This is the Zelda Game Club, where we play through Legend of Zelda games together. Today is part 1 of A Link to the Past. Over the past week we’ve been playing through A Link to the Past, and today I’m going to bring you my thoughts on the game so far, plus highlight some comments from the community.
Before we get stuck into today’s video, it’s not too late to join the Zelda Game Club for A Link To The Past. Over the next 7 days, we’re going to be playing through until the end of Gargoyle’s Domain, which is right before the Ice Palace. That includes Hyrule Castle Tower, Dark Palace, Swamp Palace, Skull Woods and Gargoyle’s Domain. If you want to join the game club, then now is a great time to do so and replay one of the best Zelda games in the series.
The Legend of Zelda, A Link To The Past. This is where my love for the Zelda franchise was cemented. It’s a huge step up from the original games on the NES, the graphics, audio and gameplay, all combined it’s a great package, which has stood the test of time and still plays well today. Without further delay let’s dive into things.
I want to kick things off with a comment from Master Knight DH
“I find that LTTP is best looked at as a pioneer, but in that regard, if you play it under that mindset, it’s definitely overall solid and it even manages some surprising game design points, although one I particularly think of involves a later item so spoilers with that. LTTP is so much better polished than the NES Zeldas, both of which had issues with their gameplay design in general, Adventure of Link bugging me more about as much with arguably less excuse. It even shows in the overworld design, which I did not even think about until after I made my more sophisticated comment. “
First of all, thanks to Master Knight DH for writing in, we’ll hear more from Master Knight DH later in the part 1 video. I have to agree with a lot of what Master Knight DH is saying here. It’s still very solid, 30 years after the game was originally released. Having played through The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link this year, this game is so much more fluid and just overall better than both of those games. While the original Zelda is good, it’s very difficult if you don’t know what to do or where to go, as there is little in the way of guidance to do anything, without a guide it’s close to impossible. The Adventure of Link has it’s own troubles, changing up so much of the formula in the Legend of Zelda. A Link To The Past takes the best parts from both games, combines them and improves the formula by a large margin.
We start out with Link asleep in bed, it’s a stormy night, and Zelda visits Link in his dreams saying she’s trapped in the castle. The Evil Wizard Agahnim is trying to open the Seven Wise Men’s Seal, and all the other girls he kidnapped have disappeared. Link then jumps out of bed, grabs his lamp from the chest then it’s outside into the rain and darkness to follow the clues. The idea if to follow the path to Hyrule Castle here, you can’t get in a front way, you have to go rounds the back and find a secret entrance under the bushes. Once you find your way into the castle, you are given your first sword and shield, and then you are plunged right into the adventure.
The castle is relatively straightforward. Starting out in the sewers you fight against rats, and also come across magic for your magic meter, which allows you to use the lamp you found in your house earlier. Link makes his way through the sewers and into Hyrule Castle, and we get our first taste of a Dungeon in A Link To The Past. This introduces us to a couple of core concepts for the game, and the Zelda series as a whole. We can find a map, which helps us navigate around the castle, plus there’s a specialist item, The Boomerang, which allows us to stun enemies and also pick up items from a distance.
It’s not long before we find Princess Zelda, although she is guarded by a mini-boss. He’s not too tricky, he’s a mace-wielding Knight, and if you use the Boomerang then you can stun him in place and use the sword to finish him off. We then make out way to the throne room with Princess Zelda following, in a kind of escort mission. Behind the decadent chairs is a bookcase, we have to push it to one side and use it as an escape route from Hyrule Castle to the Sanctuary. Link and Zelda battle through more sewers and meet up with the High Priest, Zelda is saved (for now), but they both warn of Hyrule falling into the hands of this Wizard, Agahnim.
In terms of openings to video games, it’s up there with the best of them. The immediate excitement was thrown into the action and into the rain-soaked night. I love the immediate introduction of secrets and hidden things to find. For example, having to find a secret way into the castle, the hidden door behind the bookcase. You are immediately thrown into combat too, given a sword and shield, plus an item or two and some magic. It sets up the rest of the game perfectly well.
Next, let’s hear from BombZeCoffee
“I’ve just got the three pendants. I really like this game it is nice and colourful the music is great and I do love the dungeons the puzzle within it are sometimes hard but great fun and the first boss is the best so far. The pegasus boot are good to get around fast but I keep on hitting into a wall, I would rather if we could roll instead.”
Thanks, BombZeCoffee, great to hear from you again, who took part in the first Zelda Game Club, and it’s great to see you back once again. Yes, the game is nice and colourful, plus the music is great. The game benefitted from the upgrade to the SNES, with more memory for graphics and music. I think the game is bursting with personality, with the character animations, whether then be Link running, crows swooping down to attack Link, or even the Evil Wizard, plus the bosses. The Pegasus boots are a great item, and I like the fact they have multiple uses like getting around the overworld. Interesting point about rolling instead of running. I definitely like the idea of rolling in combat, but I don’t think I’d want to give up running around the overworld, that saves so much time.
Journey to The Eastern Palace
Once you have finished the opening act, there is a little exploring to do. The man in the Sanctuary provided a lead for Link, saying that you should go and get Master Sword and there’s a village elder in Kakariko Village who may be able to help with the next steps. You have to be careful though, as soldiers are going to be looking for around every corner. On your way to Kakariko Village, you get to play more with the combat, as there are plenty of Knights to fight. The combat is very satisfying in a Link to the Past, and a bit step up from the NES version. A Link To The Past goes back to the original top-down style we saw in The Legend Of Zelda but also manages to capture the excellent swordplay from The Adventure of Link. There’s also a lot more personality in the way Link moves, his head bobbing up and down when he’s walking or running, and when he dies he falls flat on his face. The level of charm and personality injected into the game through the animations and music shouldn’t be understated.
Heading on over to Kakariko, there are Wanted posters everywhere for Link saying ‘This is the criminal who kidnapped Princess Zelda’, so Link has to be careful. While Link is searching for the Elder in the village, there are a few items we can find including bottles, which are useful for keeping things in like Fairies, also Bees. You can also come across Fairy Fountains, another staple of the Zelda series as well as find mysterious items like The Mushroom in the Lost Woods, which can be given to the Witch in exchange for the magic dust, which can be sprinkled on things to change them. Again, there are some really interesting items in the game, which amazed me when I was a kid related of the size and scope of the game. It also demonstrates how influential this game was with regard to the games that are coming out today. There are plenty of top-down action RPGs, and A Link To The Past can still compete with the best of them.
After a little overworld exploration, and speaking to Sahasrahala’s Wife and Grandson in the village, you are directed towards the East, Sahasrahala’s location and The Eastern Palace. Sahasrahala will tell you about Master Sword, but it’s not as simple as just picking it up out of the ground, you’ll need the 3 pendants to be able to even hold Master Sword.
The Eastern Palace
With that info in mind, we head into The Eastern Palace, which is the location for our first Pendant. Here we are introduced to switching mechanics, with switches hidden underneath pots. Stalfos make their return to the series, having appeared in both previous games. This Dungeon doesn’t really provide much in the way of a challenge, but it’s good to reaffirm game mechanics like finding the map, compass, dungeon item and the big key. Little keys can be found throughout the dungeon, and they are needed to progress. Normally little keys can be found by killing all enemies in a single room, or in chests. The dungeon item here in The Eastern Palace is the Bow, which is useful for ranged attacks. There are some new enemies introduced in this Dungeon, Eyegores (Orgres with a single eye), they act like statues until you get close to them, then they come alive and start to make their way towards you. It’s not long until you find the boss room in this Dungeon, which is filled with six Armos Knights. The Bow comes in very handy here, and once you have defeated the boss, then you’ll get the first Pendant of Courage and a whole heart upgrade, meaning you’ll have more healthy overall.
Let’s hear from Eden8
“I’m happy to see this video has found its way into my recommended! I’ve been playing this game as part of randomisers recently, but casually it’s an entirely different experience. the light world has some interesting parts of exploration to it, and i remember when I first played this game I dont think I got the mushroom item or the ice rod item until I was doing dark-world things. i also really like the progression chain order of major items and doesn’t feel too punishing. i’ll save my full thoughts until part 2, but the light world is a nice introduction to the game and it’s like the calm before the storm for me.”
I do like that calm before-the-storm comment, that definitely rings true. Thanks, Eden 8 for playing along, and it’s great to hear you’ve been playing through randomisers, I’d love to hear more from you in terms of how that mixes up the game, and even explain to the lay-person what a Zelda Randomiser is, and how people can get involved. It’s been on my to-do list for some time, I would love to get into the Zelda Randomiser scene. It’s funny to hear it’s much more of a causal experience when it’s being played as intended. I can’t imagine the items and other things being randomised, that must be tough! Thanks for commenting, and I hope we hear more from you and your experience of the game in part 2.
Journey to the Desert Palace
Once you have finished up the first dungeon, Link makes his way back to speak to Sahasrahala. He’ll then give you the Pegasus Boots, which make it much easier to travel around Hyrule fast, plus you can run into cracked walls to open them up as an alternative to bombs, or you can knock things off shelves.
From this point, you have to make your way to the Desert Palace. We have a few items marked on our overworld map, the remaining Pendants and Master Sword, which lays dormant in the Lost Woods. Before heading to the Desert Palace it’s necessary to go back to Kakariko Village and get The Book of Maduro. The building you are looking for has a book marked with a feather above the main door, and when you go into the building you can see the book on top of a shelf. Link has to use the Pegasus Boots to run fast into the bookshelf and knock down the book. The Book of Maduro is used to read Hylian in the world, and this is important for getting into the Desert Palace.
There are also a few other items you can pick up at this point at The Great Swamp. This area is in the southern part of the map and here you can find the Swamp Ruins. Enter the Swamp Ruins and drain the swamp using the pulley in the wall, and you’ll find a heart piece. There is also a hidden fairy fountain, where you can find the Ice Rod.
The most important thing though is the Book of Maduro, and once you have this make your way to the Desert Palace. Once you have gotten through the desert you’ll find a tablet at the entrance of the Desert Palace, and there is some text there in Hylian. Get out the Book of Maduro and use that item in front of the tablet, and you’ll be able to read the text that states simply wish the door to open, and your wish will be granted. Link does this and the stone blocks move, and you are able to enter the Desert Palace.
The Desert Palace
The Desert Palace is covered in sand and many enemies in this Dungeon come up and out of the ground. New enemies are introduced in this palace too with Beamos and Flying Tiles making an appearance. Much like the previous castle, it doesn’t provide too much difficulty, the map, compass and big key are relatively easy to find. This leads us to the Power Glove, which allows us to pick up heavy stones Link wasn’t able to pick up before.
The slightly confusing element here for me was you have to leave the Desert Palace from the southwestern entrance and then find another entrance to the north. I was wandering around a lot trying to find out where to go, and then it all clicks into place once I see the rocks. Before long you have to face off against the boss, and this time it’s a huge sandworm called Lanmola. The idea is to hit the boss in the head when he’s up and out of the ground. There are three variants, to begin with, and you have to whittle them down until you defeat them all. It’s a good idea to have a fairy in a bottle, just in case you get into a tricky situation and die, then you can get immediately resurrected. Kill the boss, get a heart container and also The Pendant of Power.
Let’s hear more from BombZeCoffee
“I do like how we have bottles for potions in this game and can use it to put fairies in it too. I don’t really like to rewind since it feels like am cheating and the stalfos and soldiers can really hurt you so I use potions and fairy’s to help not rewind as much.”
Definitely, a good point BombZeCoffee, having the fairies means less rewinding (especially when comparing it to The Adventure of Link, in the latter parts of that game it was a tough ride). Storing fairies in a bottle is a great mechanic, I often forgot I did it only to be woken up when you die in a boss fight. Very useful indeed!
Journey to the Tower of Hera
We have two out of three pendants at this point, and next, it’s time to get the third and final one. But it’s a dangerous journey as we have to travel through the caves of Death Mountain. Given we just got the Power Glove, that means we can grab another useful item for traversing the overworld, and that’s Zora’s flippers. To get these you have to make your way back to Link’s House and then go up past The Witch’s house, where we traded the mushroom earlier, and then follow the river. Link can walk in the shallow parts, and it’s simply a matter of making your way to the end and the Waterfall to speak to King Zora. He’ll sell you the flippers for 500 rupees, which is steep, but it’s worth it given the traversal and also the ability to fast travel through the portals found in the rivers.
There’s another point of interest before heading to Death Mountain, and that’s a secret behind a waterfall. After you speak to King Zora, go through the whirlpool and behind the waterfall, you’ll find the Mysterious Pond. Throw items into the pond and you’ll get upgrades. For example, throw in your boomerang and you’ll get The Magic Boomerang in return, or throw in your shield and you’ll get a fire-resistant shield back.
At this point, it’s time to head towards Death Mountain. Behind the Sanctuary make your way up to the entrance, and use the Power Glove to remove the big rocks that get in your way. In the caves, you’ll meet an old man who is willing to help you get to the top of Death Mountain. Help the old man and he’ll give you a magic mirror in return for helping him. This is a super important item, it’s not totally clear why yet, but it will all become clear very soon.
Keep making your way to the top of Death Mountain, and you’ll find a blue portal. Enter the blue portal and then the whole world changes and shifts. All of a sudden you are dressed up like a bunny, you have no sword and shield, and everything is very strange. The music, and the tone of the graphics all shifts and change at the same time, and it’s enough to send shivers down my spine just remembering that moment. I love it. This is The Dark World, the hidden world inside Hyrule. The Magic Mirror, which was just given to us by the old man is the key to escaping the Dark World for now. Therefore use it, and make your way north East to The Tower of Hera.
The Tower of Hera
This is our final Dungeon for this part of the game club, and the place where we get the final pendant. A new mechanic is introduced as soon as we get into the Palace, and that’s the red and blue switches. Hitting a switch toggles between red and blue blocks raising up and out of the ground, which makes for an interesting set of puzzles in the Dungeon. This would continue in other Zelda games like Link’s Awakening and also into the 3D Zelda games too. The red and blue switches make for a slightly more tricky palace, although it’s not something that should be a blocker. Once again we have to find the map, compass and big key, and the item here in this palace is the Moon Pearl, which is going to help us when we go to the Dark World in the future.
The boss is slightly more difficult in this dungeon. You have to hit his tail, and he speeds up and gets faster, making him quite difficult to hit, plus Link gets knocked off the edges and down to the floors below. Trying to stop Link from getting knocked down is more difficult than beating the boss itself. Before long you’ll defeat the boss, and now you finally have all three Pendants!
From Master Knight DH makes a good comment about the combat and gameplay.
“Let’s not forget that the sword combat adds the spin attack, which first off is a charge up attack, a game design topic that already piques my interest as of late, and more importantly, the spin attack gives the player added options, including of course the deterrent attack, in the core gameplay. And then there’s the level design, such as the Eastern Palace having a room where Anti-Fairies mess with the player’s ability to move anticlockwise and a switch toggles an exit door for effectively every resulting loop through the room as a result, or the camouflage key in the Desert Palace being near the telepathy tile, or especially the pots with Hearts right before Moldorm exceeding the player’s possible number of Heart Containers at that point. While there are still some things that bug me already and more to come, I can say that LTTP does quite nicely as far as an early 90s game goes, and I can’t wait to provide further input on what is working even if I will also have to call out what isn’t.”
The sword combat is very good in the game. The introduction of the spin and the charge-up is very nice. I played through Tunic this year, which you could draw comparisons to, although playing through A Link To The Past once again here for the play through, I think it’s hard to beat this Legend of Zelda adevnture in terms of game feel. I definitely noticed the pots before Moldorm, that’s a good move there from Nintendo to cushion the blow a little. I was lucky enough to have a couple of faries in bottles by that point, but the hearts in the pots really demonstrate decent game design.
Next up, it’s time to get Master Sword. But we’re going to leave that for A Link To The Past Part 2.
So far, I have really enjoyed what I have played of A Link To The Past. It’s been a good while since I played this as a kid, and I couldn’t really remember the sequence of things. It’s very easy to get around, markers are placed on your map and your hand is being held in terms of where to go. The game is filled with personality and charm, much more so than the first two Zelda games on the NES. A Link To The Past takes everything that was great from the first game and adds a layer of help for the player. Plus the music and graphics really dial the game up to 10. Then you have that moment where you enter the Dark World and everything gets flipped on it’s head. You are standing there, as Link, looking like a bunny, and are like “what?!?”. This may be an old game, but it still has the power to surprise and shock. It’s fantastic.
That’s part 1 done. For Part 2 let’s play through until the end of Gargoyle’s Domain. That includes Hyrule Castle Tower, Dark Palace, Swamp Palace, Skull Woods and Gargoyle’s Domain. That’s slightly more than we had to do in part 1, but we have some momentum now. Play through, and comment on this video what you think of the game so far. Get your comments to me by Monday 17th October, and I’ll put together the part 2 video and will release it on Tuesday 18th October. It’s not too late to start the Zelda Game Club for A Link To The Past. if you haven’t started yet, don’t worry you can still catch up! Also, I have noticed a lot of A Link To The Past speedrunners, or randomiser players commenting on the Zelda Game Club. First of all, thank you! Your insight is super valuable, and it’s great that you are playing along. I’m really happy to hear from everyone, whether you are playing along with the Triforce Times Community as part of the Zelda Game Club, or you are playing at your own pace. However, if you want your comments included in part 2, then get your comments to me on this video by Monday 17th October.
Let’s have a look at some interesting facts about A Link To The Past. Development first started in 1988 on a new Zelda project, and was originally on the NES hardware, but was quickly ported to the Super Nintendo. Originally,
Shigeru Miyamoto intended to have the game include a party, similar to Final Fantasy. There were plans for an elf/human, a magic user and a girl. This was scaled back in the end to only include Link.
Most SNES games at the time were 4MB, but this was 8MB, which allowed Nintendo to create a large world for Link to explore, packed full of secrets. The developers saved space by creating a very similar Light and Dark World in terms of layout but using different textures to give it that different feel. Some features were cut though due to space and capability, for example, the ability to create wildfires in the overworld (a feature that would eventually return in other Zelda games).
There’s an easter egg in the game, which was a prize from Nintendo Power. In 1990 they asked players to take a photo of the “warmest”, which is a powerful and rare enemy found in Final Fantasy. Nintendo chose a winner at random and their name was put into the game. There’s a hidden room in a Link To The Past which has 45 rupees and a greeting from Chris Houlihan, the winner of the contest. When you find the hidden room the thief says “My name is Chris Houlihan. This is my top secret room. Keep it between us, okay?”. Nice touch from Nintendo, I can’t imagine them doing something like that today.
The room was intended as a crash prevention measure; the game would send players to this room if it could not determine where Link was going when he goes to another area and has been found through five different methods. There was no wide awareness of the room until the 2000s, more than a decade after the release of A Link to the Past with the increased popularity of the Internet and Super NES emulators.
The Game Boy Advance re-release, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Four Swords, removed the ability to access the room, though it could still be found in the game’s code. The Virtual Console re-releases on the Wii, Wii U, and New Nintendo 3DS, as well as the version present on Nintendo Switch Online, contain the room, being emulations of the original game.
The game was a hit when it was released. It topped the charts in Japan when it was released in November and December 1991 and then in January 1992, and was the best-selling 1991 release. It was the third best-selling game of 1992, after Street Fighter II and Sonic 2, and sold a million units. A Link To The Past spent 5 years at number one, in Nintendo Power’s list of top games. Worldwide it’s the best-selling SNES game with 4.61 million copies sold on the SNES and 2.8 million copies sold on the Gameboy Advance version.
A Link To The Past Part 1 Final Thoughts
That’s it for this first part of the Zelda Game Club for A Link To The Past. Part 2 will be out in a week’s time, so please get your comments to me by Monday 17th October to be included in part 2. It’d be great if you could complete everything up until Gargoyle’s Domain, which is Hyrule Castle, Dark Palace, Swamp Palace, Skull Woods and Gargoyle’s Domain. Reach that point, then stop, and we’ll complete the game together the week after. If you haven’t started yet, there’s still time. The game is about 15 hours long, so it’s possible to catch up, and it’d be great for as many people to play along and comment as possible. Finally, a BIG thank you to everyone who commented and who is playing along, it’s really appreciated and I’m glad you enjoy the videos and are part of the Triforce Times Community.