Embark on a nostalgic journey through Hyrule's past with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, a classic that has withstood the test of time yet faces the shadows of its modern successors. In this detailed review, I, Brighton Nelson, will traverse the iconic landscapes of Hyrule, evaluating the game's combat, music, art, items, sidequests, story, theming, dungeons, and quality of life. As we unsheathe our swords and don the familiar green cap, remember that this is just an opinion, and everyone has the right to like or dislike this game. Now, without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Review: An outclassed classic.
Combat - 8
This game has some excellent combat, even if a few other 2D Zelda games do it better. From swords to boomerangs to bows to spells and magic rods, there are many fun options to experiment with here (as always). While this game doesn't have the best combat in the series, as the bosses are on the less memorable side of the series, and there's a lack of meaningful sword techniques, neither of those things spoil an otherwise fantastic combat system for me.
Music - 10
While I'm not one to typically listen to SNES soundtracks over their remastered counterparts, A Link to the Past is an exception. This game and A Link Between Worlds have equally good music in their own right, with the two being two of the most perfect game soundtracks out there. While the A Link Between Worlds soundtrack is more immersive and polished, this game has a more stylistic and catchy vibe, making them both worth listening to regularly. From the iconic world map theme to each of the mesmerizing dungeon themes, this game has a banger soundtrack through and through. I have no complaints about this fantastic soundtrack—it is an enormous step up from its two predecessors.
Art & Graphics - 6.5
These graphics aren't appalling, but they aren't appealing (to me). While I understand the argument that these graphics are charming, they are just not for me, and I would say that the graphics of the NES original hold up better than these graphics. While this game looks leagues better than the Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, that's not saying much. I understand the love and nostalgia for these graphics, but I've never been a big fan of this game's aesthetic.
Items - 8
This game has a plethora of phenomenal items! From the traditional bombs and bow and boomerang to the fantastic Pegasus Boosts, Zora's Flippers, and Power Glove; from the Hookshot to the Fire and Ice Rods; the Magic Hammer to the Canes of Somarion and Byrna to the Medallions of Quake and Bombos, there are way too many extraordinary items here. While I prefer A Link Between Worlds and how its items are acquired, some of the items here outdid that game in spades—especially in terms of their use in combat. While that game had more fun upgrades and puzzle-oriented items, this game had more fluid item use in combat, which was undoubtedly commendable. While this isn't my favorite set of items in the series, it is certainly up there.
Sidequests - 8
This game has you finding Heart Pieces and Rupees and secrets across the map—your standard Zelda fare. Compared to some later entries in the series, this game felt a little lacking in execution and comprehension, even if there was plenty of fun to be had here. While I hate drawing too many parallels to A Link Between Worlds, this game severely lacked a meaningful collectible like the Maimai, and, if anything, that game retrospectively tarnished my experience with the sidequests in this game. While I think the side content here is very good, it isn't extraordinary.
Story - 7
What I find interesting about this game and its successor is that they both found different focuses in their stories. A Link Between Worlds focused more on backstory, characters, and lore, whereas this game focused on atmosphere and worldbuilding. This game is not as in-depth in its storytelling, yet its story hits harder due to it being told better. I have a similar opinion about Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy III—the latter may have a better story, but the former is much more memorable. However, as well as this story is told and as gripping of moments as it may have, it is still rather mediocre in the grand scheme of the series.
Theming - 9
The moment you step into the Dark World in this game is unforgettable. Thinking you have the Master Sword in hand and are about to kill Ganon after a much-too-brief adventure, only to have an entirely new world to explore? It was such a novel idea at the time and an extensively implemented concept. While A Link Between Worlds executed this concept better gameplay-wise, this game still nailed it in its atmosphere. While that game's Lorule was an alternate reality of Hyrule, the Dark World is the Sacred Realm twisted by Ganon's evil magic and corruption, which was much more interesting in my eyes. Overall, while I found the whole limited warp zone thing much less appealing than the wall rifts of its successor, A Link to the Past still had a fantastic implementation of its core ideas.
Dungeons - 8
The dungeons in this game are reminiscent of the NES Zelda titles, which is unsurprising as this game directly followed those. Like those games, A Link to the Past is much more combat-focused than puzzle-focused, the latter of which was essentially the series norm until the last two open-world Zelda titles. I'm not going to pretend this game can stack up to the likes of Stone Tower Temple, the Spirit and Forest Temples in Ocarina of Time, or the majority of the lineup in The Twilight Princess due to the simplicity of its puzzles. The combat is fun, but even comparing this game (yet again) to its spiritual successor and kind of sequel, it simply doesn't fully utilize its potential. While this was a step up from the NES titles in every way of the word, this game's dungeons were rather barebones.
Quality of Life - 7.5
The lack of early-game fast travel here was quite frustrating. While I could get over it in the original NES titles since the screens were rapid to traverse, this game was rather irritating as Fast Travel wasn't unlocked until much later in the game, and you have to walk to the same places repeatedly. The progression was also too cryptic, with some segments feeling relatively cheap. I'm not too fond of hand-holding, but I also don't particularly enjoy completely unprecedented exploration. Also, the sword movement in only four directions is frustrating for a combat-focused game, and the game didn't seem to accommodate this limited movement very well—I'd argue it felt more frustrating than the original. While the difficulty is just right, not as hard as the initial two or as easy as most others, the inconsistent hitboxes returned with a vengeance, making for some frustrating, artificial difficulty. Speaking of inconsistent, some important, mandatory items feel entirely optional (I'm looking at you, Ice Rod). However, even with all its frustrating flaws, this game is still fun to play and not buggy.
Fun Factor: 6
Overall Score: 78%
Letter Rating: A
While I always gravitate to A Link Between Worlds over this title, this game has an incredible legacy and set a precedent for the bright future of the Zelda formula. It isn't a game I prefer over its successor, yet the fact I can see why some people do shows how well this game still holds up. I love this game, and I'd recommend it to any gamer or Zelda fan who hasn't checked it out yet—it may just be your favorite Zelda game like it is for so many others!
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Primary Version: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (GBA)