The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the third game within the Legend of Zelda series, and the only one to be released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. After the side-scrolling more RPG style of play of The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past was a return to the overhead view and gameplay style of the first title in the series. It introduced the concept of two different worlds, which was revisited to an extent in Ocarina of Time, with two time periods as opposed to the light and dark worlds. A Link to the Past was re-released in 2002 on the GameBoy Advance system, sharing a cartridge with the new Four Swords title.
The Imprisoning War
Once, a band of evil thieves managed to open the way to the Sacred Realm, home of the mystical Triforce. Upon finding the golden relic, the leader of the thieves, Ganondorf, slew his followers and claimed it as his own. Before long, dark power began to spill forth from the Sacred Realm. People were drawn into this darkness and never heard from again; the King of Hyrule ordered the seven Sages to seal the entrance to the Sacred Realm as a result. A great battle ensued – monsters came forth in droves from the once sacred land and attacked the castle. The Knights of Hyrule defended the Sages during their battle against evil, and though most of them perished in the struggle, the Sages were able to cast their seal, stopping the flow of darkness and the trapping the evil king Ganon within. This battle went into history as the Imprisoning War.
Once the conflict of the Imprisoning War had ceased, Hyrule entered a time of peace that endured for centuries until one year when a series of unexplained catastrophes began to occur. Pestilence and drought ravaged the land; the king investigated the Sages’ seal, thinking these trials were due to a weakening of its strength. However, the seal was found to be intact. Desperate for answers, a reward was offered for anyone who could find a resolution to Hyrule’s troubles.
In response, a stranger named Agahnim appeared out of thin air, staying the perils with mighty magic. As a reward, he was given a new position as chief advisor to the king, and hailed by the people as a hero. Once more, peace swept over the land of Hyrule, though not all was well. Agahnim began to rule Hyrule in the king’s place, abusing his power as he saw fit. Rumors spread of Agahnim planning to remove the king altogether, taking the crown for himself; there were also rumors of dark experiments being done in the castle tower by night. He cast spells on the soldiers and kidnapped the young maidens who had the blood of the Sages, using their power to try to find a way to break the seal on the Sacred Realm.
The game opens with Link being awakened in the middle of the night by a telepathic plea from Princess Zelda, who is saying she is in the dungeon of the castle. Wide awake, Link finds his uncle with sword and shield in hand, and he is told not to leave the house before setting off for the castle. Link ignores his uncle’s warning, following him, only to arrive at the castle and find him fatally wounded. He gives Link the sword and shield, entrusting him with the fate of the princess before passing away. Link proceeds to rescue Zelda and together they escape to the Sanctuary just north of the castle.
There, the priest tells Link of the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Agahnim, the legendary Master Sword. He then sends him to find the elder, Sahasrahla, who proceeds to tell him that not just anyone can wield the Master Sword, and that it must be a hero who will appear from the descendants of the Knights of Hyrule. To prove himself worthy of wielding such a blade, Link is tasked to acquire the three Pendants of Virtue.
Link overcomes many hardships to obtain the pendants and withdraw the blade from its pedestal within the Lost Woods. Link calls to Zelda telepathically again, warning that soldiers have invaded the Sanctuary; Link arrives a moment too late, finding that the soldiers have taken Zelda to Hyrule Castle. Once again, Link hurries to her rescue, but is once again a moment too late, as Agahnim was already in the process of sending Zelda to the Dark World. Upon completing this ritual there is little time before the way to the Sacred Realm is opened, the seal being completely broken. Link goes on to defeat Agahnim, who pulls the hero into the Dark World.
There, Link was contacted telepathically by Sahasrahla, who informs him that he is standing in what used to be the Sacred Realm, having been transformed into a land of evil by Ganon’s dark wishes. He then bids Link with the daunting task of rescuing the maidens from the dungeons throughout the Dark World. Upon finally freeing them all, Link travels to Ganon’s Tower, where the seven maidens use their combined power to dispel the barrier sealing off the entrance. Link proceeds to storm the tower, overcoming Agahnim a second time. Upon his defeat, the show of Ganon rises from the body, turns into a bat, and flies into the Pyramid of Power; it is here that the final battle takes place. Link vanquishes Ganon, recovers the Triforce, and wishes upon it to revert the effects of Ganon’s evil reign over Hyrule, restoring the land to its former glory.
A Link to the Past retains various gameplay elements from the original title, among them being the top-down perspective. Link can collect rupees once more and use items via an assignment to a button, as well as recovering life energy with hearts. Returning from The Adventure of Link is the ability to use magic along with major interaction with non-playable characters to obtain vital information regarding the task at hand.
A returning mechanic from both games is the availability of dungeons, which much be overcome to complete the adventure. Each dungeon contains a compass and map, the latter showing the boss’s location. Keys must also be collected to open doors, puzzles must be solved to progress, and enemies must be defeated if they are interrupting the exploration. Dungeons are multi-leveled, and Big Keys are needed to open chests containing the dungeon’s treasure and to open boss rooms.
Similar to the bombs in the first NES game and the magic meter in the second, various items in A Link to the Past can be upgraded either in capacity or becoming a more advanced version. This can be done through the completion of certain sidequests or entering certain special areas. Option weapons are hidden throughout Hyrule as well. The game introduced elements that became mainstream in the franchise, including the Master Sword, thematic dungeons, Pieces of Hearts, and the Cucco Revenge Squad.
Light and Dark World
This game introduces a very important mechanic: the dichotomy between two worlds, in this instance the Light and Dark. The game has two different maps of Hyrule that are related in several ways for example, at a seeming dead end in one world, Link can find a secret path or a passageway that is otherwise inaccessible, leading to many secrets. By switching between worlds, Link can gain access to dungeons as well. A Link to the Past has been praised for the way in which this gameplay device was used, and it has been carried over into other titles to a degree due to its success.
A Link to the Past is also the first title to have a more developed storyline, which reflects the different purposes of the dungeon. The first three house the sacred pendants that allow Link to obtain the Master Sword, the fourth is related to a failed attempt to rescue Princess Zelda, the next seven house the imprisoned maidens, who aid Link is gaining access to the final dungeon. This style of story progression was used in various subsequent games, among them Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker, although the latter enhanced the idea with various twists and subversions.
The Japanese version of the game is titled The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods, being the English translation of the original Japanese title Zelda no Densetsu: Kamigami no Triforce. Nintendo of America changed the name of the game to avoid any potential religious references. For the same reason, parts of the story were altered as well; a good example of this is that in the Japanese version of the game, Agahnim was a priest, whereas he is a wizard in the English version. The Fat Fairy of the English version is known as a Megami (Goddess) in the Japanese original. Certain locations were renamed as well; the Church becomes a Sanctuary, and the Priest therein becomes a Sage. Likewise, the Japanese version the text symbols seen within the pages of the Book of Mudora are based on Egyptian symbols, whereas in the English version they are random, meaningless figures.
Graphics and Audio
The game made use of the SNES capabilities to offer more realistic graphics, not only in relation to textures and colors, but also to add effects such as mist and shadows on the ground from leaves of the boughs of the Lost Woods, the thunder in the Dark World equivalent, and so on.
The audio retains the overworld tune that debuted in the original Zelda game, though it is only heard on the Light World map; Hyrule Castle’s theme and Kakariko Village’s are heard for the first time. The Dark World’s themes are different in all regards, meaning that the overall soundtrack of the game is far more diverse than that of the first two titles.
Like its predecessors, A Link to the Past is set within the world of Hyrule; the territory in this game is bigger than in the original but smaller than in The Adventure of Link. Now the Dark World counterpart is included and explorable. In the Light World, familiar zones like the Lost Woods and Death Mountain are present, and new locations like Lake Hylia and Kakariko Village are introduced. In the Dark World, every location differs in name and presentation; Lost Woods is replaced with Skeleton Forest, Kakariko Village is the Village of Outcasts, and the southwestern desert is the Swamp of Evil. The replacements also affect the dungeons which hold captive maidens instead of the Pendants of Virtue.
A Link to the Past was a commercially successful game, selling 4.61 million copies worldwide. It received a near perfect score from critics, and the GameBoy Advance and Virtual Console versions of the game were praised as well. Criticism focused around the possibility that fans would complain for lack of a new title for the GameBoy Advance console, while the Virtual Console was recommended only for those who hadn’t experienced the game prior.
A Link to the Past was remade for the GameBoy Advance in 2002 and introduced the Four Swords title as well. There were numerous changes to the game, including a more accurate translation, additional shops and enemies, and the addition of a new dungeon, quest, and attack that can be unlocked only with the completion of Four Swords.
The original SNES version was brought over to the Wii’s Virtual Console in 2007 and later onto the Wii U’s Virtual Console in 2014. The game was largely unchanged from the original, however, there was a full screen flashing effect that is used on the title screen, when Link uses the Ether Medallion, and when Agahnim or Vitreous attack with lightning that was significantly toned down, potentially to limit the effect of epilepsy. As a result, it’s no longer possible to view invisible walkways when using Ether magic in the Virtual Console version of the game.
BS-X Broadcasting System
The game’s engine and features were used in the alter released BS-X Broadcasting System; In 1997, BS The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets was released in Japan via the BS-X. It was presented as a sequel, much like a Second Quest. A Link to the Past itself was also released; it was only a few minor changes from the original version, such as the save system. Unlike the other games broadcast over the Satellaview service, it was able to be downloaded and played at a player’s convenience. Officially, the port doesn’t have a differentiating title, but fans often refer to it with its original Japanese name. The game was released exclusively in Japan, but Ancient Stone Tablets was translated into English by fans and compiled into a fully playable version in a resurrection project based on the BS Zelda Homepage.
1. This game has the highest number of dungeons (tied with A Link Between Worlds) with a total of twelve. This excludes a linked Oracle game, which has seventeen dungeons between both Seasons and Ages.
2. The bronze plates on the walls of the inside of houses in Kakariko Village, which occasionally dispense rupees, greatly resemble Mario.