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SNES REVIEWS: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past


For those reading one of my SNES review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:

"While the SNES was a constant presence in my childhood, I never had a large collection of games for it. In fact, many of the games I played I still  don't know the names of. It wasn't until I say the uproar over Breath of Fire 6 that I knew I played Breath of Fire 1 in the SNES.

After reading the excellent top 100 SNES games list by IGN:


I decided to go back and play those 100 games and review them. Well, as I looked closer at the list, I realized that there are many genres that did not age well from the SNES (racing, sports) and many other genres that I am simply not good at (shmups, arcade shooters) and others that I need other players to play against for an accurate representation (fighters). Also, I played many of the more well known games such as
Final Fantasy and Super Metroid."

We finished with the legacy reviews, so we are beginning with the reviews after my hiatus. Please feel free to give me advise on my reviews, as I always looking for improvement.

Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the IGN list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.

Without further ado, here is:

1- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past:
Year: 1992.
Genre: Action Adenture.
Publisher: Nintendo.
Developer: Nintendo.

First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.

I am actually very late fan of The Legend of Zelda series. My first game in the franchise was Twilight Princess, and I only played it in 2009. Since then, I became a fan of the series, and started playing some of the games I missed. Key among those games is A Link to the Past, a game heralded as a masterpiece not only by fans of the series, but fans of the SNES in general.

Needless to say, that set up very high expectations for the game, expectations that could never be met.

Still, a great game manages to showcase its greatness no matter how closely you inspect it, and in that regard, ALttP certainly manages to do so.

"The seal should have remained for all time..."

Except, it didn't, which is why we have a game here. Immediately, from the start of the game, you are given control over Link in a rainy and stormy night. As Link, you hear a voice bidding you to go save Zelda in the nearby castle. Perhaps a bit unique, you save the princess in the opening hour of the game.

Afterwards, you learn that the Wizard, Agahnim kidnapped 6 maidens, who have a role in keeping an ancient seal from breaking. However, Link isn't able to do anything until he gets the Master sword, which means he needs to get 3 pendants to be able to hold. Then, he must save the 6 maidens, as well as Zelda who gets kidnapped again (sorry for the "spoiler").

Basically, the story is only a matter of Link getting stuff, to be able to get more stuff.In that regard, it is simply an excuse to go conquer some dungeons.
Little, if any, characters have anything interesting to say, and the entire plot is simple.

Interestingly, you see strong evidence of the weird characterization Nintendo is going to heavily use in the future LoZ titles. While non of the NPCs are as unique and interesting as later titles, the future direction of the series is hinted at as far as the ending credits.

Basic Story: -2
Uninteresting Characters: -3 

Link holding Excali... I mean the Master Sword

"Only the Hero who has won the three pendants can wield the Master Sword"

I wonder why we need a story excuse to play the game, when we can simply play it for its own merits as a game. Merits that are completely deserved for ALttP. Simply, this game is a natural expedited evolution of the first Legend of Zelda, with everything great in the game magnified in degrees.

Given control of Link, you are simply invited to traverse the world of Hyrule, spelunking into dungeons as you see fit, and going from place to place in any order you want. While there are certain obstacle to your progress, most are natural obstacles (enemies being stronger than you) rather than invisible walls or progression checkpoints.

Every-time you progress, you feel like you gained a tool that helps you in traversing the world. Whether it is the hookshot that allow you to zip through gaps, or the Zora flippers that allow you to swim.

True, not all dungeon can be accessed at the same time, but you can often finish dungeons in different order. More importantly, it is the sense of freedom cultivated through the world's design that keeps you always moving.

Yet, you also continue to move because there is always something to reward with. When you go out of your way to explore the town, or discover hidden caves, you are often rewarded with Heart Peaces. In dungeons, you are always given new item to play around with. These items expand the game world,
and increase your options.

Once you gain the ability to jump between the Dark and Light world, suddenly the game feel like it doubledin size, and yet, moving from place to placestill is fast and fulfilling.

Great Exploration: +5
Vast Overworld: +3
A Lot of Secrets: +2

Always carry a Sword with the pointy edge towards other people

"May the way of the Hero lead to the Triforce"

Outside of the overworld, or I should say inside of it, are the many dungeons that you will need to finish to beat the game. Initially, I was left disappointed by the first three dungeons. They were short and easy, and the bosses were lacking in both gameplay and design.

However, that turned out to be only the opening sequence of the game, a practice to the much more involved dungeons in the dark world. In those dungeons, all the gameplay elements of the game click.

Each dungeon has its own unique feeling to it, each demanding smart use of your tools to solve puzzles and advance, or to combat your enemies. Using its top-down perspective, the game sometimes throws enemies at you from every direction, demanding some close action control and a thrilling dance of
dodging and attacking. When it works, and that is often, you feel just at the edge of success as you narrowly avoid laser beams and fire-blasts.

Highlighting the blend of puzzle and action are the bosses, which the later ones demand a mixture of both. To its credit, the game manages to convey most of the information needed with minimal tutorials. This leaves the player to experiment against the dungeon, but also forces him to experiment against the bosses in what is a more tense situation.

Excellent Dungeons: +5
A Lot of Tools: +2
Great Bosses: +3

Sure, I need to save the world, but first I must win some Rupees

"Do you have something to say to me, silly rabbit?!"

Even though it is in the early SNES phase, ALttP still manages to be one of the console's best looking titles, and a lot of it is due to the excellent art direction and animations. Since Link interacts with most of the world, it didn't only need to look good, but also had to animate with him as well.

Simply, shrubs can be cut by his sword, trees shake when he bumps into them, and many element of the game interact with the player's many tools. This was enhanced by the game's bright and colorful art style that clearly differentiates between each element, as well as made clear the divisons of the world itself. For instance, the Light and Dark world are both excellently designs, with one using warmer colors against the cooler colors of the other.

Similarly, the many sprites involved are all designed to give them unique looks, while animated for the action oriented gameplay. Compared to other games that use the same perspective, ALttP is nearly in a league of its own.

However, there is an unfortunate lack of variety in core areas. Mainly in the dungeon textures, which can be forgiven, but mostly in the game's music.

Thankfully, the soundtrack is great, and almost all the tracks are memorable. Yet, there are very few of them, which leads to a serious repetition of the same exact, excellent tracks. The LoZ theme might be one of the gaming history's best tunes, but it shouldn't play for 30% of the game's time.

It speaks to the quality of the soundtrack though, that I don't feel as bad about its small number of tracks as I usually would. In quality, it is one of the SNES's best, but it seriously loses in quantity.

Graphical Style: +4
Animation: +3
Great Music: +3
Limited Tracks: -3 

That's one Ugly Koopa

In Conclusion:

After finishing the game, I don't think ALttP is the best game in the series, nor do I think it is the best game on the SNES. Yet, it certainly is in contention in both categories.

Despite the limitations of the time, this is a game about exploration that manages to grab your attention from start to finish through the sheer quality of its gameplay, and through a consistent feed of new gadgets and rewards.

It is through mastering pacing, that ALttP manages to be a game that would invite players to play it time and time again, and every time they do, they are going to have a brief link to their happier past.

Final: 47/50


1- Its dangerous to go alone, keep your bottles stocked with Fairies.
2- Hey Link, if you are lost try asking a fortune teller.
3- There is a 99% chance that you are going to hit Y to check the map.
4- Use ranged attacks often.

Next Game:


After 4 years, I finally finished this review series, which I had no idea would take this long. As I often did, I disagree about LoZ placing first in IGN's list (although it is a clear top 10), but I had fun with it.

Coming next is going to be a review of the SNES itself, and a my Top 10 games for the system. Later, I am going to review the top 100 Sega Genesis games (currently going to review 41 games actually).

Stay Tuned

For Previous SNES game Reviews:

The List

For More Screenshots:


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About Lord Spencerone of us since 5:57 PM on 01.12.2014

Hello all, I am Lord Spencer, your friendly neighborhood royalty. Yes, the ancient bloodlines are letting absolutely anyone in these days.

Being the lurker that I am, I have been following Destructoid for more than four years. Well, its 3 AM where I live now, and I just plunged in getting HUGE in the way.

Here is hoping for a fun time.

Oh yes, here is a little more info about me that is probably not as interesting as I think it is:

-I owned and played about 1000+ games.
-I owned and read about 2000+ books (I counted comic books I read as a kid so this is not as impressive as it sounds).
-I absolutely love Legos.

Out of all the games I played, I only regret playing a few. I am a big fan of gaming, and thus I really like most of what I play.

Thanks to the excellent work of community member Dango, now I have a cool infographic of my top 20 games. This list is not my final one, but what I thought off at the moment. If you notice, they are presented in chronological order:

Oh, and here is a link to my blogs:
My Blogs