Gah, this game is bloody good, isn't it? I mean, like... just, wow.
These were not my first impressions of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I can't really remember my first impressions, or when they were, though I suspect the SNES was yesterday's news when I first heard of A Link to the Past. I just wasn't into that kind of game back then, and as gaming developed I aligned myself towards Sony, away from Nintendo.
That meant away from the Mario games, away from the Metroids and away from all of the Zelda titles. While I've seen a whole bunch of these series and know a fair bit about them, I've never sat down to play them myself until now, really, and all I can say is... wow.
A Link to the Past doesn't take long to get into, and once you are dropped into the world of Hyrule as everyone's favourite hero,
Zel Link, it is incredibly hard to argue that this game isn't the best looking game on the SNES. The fact that I'm impressed some 25 years after it's original release must give it a good shout for being the best looking game in history. It's phenomenal. So great that these pathetic screenshots will never do it justice.
If I say my screenshots are pathetic and it isn't because they're hard to capture, then it's because a game is simply too engaging to tear my hands away from the controller to take screenshots. A Link to the Past most definitely fits in that list. I want to grab you by the head and smoosh it face first against the screen if you don't see why.
You are dropped into the game, ready to run around the map. I've seen so many videos that I know where to go for once, but even if I didn't, the game is friendly enough to include a useful world map. Even that caught me by surprise, and not for the Mode 7 graphics it uses - just because there was an actually useful map.
The Princess has been kidnapped and you have taken it upon yourself to save her, and as far as Princess rescuing goes, this has to be the easiest one yet. After wandering through a bit of the castle, fighting off rats, running around guards, picking up and smashing all the pots you can see, the game is over in minutes. Princess rescued, mission complete.
Of course, then it gets going with a much deeper plot that will see you trekking to every corner of the map, unearthing useful equipment and weaponry in your quest to save Hyrule. You'll fight all kinds of monsters, interact with a large cast of townsfolk and slightly more important NPCs, you'll be pitted against puzzling dungeons and deadly bosses and you'll be doing it all in a fabulously bright and cheery looking game. Just look at it!
I'm just disappointed that time is short and that I likely won't have enough of it to really discover this world on my own. In my youth, I would have investigated nooks and crannies in vain attempts to get somewhere. I would have gotten stuck and tried something else. I would have persisted, especially if this was the one game I had to get the most out of because the next purchase might be months away.
These days, that rarely happens. I have to be really invested in something to do that, and still, when I do, it's usually with the kind of game that doesn't have this gigantic feeling world - investigating corridors is easier than investigating Hyrule. I'm definitely missing out by not playing it 'as I should', so to speak.
It's at this point where I also get to make excuses about skill level. Sometimes, getting hit felt a little bit unfair, but that would probably be because I walked into situations without thinking, or without readying my sword. I haven't gotten far enough into it to know whether I'll struggle with later enemies or with puzzles, but I think this is just a minor, personal quibble.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was, for the longest time, a game I knew a lot about but cared little for. I could see its merits, I could understand why people liked it and so on, but because I wasn't there and didn't grow up with it, I didn't have any connection to it, and thus no real desire to play it.
Finally sat down with a controller in hand, ready to dive into this world, and something just clicked and I got it. This feeling of awe and wonder must be what all these other folks are talking about. It's such a strong sense of wonder that I'm struggling to find an equivalent in the games from my youth that I did play for tens or hundreds of hours. I'd say Pokémon, but I want to try and find something that wasn't from Nintendo. Nothing is coming to mind right now. Must have had a boring childhood.
If a game that's 25 years old can do that, then it's no wonder why it's on a must play list. Forget about 1000 other title's though, because this can go head-to-head with just a handful, and likely still come up strong... And I've just got my toes wet with this game. I've barely scratched the surface.
Until the next time I sit down with it, I can only try to imagine what my reactions will be to finally seeing first hand what I've seen second-hand many times before.
If for some reason the game couldn't determine where Link was supposed to go from one screen to the next, it'd dump you into a secret room with some rupees a note from Chris Houlihan, winner of a Nintendo Power contest to get yourself into the next Legend of Zelda game.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, developed by Nintendo EAD, first released in 1991.
Version played: SNES, 1992, via emulation.
Version watched: SNES, 1991/1992 (World of Longplays, SpeedDemosArchiveSDA, Easy Allies Plays, and many more)