As I reported before, the latest round of switch online classic titles have dropped. I had planned to play Donkey Kong Country, but after a few levels, I found myself gravitating to Link to the Past. I had only intended to play for a moment, but before I knew it, I was striking the final blow to Ganon having gotten all the hearts and upgrades. What sucked me in? What makes this game such a classic?
I first played the game when I was around 8 and it was a hard game for a kid back then. I didn’t own the game guide nor was it yet the era of home computers so usually I’d end up wandering around the world in childlike wonder. Usually in the village harassing chickens and catching bees. As an adult, I blasted through the first three dungeons in like an hour even with side quests. That isn’t a bad thing. The game really gripped me because it is really charming and fun.
With the time this came out in mind, there are little touches of polish everywhere. When you fight soldiers, you have to line yourself up just right or you’ll wind up only clashing swords and not getting in any blows. If you knock an enemy down a pit, they have a unique falling sprite that still makes me chuckle. There’s certain enemies that show up once and never again which makes them feel special even if they aren’t. While there isn’t too much to the story, the stand out cast of characters more than makes up for this. There’s witty dialogue, jokes that still hold up, and silly animations like the two wood cutters. Not to mention some really heartfelt moments people still remember to this day like the boy who plays an ocarina in the woods. My personal favorite character are the blacksmith dwarfs, especially the one that turns into a frog. Also I still love all the fake swords in the lost woods. There’s those little touches everywhere that really brings the world to life. For example, when you drain the lake in the plains, there’s a fish flopping around which can pick up and toss into a lake for a thank you and some extra money.
This game has a stellar soundtrack. It’s the first appearance of many staple music tracks to the series such as Ganon’s organ, Kakariko Village, and Zelda’s lullaby. There’s a lot of unique tracks in the game. From the forbidding opening stormy night to the epic castle theme and the melancholy dark world theme. It’s all fantastic.
You also get to, for the first time (in the series) interact with Zelda. Instead of only showing up at the end, she’s right there from the beginning and plays an active role in the story, aiding in the escape from Hyrule Castle and in sending you helpful messages throughout the dark world. I like that there’s story to her, little as it may be by modern standards. You really grow to like her which makes the moment she’s kidnapped before the second act that much weightier.
Going from the first two games to this one is such an advanced leap. This game absolute benefits from coming out before Ocarina of time. You can do dungeons out of order if you have the right tools, something we really wouldn’t see again until Breath of the Wild as the games grew more and more linear. This is something that ended up hindering the series especially as there were more and more entries (looking at you skyward sword).
And then there’s the dark world. You get to death mountain and after admiring how high up you are (another really clever moment), you appear to be stuck. You then find a tile, step on it, and bam. You’re transported to a corruption of the land where the triforce usually resides; a sort of parallel universe. Link is a bunny and if you look at the map, you see a very different world. Its the perfect set up to giving you a hint that there’s so much more to the game. You are quickly back in the normal world by way of a clever mirror puzzle that subtly hints there will be puzzles like this in the future. The whole dark world is just top notch, especially how the two worlds interact. This game takes full advantage of the mechanic.
With great controls, crisp pixel graphics, unforgettable characters, and an amazing soundtrack, this is one of the best Zelda games in the series. For me, it’s in my top five for sure. I was happy to find that even though this game is a lot easier as an adult, there’s still a good amount of challenge and a large amount of fun. If you haven’t replayed this lately, or skipped it entirely (shame), I recommend picking it up again.
I give The Legend of Zelda A Link to the Past a 10/10