Tomorrow’s the day. Can you hear it in the distance, the countdown to the Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild reaching its end? Is the theme song of Terminator 2 playing in your mind as it is in mine? No? Oh well.
Tomorrow I’ll probably hold off on any article until I receive the care package and set it all up for an unboxing video, so let’s use today to reveal the number 1 entry in my Top 5 The Legend of Zelda titles, one that those who know me will undoubtedly predict.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
There are games that when you think about them, you can’t help but smile, as they carry great memories. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one such game for me. It’s the first Legend of Zelda title I completed, the first time with a friend, using a local magazine as guide on how to reach the different temples, and then on my own once I had properly learned English. It has a very special place in my heart.
But memories and good times alone aren’t what makes this game special to me. There’s also the challenge. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past gives you many tools and always makes you feel more powerful, but you’re certain that the obstacles ahead, the enemies, puzzles and bosses will be formidable. When you hit the first temple, you get a taste of some of the enemy types, which will only become more powerful as you progress through the game’s worlds.
The first boss seems simple at first, with a regular jumping pattern that makes the knights a simple target for your newly acquired bow, but then when there’s only one remaining, it enrages and changes its pattern completely, which also happens in the second dungeon and in many others. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past never lets you become lazy and overconfident, it always finds a way to trip you up, especially once you’re in the Dark World, where even the difficulty level of regular enemies spikes considerably.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past has one of the largest versions of Hyrule I’ve ever seen, with dozens of locations to explore, some with great secrets hidden within. There are magical staves hidden in caverns, magical capes hidden in tombs and even an Ice Rod somewhere in the world. It was the first game in the Legend of Zelda series to have optional gear. You didn’t find it in dungeons and you didn’t need them to clear the game, but they made things so much easier if you had them. One of the best things you find is the strange bat ‘demon’ that curses you with half magic, which in truth is a blessing that makes all spells and magic equipment drain half the normal mana.
Better yet are the hidden questlines and allies you find across your journey, from a retired thief just waiting for the chance to put his lock picking skills to use, if only a complex chest were to be found, or a blacksmith wishing to help you but only if you find his brother and bring him home. Perhaps you wish to enhance some of your tools and weaponry, preparing for a new dungeon or the final battle. If so, I’m sure that the Faeries of Hyrule can help you, if you can find their abodes. And let’s not even get into the many treasure houses, challenges and games available across the land.
And that’s without considering that you have two worlds, mirrors of each other, to explore. The Light World is the Hyrule we know, with the Hylian royal family in their castle, Kakariko village to the west, with its sages and common folk, the farmers and merchants of Hyrule. To the north is Death Mountain, with its sealed secrets and perilous climb. To the East are dwellings of other people, ruins belonging to those that came before, and the same to the south, where the scorching deserts hide many mysteries, some of which you need an ancient manuscript to unlock.
The Dark World is the corruption of the light one, each locale explored in Hyrule twisted by the darkness of the Dark World’s master and prisoner, Ganon.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link the Past is the game in the series that first introduced the lore they’ve been expanding on ever since. Here is where we first drew the Master Sword, after acquiring three sacred treasures to prove our Wisdom, Power and Courage. The Golden Land, the place where the Triforce rests, became the Dark World when the ancient sages trapped Ganon within it. The sages themselves made their first lore appearance here, and the power of their and Zelda’s bloodline is a key element to the plot, as Ganon needs them sealed and trapped in the Dark World to escape the confines of his prison. By rescuing them once you reach the Dark World, you begin to derail the villain’s plans.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past has a nice cutscene that plays if you leave the main title screen idle for too long, which tells you the world’s history and how they imprisoned Ganon in the Golden Realm.
Following a common trend in the series, the lively and beautiful sprites hide a surprising darkness. Within ten minutes of starting your adventure, you see Link’s uncle die and find the King’s skeleton still on his throne as you cross the throne room on your way to safety. Even the Priest at the Sanctuary where you take Zelda after your escape dies soon after, the dark sorcerer Agahnim’s soldiers too much for the old preacher.
Even more interesting is the fact that many Hylians find their way to the Dark World on their own, becoming trapped and deformed by the land’s corruption, the most notable among them being Blind the Thief, the boss of the “4th” dungeon of the Dark World, a Hylian thief from Kakariko village drawn to the Dark World by his greed, only for the darkness to transform him into a dangerous monster, hidden behind the visage of an innocent girl to trick anyone invading his Thieves’ Town. If only someone could use his aversion to light against him…
I say the Thieves’ Town is the “4th” dungeon because once you reach the Dark World, the order in which you complete the dungeons is largely irrelevant. Sure, for some of them you need the treasure of an earlier Dark World dungeon, but they’re in the minority. It’s something that’s not common in the series, at least not since Ocarina of Time, when the dungeons became mostly linear experiences, and it’s yet another thing I adore about this game.
And to end this, let’s talk about exactly that, the Ending. The final battle with Ganon is fantastic, doable with your Master Sword only, but if you track down the Silver Arrows, you might have an easier time. And then, when he falls, you step into the Triforce’s chamber and lift the sacred treasure, wishing upon it.
And because Link is a pure-hearted person, his three virtues in balance, the wish cleanses the Golden Land and restores Hyrule to the world it was before Agahnim and Ganon set their plans in motion.
It’s a beautiful ending, and it shows how much this Link cares about those he meets, as his wish affects the lives of even the simples of NPCs, those you meet in passing, even the little boy whose spirit you see playing the ocarina.
And speaking of an ocarina, the music in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is simply marvellous, particularly the powerful Hyrule Castle theme, the classic Overworld theme and of course, the one for the Dark World. If you can, find them in their orchestrated versions, they’re outstanding!
So, there you go, that’s why The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is my favourite Legend of Zelda title. I wonder if Breath of the Wild will change this list, or if it’ll topple this Super Nintendo classic from its throne.
I suppose I’ll find out!