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The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past review
Exceptional
by Owen Helfer

Fantastic. Just a thoroughly enjoyable game, start to finish. Link to the Past takes everything that made the first Zelda great and amplifies it. The biggest improvement is in the exploration aspect of the game, where I believe the jump to 16 bits is the most important. The first game's map was incredibly same-y, due to the graphical limitations of the NES. This led to exploration that felt fairly arbitrary, like burning one bush that looks exactly the same as every other one. This installment is able to add more nuance to map design in order to make clearer yet still emergent exploratory gameplay. As someone who is often annoyed by dungeons, I found this game's iterations to be nothing but enjoyable. The game rewarded you for finding your own pathways to the end, and the bosses were difficult yet balanced. My only complaint is that the items feel very hit-or-miss, with some greats like the hookshot, and other lame rewards like the staff that creates blocks (lol ok?). I think this is the first Zelda that stands up even by modern standards, almost 30 years later. 

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Often (in my experience of course), when people talks classic Zelda, always are the original one or Ocarina of Time for most of them, but ever is one more energetic and passionate person even a little snobbish who'll tell me how ATTP is the better Zelda experience and how what came after isn't as great or a rip-off, having beaten it I'm not sure if I agree with this sentence but I surely now understand why people love this game so much.

A Link to the Past starts without losing time and getting you right into the action without explaining a lot, a formula that will repeat for the rest of the game and never loses its steam or charm, after beating a dungeon you'll be prompted or hinted to get to the next one, at first the hints will be direct almost linear, but at some point in the middle of the road the game releases your hand and you're on your own, a thing that I enjoyed a lot because the map practically begs you to be explored by you, to backtrack and find every item and secret it has to offer. One of the strengths of ATTP is its cryptic nature and how important stuff that's needed to clear the game is not hinted to you by its "main" campaign, instead you need to find items on your own that are not hinted clearly, for instance, the game would tell you to get to point A to advance to the next point of the story although when you arrive to A you'll find that you can't advance but you'll notice a symbol or color of a certain item that you need, the game doesn't tell where or what it is so you need to explore the map with whatever new item you'll have and find the one thing that you don't know what it is, but you'll know when you see it, for this reason, you'll be rewarded when you explore its world in-between dungeons, although I believe this is one the game's strengths I think that it can also be one of its flaws, to some people at least,

you see,

ATTP is a game of swords, double edged swords more precisely, when you are prompted to look for an item you currently don't have, if you enjoy to explore its world it will be a fun experience even if you're "stuck" in that phase for some time, but what happens if by some reason you simply can't find said item? this could easily transform into a frustrating and long repetitive backtracking phase, the luck factor of getting something is a little high to me at least, although this only happened to me at one time I think it's worth to note if you're a player who doesn't enjoy to wander around without direction.

Speaking of double edged swords, the combat is quite mixed, one of the best things are the boss fights, a few of them are fairly easy but the more you advance the more challenging and creative they become, I specially love one that felt more like a shooter boss where you need to evade a lot of stuff that is coming right to you while trying to hit the boss with its erratic movement or that last dungeon boss fight in which if you die it means that you need to get a quite expensive magic potion and backtrack to the boss room again (that one might be quite punishing tho'), it is just frantic. The other edge here is that the combat doesn't feel as polished, the range of your attacks is fairly short even when it extends a little at some point, also it hurts a lot that you can only attack in 4 directions and not diagonally, but a lot of the enemies will hit you in every direction so you need to position yourself awkwardly quite a lot, game-play wise this will mean a lot of annoying hits and dying, this is more notorious on the late dungeons where enemies take you 2-3 hearts per hit and the screen is filled with projectiles (from invincible enemies mind you), ATTP is quite a challenging and at times hard game but given the combat it falls a little in the unfair side.

The music is fantastic, growing with OOT one can easily take that game as the OG for a lot of things of Zelda games, however I was surprised of how many classic tunes were originally from this game, and how beautifully the arranged versions of past songs sound in here. The sprite-work is quite charming also, Link is quite expressive and well animated in a cartoony and pretty way and that's for every sprite in the game, they speak volumes with so little to show. As for the story, I find it pretty great, with dark tones here and there and some twists that may not be that unexpected but are managed quite well, in particular I loved how the atmosphere added a lot to the story and how masterfully done are the tonal shifts within the world also are applied amazingly into the story.

For every dark thing ATTP has it also excels in another with flying colors, its mechanics might be double edged but that double edged sword is what makes this game so rewarding, is easily to recommend this game for Zelda fans who are looking for a challenge, but if you prefer more linearability maybe you want to skip this one or wait till Nintendo remakes it with some tweaks.
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«Time-tested»
«That ending!»
The Legend of Zelda is one of my favorite gaming franchises of all time and most of the things I love about the series was either started in this game, or taken from the NES-Original and refined.
It's basically the Zelda formula distilled to its finest points. 

While later games had cool gimmicks, better characters, bigger worlds, more intriguing stories, I still find myself coming back to this one the most when what I crave is just good gameplay and dungeon design.
It is also my #1 favorite game to randomize, though this is getting into modding territory which I don't think I should give the base game full credit for.

I guess my biggest issue with the game would be the fact that there isn't unique music for every dungeon. But that's honestly about where my criticism ends.
It's great!
«Time-tested»
«Beaten more than once»