How's it going, D-Toiders! If you haven't read my bio (Or I've actually stayed active enough to change it and you're reading this from the future), I'm just some guy who's been lurking around for years and finally decided maybe I'll try and get involved with the place. Between A Link Between Worlds coming soon, me finally playing and completing the original Legend of Zelda, AND finally finding the time, I thought I'd write a c-blog!
If the title of this blog is lost on you, lemme explain. About 2 years ago Egoraptor started uploading some videos to Youtube analyzing games and their sequels, called Sequelitis. They're an extremely in-depth look at what made a game and how its sequel either improved upon it or dropped the ball. They got a little popular and then just stopped coming out and that sucks. This C-Blog is gonna be in spirit of that, going over how A Link to the Past (aLttP) improved over the original Legend of Zelda (LoZ).
To start, let's go over the original LoZ real quick. You start out equipped with nothing but a shield, which can deflect some attacks sure, but you can't defend yourself. If you go out into the wild you're probably going to die. Fortunately for you, the starting screen is one free of enemies and obstacles, and only has a cave, so hey, let's check it out! Inside you'll find an old man warning us "It's dangerous to go alone! Take This." (like it says in the image up there!) Now not only are you equipped with a wooden sword and ready to fight those creatures from Ganon that are pretty bad, you've also learned that if you go into caves you can get equipment to aid in your quest, which is really rad.
And more or less, this is really the only lesson the game needs to teach you to get you started on getting the Triforce, saving the town, and Mr. Krabs Princess Zelda! You're going to explore Hyrule, find some caves and shops along the way, get some more items to help you, and maybe find some secret rupee stashes...or piss someone off by busting their door down. Leaving you with an open world to explore, discover, and collect items to get stronger, not dictating every facet of your level order, the original LoZ succeeds in its goal of being non-linear. Whether you wanna be super buff before starting any dungeons or go crazy and beat the game without picking up a sword, you're absolutely free to do that.
However, while this non-linearity is the game's greatest strength, it also leads to the game's greatest weakness, having next to no direction in the world. Almost all of the caves you will find are merely shops for the same items you see at every other shop, a quest to open another store, or to receive an item. Nothing is marked on your map (It only shows where you are in the world) and without any unique landmarks to go by, you'll find yourself running around in circles while this plays on a loop inside your head. It's an experience that's fun at first, but can very quickly become frustrating because you're not making any progress.
So what does aLttP improve from this? Everything!
"Everything? Sir, you're being far too hyperbolic!" But hear me out, because aLttP starts showing off all of its improvements from the moment you start the game!
I'll start with the very moment you start the game after naming Link! It's a dark and stormy night, and you receive a call for help from Zelda telepathically, mentioning she is a "prisoner in the dungeon of the castle." You wake up immediately after to your uncle telling you "don't leave the house." Obviously this means you SHOULD leave the house, and we should head out to the castle because Zelda needs help over there. So we haven't even gotten movement of Link yet and we've already fixed the original game's biggest detractor, lack of direction.
Better yet? You start out with a world map, clearly marking where you need to be going and where you're at. While it may show you where the dungeons are, it never spoils what you'll have to do to get inside of them or to get there. So you'll always have an idea of what has to be done and where you need to go, but exploration is still encouraged and rewarded for finding out how to get in there and finding more equipment to help along the way. The structuring of the game may be different, and is admittedly more linear at the start, but the original's allure of having a world to (for the most part) freely explore remains intact.
Our next improvement lurks within the Dungeons, having evolved exponentially. In the original LoZ as you'll see in the image above, they're only one floor (Though they do start to get pathways to switch between rooms) and consist only of rectangle shaped rooms. Often, you'll see the same room patterns repeated throughout dungeons, sometimes repeated over in the SAME dungeon. (You'll see the room with two blocks in the middle A LOT) Now look at the aLttP maps. Do you see the different shapes going on there, along with the multiple floors? Each dungeon is now free to do its own thing, sporting unique gimmicks not seen in the original that you'll have to learn in order to get to the boss.
Every dungeon in the original LoZ was pretty straightforward, walk around collecting some keys, kill every enemy to unlock the door, maybe push a block to get an item, and later on, check the map like mad and bomb walls. For aLttP you'll being doing all of this while discovering alternate entrances to dungeons, using switches to open up pathways while blocking others, manipulating water levels to overcome obstacles, and more!
Giving enemies consistent placement and some AI to work with helps add to the variety as well. In the original LoZ, most enemies were just randomly dumped around the room to wander like mindless zombies, and depending on the room you didn't even have to kill any of them. It wasn't the most engaging experience. aLttP on the other hand mixes it up with enemies that will chase you if they see you, back off to get a shot with their arrows, dodge your attacks, punish you for attacking directly, and again, more! All of it comes together to form a much more involved experience for the player, and is hella fun as a result.
Now let's talk about the most interactive upgrade, what we can do as a player. Look at the image above, that's a pic showing all of the basic actions you can do in both games. As you can see, aLttP adds a lot for combat. In the original, without using any special items, the only thing you can do is stab your sword out in front of you (If you picked up the sword). Simple enough, but rather stiff, and not always as effective as it needs to be when you're surrounded by enemies, because unlike Castlevania, your special items aren't going to cover extra arcs that your basic weapon can't.
aLttP on the other hand upgrades that stab into a slash covering what's in front of them directly, and hitting the sides a bit, so just swarming you with enemies you can't hit isn't going to cut it anymore. Then we have the spin slash, perfect to start defending yourself when an ambush drops down on you, and you can even hold the charge for the spin slash out while moving, so if anything tries to charge you you've got a safety net in place to get some distance between you both to ready for battle. ...And then there's still lifting! Get a little interactive and use your surroundings in your combat by picking up bushes or pots to toss at enemies, or by knocking them off a ledge. (Early on those pots are your best weapon! ...Frankly they're just satisfying to throw at people too.) There are now tons of different combat situations to find yourself in, and even more ways to handle all of them when they come!
And that about wraps it up for what I wanted to cover here, because while there's still tons I could go on about from here, I only wanted to touch up on the foundations, going over what the original LoZ started, and how aLttP made it all even stronger. I could go over the different series staples that were introduced, rave about its soundtrack, or ask why Link never got his pink hair back, but that'd make this blog even longer than it needs to be, and I'd say it's probably already too long.
So thanks for reading, and hopefully it was worthwhile!