(Review archived from January 16, 2015)
This isn’t my first play through of Link to the Past by any stretch of the imagination, but it is my first in quite a number of years.
In many ways this was the first game in the Zelda series to have begun the process of codifying the lore of Hyrule within the confines of the game itself. The first two games in the series relied on supplementary materials (i.e. game manuals) to convey the in-depth story details of the game(s). The first time I played this game many years ago, I was not quite keen on this particular aspect. I recognized the brilliance of the gameplay, but in some ways they had taken away the mystery present in the first two games. In the original Legend of Zelda you were dropped into the wilderness without so much as a hint of where to go other than being advised that, “It’s dangerous to go alone.” The second game introduced villages and NPCs into the land of Hyrule, but there was still an air of mystery about the place, a sense of “otherness” (although to be fair some degree of wonky localization adds to that effect). Naturally by the time that Link to the Past was released the standards of gameplay had changed and matured from the simpler experiences to be had on the NES. So here in Link to the Past, we have Zelda’s first fleshed out self-contained story as it were, complete with the history of the Triforce itself. So how is that story? Well, better than I remembered to be honest. It’s not ground breaking fantasy by any stretch, but it’s quite serviceable for what it is with an appropriate number of twists and turns. I think the young nullPointer was more interested in simply getting on with the game play (as it had been in the first two Zeldas), than in sitting through some exposition at the end of every dungeon. As an older gamer I’ve learned to take my time a bit more and to savor the subtleties.
The world presented in LttP is simply stunning. The artistry and stylistic choices are consistent from beginning to end and each one makes perfect sense within the in game world. Nintendo’s hallmark sense of whimsy and fun prevails here and wins the day. This is a game that rewards exploration and looking closely at your surroundings.
Beyond that the gameplay in this game is simply amazing. It’s one of those games that just ‘feels’ absolutely right. The difficulty curve is spot on, the gradual progression through the world(s) is excellent, and the puzzles are wonderfully presented and executed. Special mention needs to be given to the dungeons which basically serve as a master class on quality 2D overhead level design.
There’s not a whole lot else to say here that hasn’t been said before. This game is deservedly considered to be one of the greatest of all time.