Before The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, before The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, even before The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, there was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. As the third ever title in the series, it was instrumental in setting up many of the conventions that have now become commonplace in Zelda games in this day and age.
This story takes place, as usual, in the land of Hyrule where you control Link as he is telepathically contacted by Princess Zelda who finds herself locked in the dungeons of Hyrule Castle. As you play through, you learn of the wizard Agahnim who has usurped the throne and intends to break the seal to the Dark World, which was created by the seven sages in order to lock Ganon away after he broke into the Sacred Realm to claim the Triforce.
The gameplay is completely solid, allowing for full movement across not only one, but two open worlds. Hyrule and the Dark World are similar to each other in terms of geography but there are noticeable differences in aesthetics as well as the enemies you will face. Hyrule has just a few dungeons for you to explore, and doing so is relatively linear, but once you hit the Dark World and have done the first dungeon there, this sinister domain is opened up and you can take on the dungeons in any order you like.
However, due to this, there is a bit of an issue with the world being somewhat barren. While most parts of both Hyrule and the Dark World have something within them for you to stumble upon, most are empty of things to discover with just an enemy for you to run past or defeat. Still, despite that, the world still seems alive. You can actually feel yourself getting connected to the people in Kakariko Village, for instance.
Each of the dungeons in the game has a different feel, and most require the use of the item within to pass the dungeon and defeat the boss. The bosses are all varied, requiring you to think of the best way to exploit their weaknesses. Each of the items you find is unique, and some can even be powered up at various places within the game.
In addition to the main story, there are numerous sidequests for you to complete, such as digging mini-games, races and so forth. The prize for these is often a Piece of Heart, but you can easily just try to beat your own high scores if you wish to invest your time.
Unfortunately, unlike most other Virtual Console games, A Link to the Past isn’t the original version so it still runs in 50hz mode, meaning there is a slow down compared to the Japanese and North American versions. If you have only played the game on the European SNES and/or Wii, then you won’t notice any difference, but you will do if you’ve seen the other versions in action.
This game is often referred to as a classic, and rightfully so. Even today, 22 years after its initial launch, the game holds up remarkably well with its beautiful sprite art, tight gameplay and it even boasts a decent difficulty curve. It’s a game that all seasoned gamers should replay, and all newcomers should try out.
Version Tested: Wii U
Review copy provided by Nintendo