The evil King Ganondorf has once again attempted to use the power of the Triforce to take control of the world. Instead, the Triforce created a mirror of Hyrule called the Dark World. In the real Hyrule, a village boy named Link starts having telepathic dreams about a princess named Zelda. Link wakes to find his uncle leave the house with sword and shield in hand. Not shy of adventure, Link follows him to Hyrule Castle, but is too late to save his Uncle from the corrupted guards.
The story is based heavily on the story of Ocarina of Time (within the Zelda lore), featuring the descendants of its seven sages as disappearing princesses, and Link and Zelda as the latest in long bloodlines. As with many early Zelda titles, the game is comparatively light on story, lacking the personality of even the Oracle games or The Minish Cap. It is at least present, offering just enough drama to keep modern gamers interested. 5
A Link To The Past dropped the controversial side-on view of The Adventure of Link for the traditional overhead view of The Legend of Zelda. This means that adventure and exploration is dominant, to the game’s benefit. Hyrule is vast and intricate, so there’s always something new to do, someone new to find, or something new to see. The dungeons are varied and the puzzles within them are sometimes tricky, but always logical. Control, particularly combat, is sluggish and imprecise when compared to later 2D Zeldas, but second only to Terranigma from games of its era. 7
ALttP’s visual style is arguably the most timeless of the Zelda series, alongside The Wind Waker’s. Hyrule is gorgeous, creating a vibrant, colourful adventure with atmospheric locales. Use of transparent sprite layers, black outlines and a primary colour palette means that ALttP is the most distinctive 2D Zelda of them all, and a far cry from the simple pixilated NES games. 9
The SNES’s feeble sound system must have been stretched to the max to pump out such wonderful, valiant tunes. The game has one of the best soundtracks of the series, as evidenced by later title’s flagrant plundering, and it really lends the game a sense of life and direction. The classic Zelda overworld music brought to life here, fitting the overall tone perfectly. 7
ALttP is easily the most atmospheric of all the 2D Zelda titles, featuring gorgeous weather effects such as the foreboding rainstorm at the start of the game and the fog of the Lost Woods. While the story lacks a sense of urgency and involvement with the other characters, it makes up for this with an ultra-lucid coherence, retaining that classic Hyrule feel. 7
This instalment was made a huge contribution. Chronologically, the game practically ties together the entire series by introducing the concept of multiple generations of Link and Zeldas, providing the basis of epic flame wars on many a forum. It also created the 3-5 dungeon template that was the maturation of the original Zelda formula, and one that for better or worse, hasn’t changed much since. 7
There’s little argument that ALttP is a great game, and one of the best 2D games, but it is, on the overall Zelda scale, middling. To see the 2D formula perfected, turn to Link’s Awakening, but for those looking for a definitive home console 2D adventure game, download this on Virtual Console now!