LTTP or ‘late to the party’ pieces are opportunities for me to catch up and write about games I missed out on the first time around. They may contain spoilers.
I may have appreciated The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past more if I played it on back in 1993. But with limited funds and information sources, I made my video game purchasing decisions based on small screenshots on the back of boxes or cover art. As a result, I passed on The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past because they didn’t look appealing to me. I gravitated towards titles like Super Metroid and Mega Man X instead. It wouldn’t be until the Nintendo 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time before I realized A Link to the Past was so revered by video game enthusiasts all over.
My Zelda history is brief; I’ve only finished Wind Waker twice (second time via the HD remaster) and A Link Between Worlds. Both titles were positive experiences, so I was curious what the other titles in this long running series were like. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was the obvious candidate to check out first. However, having finished A Link to the Past, I don’t know if I want continue down this path of Zelda discovery.
I don’t like the fact that Link can only reliably attack in four directions while enemies are hopping and firing from all every which way. It’s not an impossible to fight back but it makes it an annoying game to play. I felt restricted which often lead to frustration as I’m taking unnecessary damage. As a result, this is the first Zelda title where I relied on bottles filled with potions and fairies. I enjoy challenges but not when they appear to be annoying limitations.
It’s not the game’s fault though. It’s the restrictions of the era. I dabbled with the NES classic for a bit and similar complaints can be levied on it as well. They gave Link’s sword swipes a wider reach compared to the original Legend of Zelda but it wasn’t enough to instill confidence for me to use it. I was more comfortable lining up directly.
A Link to the Past offered a level of challenge that I didn’t experience with A Link Between Worlds or Wind Waker HD. Recovery hearts were uncommon which was jarring at first but I grew to appreciate its scarcity. I never played Hero mode in other Zelda titles before, but I suspect that mode made those games more akin to A Link to the Past. The limited hearts pushed me to find more heart pieces and play with more care. Unfortunately, it also contributed to my growing hatred for the 4-way combat.
This was also the first Zelda title that allowed me to reach two boss fights without the necessary equipment to finish it. That’s unheard of in modern gaming let alone modern Nintendo. Even Bloodborne gave you all the resources necessary to fight a boss. It was possible for me to run out of magic and not offer any replenishments, leaving me to dodge snowballs till the end of time. I could have fought Ganon forever as well if I didn’t accidentally fall into the dark pit and picked up a clue.
It was also an asshole move to make nearly every dark pit lead nowhere and then suddenly throw in a couple of curveballs which lead to vital locations. It rewards experimentation but since health was a precious commodity, I wasn’t a fan of flinging myself into bottomless pits just at the odd chance that it would lead me to someplace rewarding.
I spent a lot of time wandering through the Light and Dark worlds looking for answers and the next step to take. The accidental discovery of fast traveling made it more convenient to retread old light areas to explore but it wasn’t applicable in the Dark world. I like the idea of using the Mirror to traverse between the worlds, but it was annoying having to look for the ideal teleportation spot so I didn’t materialize into a wall or a tree. Why not highlight a teleportation friendly area? It truly was a first generation idea with its share of problems to iron out.
If it wasn’t for my grievances with the core gameplay, I would have thoroughly enjoyed The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The challenge and obscure nature of the puzzles gave the game a sense of mystery that modern Zelda titles simply don’t embrace anymore. I wish the items and equipment were more than glorified dungeon keys but it was unique and that’s my take away from this game. For better and worse, it was different compared to Wind Waker and A Link Between Worlds.
It was okay