The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

   A voice calls out in the night, begging for help, a cry carried on the wind this stormy night... Another adventure is beginning for the legendary hero of Hyrule, and the third installment of the Zelda series returns to its roots to draw upon the ideas that made the original shine, while adding more inventions.

Banished to the Dark World

   Link sets off to rescue Zelda immediately, while learning that an evil wizard named Agahnim has taken over the Palace. Agahnim's sinister plans include banishing to the Dark World seven maidens descended from the wise men (Zelda is the last of these maidens), to break the seal set by these ancestors and unlock the gates between the two worlds. The Triforce still grants the wishes of the one who holds it, and behind the wizard, Ganon returns as the ultimate villain, using the Triforce to create a backwards version of Hyrule. Link collects the medallions to retrieve the Master Sword and defeat the wizard, but he is too late, and what at first seems the traditional quest becomes involving and complicated as Agahnim banishes Link to the Dark World. Link must learn to travel between the Worlds of Light and Dark to rescue the maidens and stop Ganon from destroying the World of Light forever.

Turtle Rock Labyrinth

   Unlike Link's Adventure, A Link to the Past leaves the two mode form to model itself after the original game. The overworld map is divided into sections again, some which are not accessible until later in the game, while the dungeons are still hidden all over Hyrule. Rather than the generic dungeons of the first two Zeldas, the dungeons of A Link to the Past are each unique, from slippery ice to desert sands to swimming through a watery cave. The puzzles of each dungeon are also a great deal more challenging than the first two games ever offered-- pushing blocks, creating blocks to push, bribing annoying monkeys, blowing holes in the floor as well as the walls, and leading mysterious characters "into the light." Each dungeon in the Light World offers a medal used to retrieve the Master Sword from the Lost Woods (also making a comeback from the original), while each Dark World dungeons offers a crystal with a maiden trapped inside.

A selection of Link's toys

   Heart containers, arrows, and bombs return, along with Link's huge menu of items to use. The toys of Zelda 3 are by far one of the most entertaining aspects of the game. The hookshot grapples our hero across huge chasms, while the bug catching net is just as useful for nabbing fairies to keep in a bottle (isn't that just a little sadistic?). Three magic medallions are key to solving the game's puzzles, as well as offering great glee in the ability to demolish an entire room of enemies with just one blast of Bombos! Unique items like the magic cape, which renders Link invisible, and the fire and ice rods (easily understandable due to their creative names), serve as a more appreciable and characteristic addition than the Final Fantasy type magic that the second Zelda employed. A new dimension is added by Zora's flippers, an item which allows Link to swim through rivers and lakes, and even use magical whirl pools to warp around Hyrule, and the Pegasus Boots dash him from room to room. An item unique to this particular game is the very object that allows Link to warp between Light and Dark, the magic mirror. By looking into its glass he can create a way back to the Light World, but unfortunately it doesn't work the other way around, and this is one of the true challenges of Zelda 3--finding a way to get to certain places in the Dark World from a limited amount of Light World gates.

The ghost of the Flute Boy

   NPCs also have a role in Link's quest, similar to the way they did in the second Zelda, only instead of generic sprites offering techniques and first aid, these characters play a role in the story as well. Many are trapped or lost in the Dark World, having wandered there and been morphed into animals without a magic mirror to return. The "ghost" of the flute boy of Kakariko plays in the woods near the village in the Light World, but it's only when Link finds him lost in the Dark World that he finds out where the flute is buried. Upon retrieval, the flute can be used to summon a tiny bird that flies Link to several locations around the world, much like a personal airplane. One of the town blacksmiths is also lost, and upon rescuing him, Link can have the Master sword tempered.

Beating up on the chickens

   Along the way he can also buy medicine from an old lady mixing a brew, and visit a fortune teller for some astrological advice (which can cost a pretty rupee!). Special fairies update his equipment, and a psychotic bat-like creature with schizophrenic tendencies attempts to curse him, instead doubling his magical abilities. Games can be found throughout Hyrule, offering Link the chance to gamble his money or time for treasures or heart pieces. The highlight of the entire game is the flock of chickens populating Kakariko village, who will swarm and attack Link if he spends too much time slashing at a member of their group. The humour in being able to pick up, carry, and beat on chickens is absurdly high in entertainment value...

   Nintendo delivers the fans exactly what many had been hoping for after the oddity of the second Zelda, and proves that a complicated storyline is not necessary to create a great game, preferring instead to offer complex dungeons and tons of contraptions to experiment with. A Link to the Past is classic Zelda, offering up the absorbing and winning gameplay that mimics the original, while still holding onto the freely adventuring spirit that the series has always been known for. Fans could only hope at its conclusion that the next in the series would build upon this success, and both Link's Awakening and the Ocarina of Time have continued the tradition.

Retrospective by Tamzen Marie Baker.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Developer Nintendo
Publisher Nintendo
Genre Adventure
Medium Cartridge
Platform SNES
Released 1992
FAQ / Manual
18 screen shots
Character artwork / Manual Art