Thursday, April 28, 2011

Back To The Past: Zelda 3

The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past
A short playthrough by Darris Pratt

Zelda fans are an interesting bunch. One could say we love nearly all of the main Zelda games, and most would agree with that. But when it comes down to which Zelda game is the best? That's when arguments start. If anything, I'd say there are only two things Zelda fans fight over; the Zelda timeline, and favorite Zelda game.

The other day at work me and a friend were discussing out favorite Zelda game, and right away we were at it, discussing which was better, for what reason, and why. It was an interesting debate, obviously not one in which either of us assumed victory, as we still loved each other's choices as well. Their favorite Zelda game was this one, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. And let me tell you, I understand why anyone would pick this game as their favorite.

Title Screen

Released April 13th, 1992, A Link to the Past was released a nearly four years after the previous title (Zelda II: The Adventure of Link), but it was well worth the wait. As Link to the Past was my first Zelda game (I was born in 1989), I remember a lot of very fond memories of the game, and hold it in very high regard. While the last game in the series was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Link to the Past was released on the Super Nintendo, and made very good use of the upgrade of graphics, sound, and control.

Creepy old witch...

Unlike the previous game in the series, Link to the Past controlled more like Zelda 1, as in the view is overhead the entire time. This gave the game a very slick and stylish look, along with the ability to move diagonally. Because of this update, the speed of the games combat really shined, as well did the games new sword moves and items. Overall, it was a lot like the first game, but better in nearly every single way.

As for where does this game sit in the timeline, it's hard to say. Some say that it was always planned to be a prequel to the originals, but since newer games, the role seem to be that it takes place after Zelda II. it's not that important, though. Majora's Mask messes up the timeline in a major way, but I'll get to that later.

At the beginning of the game, we are given a history of Hyrule for the very first time, but not the last, in any way. We learn that in the land of Hyrule, there was a golden treasure hidden, know as the Triforce, hidden away in the Sacred Realm. A band of thieves find a way into the realm, and their leader, Ganondorf, killed the other thieves so he could take the Triforce for himself. This sent the entire land into darkness, and the dark would draw people in, never to be seen again. Because of this, the King of Hyrule ordered seven sages to seal off the Sacred Realm, and this caused a massive battle to unfold. Monsters charged from the darkness and attacked the castle, trying to stop the sages. In the end, though many died, the sages were able to seal off the Sacred Realm with Ganon trapped inside. This would be know as the Imprisoning War. There were many centuries of peace after the war, but strange things started to happen. Drought and monsters started appearing, but the seal still stood. A mighty magician appeared, and solved all these problems. The King praised him, and gave him a place in the castle. This wizard, Agahnim, after waiting for the right time, cursed the castle guards, and started capturing all of the maidens that were decedents of the Seven Sages, trying to use their power to break the seal, and release the darkness from the Sacred Realm, along with the dark King Ganon.

Details know by the hearts of Zelda Nerds everywhere...

This is the first time we are ever given any real back story into the world of Zelda, and it is fascinating, to say the least. At a young age, I was taken aback at the depth of character in these details along, especially in a video game. The only other times I felt such a deep connection to a SNES games Setting and Story was with Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy 3 (aka 6). It drew me in right away.

After the opening, we are given another little scene, this time in a small house during a storm. Link is sleeping in bed, while his uncle sits at the table. Link is then sent a message that wakes him up, a message from Zelda.

This is a picture right from the games manual

As Link wakes up, he finds his uncle holding a sword and shield. He tells Link not to leave the house, and then he sets off. After jumping out of bed, and taking the lantern from the chest in the room, you head out and go to the castle. You find a secret entrance in the side garden (familiar to any Zelda fan, as its recreated in Ocarina of Time under different circumstances), and fall into a small chamber where you see Link's Uncle yet again, but this time he seem to be gravely injured. He gives you his sword and shield, gives you a final goodbye, and then passes away. And that's when the game proper begins.

I think this picture came from the games Official Strategy Guide

The first thing you need to do if find Zelda, who is located in the lower dungeons of the castle. After dispatching a few green and blue knights, you find her, guarded by a flailing knight. After rescuing Zelda, she tells you of a secret path out of the castle that leads from the sewers. You make your way through them and end up in a sanctuary that's north of the castle. The priest there tells you of Sahasrahla, an elder. When you meet him, he tells you of the Master Sword, a sword with the ability to destroy the Wizard (like the Master Sword needs an introduction today). But not just anyone can wield the sword, only someone who has proven himself can by gaining the three Pendants of Virtue.

These lead to sort of starter dungeons that prep you for harder one later on, as well as gain you some cool equipment. After getting all the pendants, you go deep into the Lost Woods, and find a clearing where the Master Sword sits. After claiming it, Link receives yet another message from Zelda, telling him that the evil knights have found the sanctuary she was hiding at. When you arrive, you find yourself too late, as she was already taken to the castle. As he goes to rescue her, he is too late yet again. Agahnim sends Princess Zelda off to the Dark World, and breaks the seal that kept the darkness away from the land.

A Zelda game without a Master Sword? Never.

Link is sent to the Dark World as well, right as he fights the wizard. This takes Link to a world much like the one he left, but covered in darkness, evil, and strong monsters. This mechanic, know as the Light World/Dark World puzzle, was revolutionary when it came to Zelda games, and would be replicated in later games in many different ways (Ocarina of Time Young Link/Adult Link, Season and Ages mechanics). While the maps were similar, if one were to find themselves at a dead end, you could switch over to the other world and find a new path, or part of the puzzle.

Simple enough, not as complex as some of the puzzles in later games...

As Link traverses the Dark World, he learns that he must save the maidens that were sent to the Dark World, and with their help, seal the Sacred Realm off from the Light world yet again. This brings Link to seven different dungeons in the Dark World, each more challenging than the next. Once Link rescues all the maidens, he makes his way to Ganon's Tower, a multi-level hell-hole that worked my puzzle solving skills to their very core, especially at a young age. At the end, you fight the Wizard for a second time, and now things get real. Fighting the Wizard at the top of Ganon Tower felt to me like the last boss, especially when I was a kid. So when I finally bested him, I exhaled slowly, expecting the end of the game to come next.

What a twat...

But after you defeat him, Ganon rises from the wizards body, turns into a bat, and flies off to the Pyramid of Power, the place where the final boss battle takes place, and it is an epic one. You travel to the center of the map, the location where the Hyrule Castle used to stand, and face Ganon atop the Pyramid. Ganon gains the full power of the Triforce, and uses magic and his trident to attack Link. But the Master Sword bests him in the end, and one more Silver Arrow put the evil fiend down. That's TWO silver arrow now, but in no way will it be the last. From all the boss fights in Zelda game history, this one is a good one, but is not nearly as memorable as the one's in some of the later games. You do fight Ganon's similar to this one in other Zelda titles (Boar figure with Trident), but Ganon evolves rather well into the later games.

It's not a weapon you normally throw...

So, peace has been claimed in the land of Hyrule yet again. Link lives out the rest of his life, and passes down his bloodline from generation to generation, until another is picked to be the next legend by fate. One special note goes out for this games music. It creates, remakes, and changed a lot of the simple notes and keys from the first two games, and makes them into powerhouse scores. The Overworld Theme that is so common among Zelda fans was perfected in this game, and carries through in nearly every game afterwards. If you haven't taken the time to listen to some of the games fantastic music, I will highlight some in later walkthroughs. It puts you in the mood for just about anything.

To be continued... with a different Link... and a different Zelda... in a different world...

As I said before, this was my first Zelda game, and it holds a dear place in my gaming heart. But that being said, it's not my favorite Zelda title. I'll let you know which one that is when we get to it, but for now, I'll end with this note. A Link to the Past was a groundbreaking recreation about what made the original so popular. Open world, dungeon exploration, interesting characters, and incredible bosses. And it will continue to be the favorite of many a Zelda fan.

NEXT TIME: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

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