The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is yet another game I had completed when I was younger, but damn if I know how!

I don’t recall half of this game: particularly the items. If not for a guide, I can’t imagine how many hours I would’ve poured into this one, as it would take blind luck to find several of them.

In fact, I’m fairly certain there are items I did not end up finding when I completed the game as a youth!

Regardless, this thing had to have had 100 hours into it as a kid and even as an adult, 8-10 hours of an investment at minimum with cheats.

That seems like nothing compared to the 100-hour campaigns of today’s titles, such as Breath of the Wild.

Much like the comparisons of BoTW being a masterpiece, Link to the Past is a cult favorite which is a masterpiece in its own right. It can also be downright unforgiving, but it’s also groundbreaking.

I also find it hard to believe how groundbreaking many of the Super Nintendo games were way back when, especially with the Sega Genesis stealing a lot of the system’s thunder.

The reason LTTP is an A+ title, even in 2020, is that it introduces many key features and upgrades to the Zelda series. Link could move in eight directions (diagonal movement was new on the SNES), running (via the Pegasus boots) and his sword no longer stabs but swings which made combat a bit easier in some circumstances.

Two parallel worlds were introduced, as well as “pieces of hearts”, the hookshot, spin attack, and most important of all, the Master Sword presentation.

Needless to say, the graphics, sound, controls and gameplay are all what you would come to expect from a Zelda game. If you’re a fan of the series and haven’t played this one, drop everything you’re doing, because it is a treat that even feels fresh after about the dozenth time I’ve completed it – making it one of my favorite games of all time.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Welcome to the bastard child of all Zelda games!

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link follows an odd NES pattern of changing up the sequels of Nintendo’s main franchises. Super Mario Bros. 2, for example, was a large departure from the original (at least the United States version was). Yet, SMB2 was just a rehash of another Japanese game with Mario concepts painted over it.

Zelda 2 was… something else.

As one of the only true sequels to the Zelda storyline, the game introduced now-common elements such as the magic meter and “Shadow Link”, but also introduced something else: shear stupid difficulty and a radically different style of gameplay!

As opposed to the original Legend of Zelda, which had a top-down world map and each screen served as an “area” on the map, Zelda 2 when to a side-scrolling adventure for all of the action sequences, only using the top-down map to get from area to area. Those areas included various towns, palaces, caves and more.

This is where the game becomes the devil. Link’s sword is like this itty bitty thing that can barely inflict damage on anything. Jumping is wonky (putting it kindly) and will lead to many deaths too.

Actually, the only cool aspect of jumping is the downward thrust with the sword, which is hard to believe but was something groundbreaking way back then.

The game also had more RPG-centric elements such as leveling up. In fact, many would say this game felt more like a Castlevania game than Zelda, and that much is true. However, like other Zelda titles, certain items and quests were commonplace in order to progress throughout the world to meet your final goal of awaking a sleeping Princess Zelda who is under a spell.

As you finally make your way to the Great Palace, the game features one of the biggest PITA villains in all of 8-bit lore: Thunderbird.

I can’t tell you how many times I died trying to defeat this thing as a kid. And of course, once you do, you are then in a toe-to-toe fight with a tough “Shadow Link” (or “Dark Link” depending on who you talk to.)

The reward for beating Shadow Link is the third Triforce, the Triforce of Courage, which is also a new element added to Zelda 2. (Its predecessor featured only the Triforce of Wisdom and of Power, the latter wielded by Ganon.)

The three Triforces would become a common theme throughout Zelda game, reinforcing the “tri” part of the name.

While this game is an oddity among all Zelda titles, and it’s a major B**** to beat, its also a must play for hardcore Zelda fans due to being a drastically different game that also introduces many hallmarks of the franchise.

I do recommend it, but also be forewarned: you may need backup controllers as you’ll tend to break at least one in frustration playing this!

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Potentially the GOAT of Zelda games, Ocarina of Time did for this series what Mario 64 did for Super Mario Bros, in bringing a flat 2-D world into the collective 3-D realm which previously existed only in the minds of gamers.

What might Link look like in 3-D? Enemies? Labyrinths?

This game kicked down so many doors I’m not sure where to begin. It’s a masterpiece by every standard. Graphically, it still holds up well. The game world is rather large and doubles when using a similar time mechanic from the SNES’ Link to the Past.

Link can also wield a variety of different weapons, there are side quests galore, and the Ocarina serves as a musical component of the game that isn’t “all gimmick”.

Did I also mention he can venture on horseback too?

Boss battles feel truly epic as well and there isn’t really a bad thing that can be said about this game. If you haven’t played it over the years, or you’re looking for something to do on a rainy day, I highly recommend picking this up to play!

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX

With a newly reimagined remake for the Nintendo Switch recently released, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the first “reimagining” of a classic Legend of Zelda game: Link’s Awakening.

Originally released in 1993 for the Nintendo Game Boy, Link’s Awakening was the first handheld game in the series and an odd one at that as it didn’t take place in Hyrule, nor did it feature Princess Zelda.

In fact, the game makes a number of references to other Nintendo franchises, notably Super Mario Bros. in a dream-state Koholint Island. This adds to the uniqueness of this title, which originally began as a port of the critically acclaimed Link To The Past on the Super Nintendo.

Having been an owner of the original Game Boy cartridge who put countless hours into defeating this title multiple times, I never latched onto the “DX” remake of the game which came out in 1998. However, playing this game in modern times, the monochrome Game Boy colors are harsh on the eyes and the preferable color palette, as well as a few other additions, make the DX version of this game a more than worthy playthrough.

In fact, the DX version has an additional dungeon added that was not in the original game, which plays off of the Game Boy Color’s ability to, um, show colors. (The dungeon used color tiles as part of the puzzle solving scheme with a reward of a red or blue tunic.)

Link’s Awakening DX also makes numerous references to a long-forgotten Game Boy Printer add-on, of which it’s pretty much the only title that ever made much use of it!

Overall you cannot go wrong with this game. It’s one of the all-time classics which, until it’s Switch remake, has been locked in the Nintendo vault, only to be seen on old hardware with small screens. Alas, if you have the means to play the DX version, it’s more than worth its salt as a full-fledged Zelda title, one that you’ll likely want to compare to the newer version, if only for nostalgia’s sake.

The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda is yet another in a long line of titles that have become a cornerstone series for Nintendo.

The original NES title was unique and somewhat bizarre to the uninitiated. Upon opening the box, which had a vague looking shield on the cover, you’d find enclosed a gold painted cartridge and a big foldout map of the entire overworld within the game.

Both were unique to “Zelda” (as it has become known as). Receiving an instruction book is one thing but getting an entire map to nudge you in the right direction of your next step within the game was groundbreaking.

The gold color cartridge was also something entirely new as all Nintendo games were in a drab gray plastic case prior.

As for the game itself, it was not a platformer. Zelda took an overhead approach ditching any jump buttons. Players could move in any direction on a single-screen before moving to another single-screen. Bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece, this is how the game was stitched together. (As opposed to scrolling left-to-right or up-and-down like Super Mario Bros., Metroid, and others.)

The start screen would pause the game but also offer the ability to see and change the assignment of what the A and B buttons did for the various items you would retrieve throughout the game. Those items would be necessary to unlock and/or access further areas.

The dungeons, nine of them, had puzzles and hidden area to access as well. The pause screen, if already found, would also show a dungeon map (or at least your progress if you didn’t already find the map for a specific dungeon).

The level of difficulty was as such that upgrading the hero, Link, would progressively give you the necessary tools to defeat the game. The final dungeon, Death Mountain, is far from a cakewalk yet is one of the more satisfying victories.

That’s after dumping hours of time into the game, which also had a new feature for that era which helped you walk away and continue at a later date: a battery backup. Instead of leaving your NES on as you ate dinner or went to school, you could save your progress and return back to the game at a later date.

Needless to say, if you’ve never conquered this classic, it’s a must-play. Easily one of my favorite games of all time.