The gameplay is divided between exploration, puzzle solving, and fighting. Exploration allows for obtaining various items, such as rupees, a boomerang, magic jars and discovering fairy fountains for the restoration of health. Puzzle solving is left mainly to the dungeons as a means to reach the boss. As for fighting, that happens all over the place and opponents come in the form of guards and animals.

If there are any good qualities to this game, I have no idea what they are. People have lauded it for setting the standard for future instalments—what with having a light and dark world, the Hookshot, the Master Sword, the Spin Attack technique, the Ocarina and the Pegasus Boots, but such compliments speak to the testament of the sequels, not the game itself. The fact of the matter is that this game, on its own, is horrendous.

The first indication that this game is bad is when you first step out of your house at the beginning of the game and Zelda refuses to stop nagging you. There is no reason for gameplay to stop in order to accommodate her telepathic communication, but it does, which merely adds to the irritative nature of the message.

The second indication was the endlessly respawning enemies. The moment I realised this game had them, I immediately became sick of their presence because I knew, quite correctly, that they would be no end of frustration. My conviction solidified the moment I entered a fairy fountain in the cave near the castle only to have the hearts I had just got back taken away almost immediately by the guards. I made multiple return visits to the fountain until I was finally able to get by the guards without taking any damage. What a pain! And there is never an end in sight! I don’t mind having to kill these guys the first time, but having to do so each successive time is uncalled for and undesired.

The third indication is the poor hit detection. Never mind that Link swings his sword around—if you are not facing an enemy, you have to waste time hitting the directional pad in their direction before you can defeat them. And then you have to hit it again because Link didn’t move as instructed. I have had plenty of enemies stay clear of Link’s sword merely because they stood to Link’s right.

The final indication of how bad this game is lies in the fact that how to play the game is a secret. You learn that rocks can be picked up but never that some need to be charged at with the Pegasus Boots, leaving the player to believe that they need their gauntlets upgraded. You learn that lighting fire bowls is a waste of magic since they go out shortly after being lit, so when it comes time to light them in the first temple to expose the secret door, you become stuck – the fact that it is in an area that is fully lit gives you further reason not to light them. You get stuck in another temple because you are never tipped to shoot Cyclops statues in the eye with your bow, which only needs to be done the one time. In the caterpillar’s temple you avoid the holes in the floor so you never know you need to fall down one in order to obtain the temple’s special item or that falling down another certain hole will lead to a replenishable fairy fountain.

I stopped playing the game while I was in the first temple of the dark world, and the only reason why I even made it that far into the game was because I had my sister looking over my shoulder whenever I became stuck, which was unacceptably frequently. This is not only a “Where am I supposed to go?” kind of game, it is also a “What am I supposed to do?” kind of game. The only way to play this game is to already know how to play it, which is completely unforgivable. Without having done a single bit of research, I am willing to bet bottom dollar that the only reason why this game was made in this fashion was to force people into buying Nintendo Power.

A Link to the Past is one of the worst games I have ever had the dishonor of playing. It was nothing more than a consumer-paid $60 advertisement for a magazine and has no intrinsic value, and, consequently, no justifiable reason to survive the passage of time. Had any other name been given to this thing, I am supremely confident that it would not be as well received as it has somehow become. If you have never played this game before and desire to do so, get a walkthrough and never allow it to leave your side.

Paving the way for future games is an exceptionable reason for giving this game any leeway or credence; those games did not exist when it first came out. As its own separate entity, this game is pure garbage, unfit for even wiping one’s own butt with. I fail to understand how anyone can draw any pleasure from this game, never mind consider it to be one of the best in the series. From beginning to end A Link to the Past serves to be nothing more than a generator of irritation, aggravation, and anger. The only good that can come from this game is in getting your worst enemies to play it.

The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past is available on Wii and Wii U Virtual Console.

2 thoughts on “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past — Retro Review

  1. Not to sound completely antagonistic but I enjoyed this game quite a bit, sure I died a ton of times and had to put some real thought into the puzzles but overall I found the game to be quite enjoyable, especially for its time. I never really had any trouble working out what to do short of a few tricky dungeon puzzles, I worked out that lamps needed to be lit quite easily and that the cyclops statues had to take an arrow in the eye almost immediately. I can respect your disdain for the game, however, and just thought I would add my opinion to the pool.

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