- Developer: Nintendo
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Release Date: 05/09/2019
- Price: $19.99 / £17.99 (Price represents an annual subscription to the Nintendo Switch Online service, which allows access)
- Reviewed on Nintendo Switch via the SNES Online app
A Link to the… past?…
The discussion regarding which Legend of Zelda title is the best, can be the cause of much heated debate. People say Ocarina of Time is the greatest, others would argue for The Wind Waker, whilst a lot of people would opt for 2017’s GOTY, Breath of the Wild. In a few weeks time, people will be singing from the rooftops, praising Link’s Awakening. All of these games offer so much, and subsequently the argument could run until the very end of time itself. However, the whole point is moot, as there can only be one winner when it comes to ‘Best Zelda of all time’ – The Legend of Zelda – A Link to the Past.
I’m aware people will disagree. Opinions are subjective and as such, I will allow every single person who disagrees with me, the comfort of their delusions. The truth of the matter is, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past offers true Zelda perfection, on every single count. While it’s true that this particular title hold an immense emotional attachment to me, due to the fact that it was the first game I played with my stepdad, my critique is not augmented due to sentimentality. This game is, for want of a better word, magical.
The sum of the parts
Visually, the pixel art pops; handheld being particularly coruscating, but more on that later. The sound design is unparalleled, and while it’s only MIDI sounds on offer, the arrangements are so intricate, so clean and calculated, that they never grow tiresome or stretched. The music that Koji Kondo has put together also sets the scene for every moment of adventure, experienced throughout Link’s intrepid trek through Hyrule.
One of my personal gripes with Breath of the Wild was the dungeons, or moreover the lack of ‘traditional’ Zelda dungeons. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, has some of the most memorable dungeon designs in, at least the opinion of this humble scribe, any Zelda game. Although the puzzles are inherently incredibly simple, therein lies the charm of A Link to the Past. Every dungeon is diverse enough to differentiate it from any other, and the key items further add to the personality of every unique environment. Perhaps that’s the best way to describe A Link to the Past; it’s got swagger, and a real sense of identity.
The story is typical of the Legend of Zelda franchise – Link, Zelda, Ganon. Triforce. The holy trinity continue their perpetual cycle as Ganon attempts to seize power, Zelda tries to offer aid through wisdom and Link
runs around attacking cucoos musters all his courage in an attempt to thwart Ganondorf, the thief – no, Ganon, the evil King of Darkness! Whilst it may be familiar, it also sets a lot of the lore of the series in place. As such, it still holds an incredible amount of sway in the placement of the fabled Zelda timeline.
Switching it up
Regrettably, there were some uncomfortable frame rate drops during my playthrough on the Nintendo Switch Online app. These occurred often, usually in dungeons when there were a few enemies on screen or when Link threw a projectile. It’s a shame that performance issues marred my time with A Link to the Past as I have played through it in excess of fifteen times in my life, across SNES, Wii, Wii U and New 3DS, and never encountered such problems.
Another small complaint is item management. While there is more than enough choice; with staples of the series such as the bow, boomerang and hookshot (BOING!) all present, you can only ever equip one at a time, meaning you occasionally have to open a menu mid battle, putting the game in a pause like state. While this is a limitation of the hardware, it does feel slightly cumbersome. When the inevitable remake rolls around (although I feel we’ll see the Oracle games next), I would love for the inventory system to be re jiggered somewhat, to allow more items to be equipped at once.
A Link to the very near Past
The Nintendo Switch online SNES app features an array of QOL features. Restore points return, allowing you to save your progress at any point and return in game to exactly where you were. The rewind feature that made it’s way to the NES iteration of the Online app is also available at launch. Rewind allows you to go back to earlier points and reload previous states of gameplay, on the fly. Essentially you can save yourself if you fall of a ledge, or die in a boss battle. A little ‘cheat-y’ perhaps but QOL is all the rage these days, and with the Nintendo Switch being a family friendly console, it makes sense that such features are present, to accommodate young, old and beginner gamer’s alike.
Another feature found buried withing the confines of the SNES online app’s menu, is the display options. The traditional 4:3 aspect ratio is set as standard, but you can also choose from ‘Pixel Perfect’ and CRT Filter’ options. CRT Filter add the lines you would have been accustomed to playing this title on the front room TV of your childhood, and actually looks rather nice on a modern flat screen TV. The Pixel Perfect options sharpens everything up to the nth degree, and while it looks a little off when playing in docked mode, in handheld mode it shines. Everything looks clean and vibrant and the best comparison I can make, is that it holds it own against a lot of modern indie games that go for the same visual style, despite A Link to the Past knocking on the doors of thirty.
A Link Between Worlds
A Link to the Past was the first Zelda title to utilise a dual world mechanic. This not only leads to a familiar, yet different environment to explore, but also lends itself to puzzle solving. Cause and reaction. What you do in one world may directly influence the other, allowing progress to be made, and making seemingly impossible to reach areas, reachable. Whilst this is common place in video games today, I remember this blowing my five year old mind. Even playing through today (and despite my muscle memory being nearly perfect) I still afforded myself a wry smile when manipulating the game’s ominous Dark World, so as to traverse an area in the regular world.
Are you down with the NPC’s?
Link, Zelda and Ganon – along with the Wizard Agahnim and Wise Man Sahasrahla, bring a lot to the table, but it’s the supporting cast of NPC’s that add so much depth and draw to the world of Hyrule. You’ll encounter a plethora of people with whom you can interact with, and while they’re not as weird or wonderful as the eclectic cast of characters found in Majora’s Mask or Link’s Awakening, they all evoke a genuine sense of pathos that resonates and makes your own need to save Hyrule feel even greater. From the boy who likes bugs – who got terminally ill playing on the mountain, to your uncle; who’s own demise happened so early in the game, he could be Ned Stark, Nintendo really shied away from their image of making games for kids when creating A Link to the Past. As well as the emotional connections involving these characters, they also participate in some brilliant side quests, often spanning multiple worlds.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past remains the pinnacle of the 2D side of the Zelda series. The game’s heroic score, married with the perfect pixel visuals still holds up to this day, and utterly engrosses the player in this iteration of Hyrule. Along with the game’s accessible yet rewarding dungeon design, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past will charm you from the very first foray into Hyrule Castle, all the way through to the enthralling final encounter with Ganon.
- Consistently perfect dungeon design
- Accomplished audio direction
- Packed to the rafters with charm and charisma
- On Nintendo Switch, performance issues are too regular
- Managing items is a little heavy handed
VerdictThe score reflects performance issues encountered in the Nintendo Switch version
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is a timeless masterpiece that, even 28 years after it’s initial release, remains the benchmark for Zelda games.