Insisting That His Name is NOT Zelda in the #8 Position…
We come to a game on our list that anyone who’s ever played the Zelda series would have expected to be here. A Link to the Past is arguably the first truly great Zelda game, and is remembered fondly by those who had the pleasure of playing it when it was new. Copies of this cartridge are still treasured to this day, even if you do need to blow into one to get it to work. So lets go back to when Zelda crossed the threshold from merely great to historically great, and took its rightful place in the Pantheon of great gaming franchises.
A Link through Time
A Link to the Past was both a step back and a step forwards in some ways. It broke away from the side scrolling of Zelda II, and went back to the top-down perspective of the first Zelda game. But this time they had the power of 16 bits! Okay fine, that doesn’t sound like much, but when you compare Zelda I and II to A Link to the Past, it becomes clear that the modern style of the Zelda series really took shape in the third installment. The SNES provided enough power to allow for an artistic style that’s still very much in evidence today if you look at the Game Boy, N64, GameCube, and Wii Zelda games that have been produced since. In A Link to the Past, Hyrule got a life and style it could truly call its own.
The story and game play in Link to the Past also began utilizing the idea of parallel worlds, an idea which became a staple of the series that Zelda games have repeatedly used to wonderful effect. Going between the Light World and the Dark World was a major game mechanic in Link to the Past, and the game used it brilliantly. Both worlds were nearly identical, but the denizens completely different. What physical differences did exist in the landscape was often necessary in order to solve puzzles or to progress into another area. This idea also allowed the game to double the use of the basic layout of Hyrule, and essentially doubled the world’s size. Link’s mobility also greatly improved from I and II, in that the game now allowed for diagonal movement. This sounds ridiculously simple by today’s standards, but it really gave the player a feeling of freedom, rather than being stuck in designated squares and up or down movements.
The History of Hyrule
One of the biggest differences between Link to the Past and it’s predecessors is that it just felt bigger, both in terms of landscape and breadth of story. More of the history of Hyrule was laid out in Link to the Past (as the game’s secondary title indicates). The opening takes place prior to the previous two games, with Link waking on a stormy night to find his uncle readying for battle, and telling Link to remain in bed. Being the future hero he is, Link pursues his uncle into the dungeon under Hyrule Castle to find him mortally wounded. Link takes up his fallen uncle’s sword and shield and goes to rescue Princess Zelda from the dungeon under the castle. Finally, a game where you just go rescue the princess right away! The story then continues as you fight to stop the evil wizard Ganon from being released from the Dark Realm, and secure the safety of the land of Hyrule.
A Link to the Past was also the first time we saw the Master Sword, which has become as iconic to the Zelda games as Princess Zelda herself or the Triforce. Other weapons and gear that were first introduced in this game have also become common reoccurring tools in the Zelda games, but the fact that the Master Sword was first introduced in A Link to the Past really symbolizes what the game did for the Zelda series. A Link to the Past became the template for all future Zelda games, even those that don’t take place in Hyrule. In all ways, it really is the history of not only Hyrule, but the origin of The Legend of Zelda as we know it today.
A Hero We Needed
A Link to the Past is an all around great game. In many ways, over and over, it set the stage for Zelda to become the staple of gaming as it currently exists. It reinforced Nintendo as the standard-bearer for video games in its time, and set a new standard for their quality at the same time. If you play video games, you know the Zelda series, and A Link to the Past is the reason. It may or may not be the game you’ve heard of, but it’s why the series is what it is today. It gets a 5 out of 5 for solid game play, a comprehensive story, and just frankly being one hell of a game.