Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

The Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past is the third game in The Legend of Zelda series, returning to using a top down perspective (approximately 3/4 view).  It was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and later ported to the Game Boy Advance.  In the game, the player controls Link (although you can name him anything).  It starts off when he wakes up and is called upon by Princess Zelda to save her.  Link travels to the castle, gains his trusty sword, saves Zelda and then finds out that the evil wizard Agahnim has taken over the throne.  Thus beings Link's quest to gain the Master Sword in order to defeat the wizard.  After saving Zelda, the player is given full freedom of where they want to go next and where to explore.  The whole world map is effectively available at this point.  Opening the world map will amaze you at the expansive size (for the time) and the objective markers are helpful to let the player know where to go in order to proceed with the story.

It is a simple story but gets a little bit more involved and complicated and ends up being intriguing and engrossing, diverging into a much grander scope.  Link initially only has a sword and a shield.  In terms of controls, there is a button to swing his sword which is his main form of attack, you can hold it down and release to perform a spinning sword attack.  His shield automatically blocks weaker attacks that is facing.  The combat involves Link running against enemies slashing at them.  You need to face the enemy to hurt them though since Link can only stab forward and slash a little bit to the side at once.  You press another button to use his equipped item.  These equipped items can be additional weapons such as his bow and arrow, magic, boomerang, quest items to NPCs and other utilities.  It's versatile and you can change the equipped item at any time.

The third button is used to interact with the world and the last button is used to open up either the world map or the dungeon map depending on where he is at the time.  During explorations, entire screens will shift to the next screen after a brief pause even though they're part of the same map.  Enemies roam the battlefield and a lot of them will respawn if you go a few screens across and then come back.  There are rewards for exploration such as additional health pieces, treasure and weapons.  Some are crucial in order to advance the story such as for crossing gaps or dealing effective damage.  Just when you thought that you have explored the whole world, more of it gets unlocked, with more enemies, more dungeons and more items.  Dungeons are where the meat of the game is since it is a puzzle in and of itself.  The earlier ones are short and easy, whereas the latter ones become very confusing.

Even though you can find the map of the dungeon, it can be no help since there are different levels within the same screen and you may have to fall down pits or have to activate a switch somewhere before returning in order to advance.  You can get to the point of just being unsure of where to go and how to proceed.  The difficulty ramps up in the second half of the game.  Dungeons become a lot more confusing and filled with traps, enemies hurt a lot more and are harder to dodge.  This makes exploring as much as possible to gain health critical if you want to survive.  Naturally, the final dungeon is the hardest combining obstacle dodging, timed sections and also placing pits that you cna fall into easily along with other invincible enemies/traps.  Then you have to not only proceed with one room that's like this, but multiple rooms one after another.

Of course, each dungeon is inhabited by at least one boss.  Bosses can be annoying with their quick movements and specific sections where they take damage from, making Link susceptible to being hit.  The player must understand their patterns in order to find the right opportunity to strike.  There are a few annoying bosses but at least you can come in prepared with Fairies that can heal you automatically when you fun out of health.  The save system is not your typical one.  You can either save and quit, or if you die, you can save and continue, which puts you back to the last checkpoint (which may or may not be very far back).  You get to keep the things you found though which is neat.  Overall, The Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past holds up surprisingly well, from the 2D colorful graphics to the gameplay.  Even in this day and age, 15+ years later, it is still great fun to play.  The exploration is impressive for its time and still so now.  The puzzles are engaging and tough without a walkthrough.  This is definitely a fantastic game and a classic.


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