Console: Super NES Company: Nintendo of America Release Date: March 1992 Genre: Adventure Number of Players: 1 Save Feature? Yes!
In terms of fantasy and adventure, it is nearly impossible to beat the charisma of the Zelda series. There is just something that seems to permeate these games and make them instant classics. Perhaps it is the large world to explore, the plethora of secret items, or the charming gameplay. Whatever the reason, Zelda 3 might be the most beloved member of this legendary series. While this prequel is by no means the greatest video game ever, it is still a classic in every sense of the word.
Overview: For nearly two decades, the Zelda series has captivated audiences both young and old. It never ceases to amaze me how so many adults find themselves hooked on the Zelda series! People who wouldn't go near a video game if their lives depended on it can't stay away from Zelda!
Why Zelda has such a cult following continues to boggle my mind. Perhaps the originality or "uniqueness" of the series is one reason for this. In terms of gameplay, Zelda seems like nothing special on the surface. You fight enemies with your sword, earn rupees, fight bosses, purchase items, and fight more enemies! However, Zelda goes beyond being a simple action game and incorporates many elements of the adventure genre. As a matter of fact, it probably wouldn't be much of a reach to suggest that Zelda invented the adventure genre! The original Zelda game (released in 1987) was so revolutionary at the time that it couldn't be labeled as a traditional action game nor a puzzler.
Simply put, Zelda 3 is like its predecessors in that it incorporates elements from several genres and adds enough new elements to be labeled something different (an "adventure" game in this case). There is plenty of action in the game but the real meat of Zelda 3 is in the enormous world of Hyrule with its many secrets and puzzles. Believe me; cartographers will have a field day with this game! Sometimes, the greatest challenge is not just trying to figure out where to go next but to discover exactly how you expect to get there! Although it is difficult to say that a Zelda game is like a puzzler such as Tetris or The Adventures of Lolo, some of the same concepts apply. At the very least, you're still using the same side of your brain! But I digress.
What makes Zelda 3 different (and better!) than its predecessors is the existence of both a Light World and a Dark World. Think of the game having two parallel worlds and you'll be fine. Both worlds are virtually identical in form yet there are significant differences between the two. Items that are inaccessible in one world (e.g. pieces of heart and giant stones way up in the mountains) can only be reached by going into the other world and coming back to the main world in a specific location (The important Magic Mirror item allows this.) Also, since the two worlds are interconnected, certain actions that you perform in one world may actually cause a change in the adjoining world! For example, you can only explore the Water Dungeon in the Dark World by pulling a switch at the same location in the Light World. This allows water to flow freely in the Dark World which allows you to reach the passageways! I know that all of this sounds complicated but it makes sense and is actually quite intuitive.
To me personally, playing through Zelda 3 was like engaging in two separate quests. The first major objective in the game is to find the Master Sword which is the only weapon powerful enough to fend off the evil magic of Agahnim (and to ultimately defeat Ganon himself). However, in order to get the legendary sword, you have to battle through three fierce dungeons and acquire the three pendants of courage, wisdom, and power. After all that, you've got to actually find the master sword (not terribly difficult but a task nonetheless) and defeat Agahnim. Once you reach this point in the game, the "second quest" begins which involves Link (the hero) searching high and low for the seven maidens in the Dark World. At the end, a final confrontation occurs between Link and Ganon. This "second quest" is where the game really gets tough and cumbersome but I'll save that discussion for later.
Like I said earlier, there are a lot of secrets in this game! After all, it is a Zelda game! There are a multitude of items that you don't necessarily need to beat the game but boy are they ever helpful. Some of the best items in the game can only be found through thorough exploration and even mapping in some cases (hire a cartographer for this game...trust me on this one!) The real trick is learning how to navigate both the Light and Dark Worlds and finding ways to visit places that are usually inaccessible. Listening to the many clues that fellow elves, the hilarious fortune tellers, and even strange creatures give you is key as well. Otherwise, getting through this game is neigh impossible.
One neat thing about A Link to the Past is that it feels a lot like the first Zelda game. Many locations from that game like the Lost Woods and the Graveyard make a return appearance along with many of the enemies from past Zelda game. The skeletons, wizzrobes, ghosts, and those annoying spider-like enemies are back! Of course, there are many new enemies as well. While the overall feel of Zelda 3 isn't quite as wonderful as that of the original Zelda game, it is still a memorable experience.
Graphics: This is where the third Zelda installment really shines! I could tell right away that this game was released shortly after Super Mario World because it has Shigeru Miyamoto's name written all over it! As can be expected, the graphics in Zelda 3 feature vibrant colors and are lush with detail. Everything looks so nice and polished right down to the shrubs and trees. I thought that the Lost Woods in particular was impressive with its neat atmosphere and the parallax-scrolling/shadowing effects. It was truly revolutionary for an early 1992 game pak!
While the game initially comes out as being all cheery and nice (nauseously so at times), Miyamoto did a great job of giving the dungeons and especially the Dark World a dark, gloomy feel. I couldn't believe how depressing the Lost Woods (i.e. named the Skull Forest in the Dark World) were in the Dark World! Atmosphere is everything in a game like this and Nintendo came through in terms of the game's graphics.
The game also has a lot of personality thanks to the great animation throughout. Was it just me or is the animation downright hilarious in some cases? I'm sorry but how do you not laugh at the silly way Link runs or at some of the characters in the Dark World? Some of these creatures (actually people but transformed by the Triforce) look downright ridiculous! You actually talk to a dopey looking bird and a simply pathetic treelike creature! It's hilarious! I was actually moved to tears in some cases.
Music: The music throughout Zelda 3 is simply legendary. What more can I say? You've got to respect a video game soundtrack when famous symphonies even perform some of the tunes! Anyone who has never heard the main overworld theme has to be a monk in solitude or living under a rock. This track is one of the most beloved video game tunes ever and it certainly ranks right up there with the classic Super Mario Bros. diddy. Even people who despise video games should recognize this tune.
In addition to the Light World theme, the Dark World track is equally impressive. This track just really sticks in your head (it did in mine anyway). If you haven't heard it before, it's in the MIDI section and it's quite pleasant to the ears. That theme was very appropriate for the Dark World too...heroic, slightly mysterious, with a subtle feeling of destiny. While the Light World dungeon track wasn't quite as good as the awesome tune that plays in the original Zelda game, it is at least appropriate. Another favorite of mine has to be the warlike Hyrule Palace track.
Even with all that it has going for it, Zelda 3 has anything but a perfect soundtrack. Some of the themes are very average and they can even grate on your nerves at times! I never liked the "bonus game" track and the "cave" track simply screams "mediocrity." Surely the composers could have thought of better music than this! While the Lost Woods theme is nice and cute, it's probably a little too cute even for my tastes. And while the Light World dungeon theme is pretty good, the one that plays in the Dark World has to be one of the most annoying tunes of all-time! I have to turn the volume down when I'm in these dungeons lest I go mad with rage and throw something at the TV. :) Speaking of volume, you might want to use the Mute button during the boss battles as well because the boss music is simply as obnoxious as it gets!
However, the sound effects are actually able to offset some of the bad music. For its time, the sfx in Zelda 3 are simply outstanding! From the clashing of swords to the slashing of shrubs to the running across a water-soaked meadow, Zelda 3 delivers in spades. I couldn't believe my ears when I first played this game; it sounded so real!
Overall, Zelda 3 certainly has one of the most memorable video game soundtracks out there. In terms of nostalgia, it is hard to beat the Zelda games and this one is no different. However, nostalgia can sometimes be a little too powerful; powerful enough to keep us from talking about the bad as well as the good aspects of a game's score. However, in terms of atmosphere and making the game an enjoyable experience, Zelda 3 comes through just like its predecessors.
Play Control: Like The Legend of Zelda, Zelda 3 has very simple controls. Use the control pad to move in eight directions and press the B button to slash your sword. If you can do that, then you're well on your way. However, in order to truly master A Link to the Past, mastery of key items and wise usage of magic is a must. If you're not able to use the boomerang, bombs, arrows, and hookshot effectively, then good luck beating this game. However, there's really nothing to fear as the controls are quite easy to learn. Although Zelda 3 has a few new additions like the Pegasus boots and the Swing Attack with your sword, it's safe to say that if you have played the first Zelda game, you'll adjust to Zelda 3 without a problem.
Challenge: I don't know about all of you but I found Zelda 3 to be a pretty rough experience the first time through. Fighting enemies and defeating bosses wasn't terribly difficult (although a few bosses were a royal pain in the derriere); the real challenge came from simply searching for must-have items (e.g. Zora's Flippers) and/or just trying to figure out how to get to the next area/dungeon. This was especially tricky in the Dark World where the solution usually involved going between the worlds at certain spots or having to do some special task in the Light World. While I don't want to sound like I'm being nitpicky, I did find it a little frustrating that you would have to search the world like a surgeon to find a vital item or spell. Not only that but at times, the game didn't really help you to meet your next objective. For example, I didn't know where the heck to find Zora's Flippers; I finally found them but it was really nothing more than dumb luck on my part. I enjoy exploration and the challenges of meeting that next goal or task but a slight nudge in the right direction isn't too much to ask. Perhaps I'm just not as patient as I used to be with games like this...lol. Overall, Zelda 3 wasn't terribly difficult but it was frustrating at times (and frustrating for the wrong reasons really).
Storyline: This is one of those games where you really need the manual to gain a full understanding of the game's story. While the game itself does a nice job of explaining everything, there are some interesting details that only the manual covers. The first several pages of the Zelda 3 manual contain a very detailed explanation of the game's background story. I found it to actually be a very enjoyable read and quite intriguing in some cases! It actually has the feel of a good novel! You can tell right away that this story was not thought up overnight; Nintendo really spent some time trying to come up with a neat story. After all, we are talking about Zelda here!
The first thing to keep in mind is that A Link to the Past is just that; it is a prequel that actually takes place before The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link. It also contains a pretty good pun but I digress. The funny thing is that, while this game actually precedes the others, the story is pretty much the same! However, it works nonetheless.
Basically, the manual outlines not only the current situation of the magical kingdom of Hyrule but goes all the way back to the very creation of the world. It talks about the three gods of courage, wisdom, and power creating Hyrule and leaving behind their essence in an inanimate object called the Triforce. Since this inanimate object had the ability to grant wishes to its owner, everyone searched high and low for this magical relic. However, the Triforce was placed in a mystical place called the Golden Land and no one knew the exact location of this heavenly place.
While the manual goes into much more detail, the Triforce was accidently discovered one day by the evil thief, Ganon. Full of greed, Ganon created the Dark World (which had previous been the actual Golden Land) and his current mission is to take over the Light World also. However, a great battle took place in the distant past in which Ganon was actually sealed in his Dark World. Currently, he searches endlessly for a way to undo this seal and his puppet leader, Agahnim, is attempting to bring Ganon's dream to fruition. This is where you, the hero, step in! Link's goal in Zelda 3 is to find the one weapon that can defeat Agahnim (i.e. The Master Sword), save the seven maidens in the Dark World, and destroy Ganon. It may sound simple but it's an illusion...trust me on this one! :)
Personally, I like this story a lot! Like I said before, you can tell that a lot of thought went into it. It is also very original as well with the whole "Triforce" thing and the parallel worlds. Besides, I have always liked the world of Hyrule. Hyrule and the fantasy genre go together like milk and cookies as far as I am concerned.
Funfactor: If you enjoy endless exploration, intense battles, and the fantasy genre in general, you'll have no problem getting into A Link to the Past. The wonderful graphics and unique atmosphere is what made this game a fun experience for me. The original Zelda game has to be one of the most nostalgic games for me so getting to experience Zelda on the Super NES was a treat indeed. I did get frustrated at times but overall, the great feeling of discovering a secret item or finally defeating that annoying boss overshadowed all that. The various bonus games and great humor that is thrown in (who could forget the "average middle-aged man" in the desert?) made this game a magical experience for me.
Negatives: I think that the main problem I had with Zelda 3 was that my expectations were just way too high. I didn't actually get to play this game until around the year 2000 or so and by this time, it was outdated in many aspects. The fact that many people touted this game as the greatest game ever (not just when the game came out either; even today this claim is being made) didn't help either. While Zelda 3 is charming, I just fail to see how such a statement can be validated. I could understand someone claiming that Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III, or Donkey Kong Country is the best game ever but Zelda 3? This game would be hard-pressed to fit in my Top 10 list of Super NES games let alone besting more recent hits like Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy IX. While I thoroughly enjoy playing this game, it has to be one of the most overrated games ever.
For one thing, some of the music is downright annoying. Even if the bonus level, cave, and boss music is "nostalgic," that doesn't change the fact that it's still pretty bad (even by Super NES standards). The dungeon music in the Dark World is simply hideous as well. I can't believe that more people don't mention this!
While the design of the dungeons was very good, they didn't seem as magical or as creative as in The Legend of Zelda. I mean, in the first Zelda game, every dungeon was a different color (neat I tell you!) and was actually in the shape of something! I remember one being shaped like an Eagle and another resembling a Snake. I thought that was so cool at the time! I don't know; Zelda 3 still did a nice job but some of the magic just wasn't there. It's like with Mega Man 4 for the NES. You couldn't quite put your finger on it but something seemed to be missing.
To be honest, I got quite frustrated with Zelda 3 at times and I don't get frustrated easily. Just having to explore...and explore...and explore without really knowing what to do next was a major pain. Puzzles are okay but not when they make the game a frustrating experience instead of an enjoyable one. Maybe that's why I have never been as big a Zelda fan as many. In my opinion, the majority of the challenge should come from fighting enemies and manipulating blocks in the dungeons; it shouldn't be from having to go back and forth between worlds so much that it makes your head spin!
Ratings: Graphics: 4.5 Music: 4.2 Play Control: 4.3 Challenge: 4.3 Storyline: 4.7 Funfactor: 4.3 Overall Score: 26.3 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Silver Stud!
Back to Super NES SpecialLast Updated: June 2, 2006