The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is officially the third game in the highly regarded The Legend of Zelda series. Link returns to his original form after the unorthodox side-scrolling The Legend of Zelda II on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, in one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time. The influence of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is so great that its core gameplay echoes throughout the rest of the series, such as the Nintendo 64 classic, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
It was released in Japan on November 21, 1991, in North America on April 13, 1992 and in Europe on November 24, 1992. The project was led by Shigeru Miyamoto and his team.
A Link to the Past expanded on the original's mechanics, introducing gameplay features that have become hallmarks of the Zelda series, such as multi-level dungeons, the Master Sword, the Hookshot, and parallel worlds. It was well-received and is often considered one of the best instalments of the series. It sold over four million copies and many critics and fans consider it one of the greatest video games ever made.
On December 2, 2002, Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance port of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The re-release itself had little new, but the cartridge also included a Capcom-developed multi-player mode titled The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, the first multi-player mode in The Legend of Zelda franchise. The Game Boy Advance version also featured 'sleep mode', allowing the game console to consume minimal power when not being used. A Link to the Past was released on Nintendo's Virtual Console in Japan on December 2, 2006, in North America on January 22, 2007, and in Australia on March 23, 2007.
The Palace of the Four Sword can be unlocked by completing the bundled Four Swords multi-player game, creating a new doorway in the east side of the Dark Pyramid of the Sacred Realm. In it, Link battles several new bosses to obtain the four aspects of the Four Sword, before confronting four doppelgängers of himself. Completion of the Palace of the Four Sword allows the player to see a "Quest Log" revealing certain statistics on the current game.
The introduction of A Link to the Past chronicles the Imprisoning War, which occurred many years before the events of the game. It describes Hyrule as a beautiful kingdom surrounded by forests and mountains, and tells of an omnipotent golden power that lies hidden in the Sacred Realm, a place which cannot normally be entered by mortals. However, a dark portal to the Sacred Realm opened, causing many people to quarrel and fight each other. While many men entered the Sacred Realm, none returned. Instead, an evil power began to issue forth from the dark portal. During the main story, it is discovered that the source of the evil power is a lowly thief named Ganondorf, who got his hands on the golden power (a.k.a. the Triforce), turning the Sacred Realm into the Dark World. The king commanded the Seven Sages* to seal the gate to the Sacred Realm. Many knights had perished in the battle to protect the sages from the evil, but eventually, the seal was cast on the portal. The evil ceased to flow, and the portal was sealed. These events eventually became obscured by time, and became legend.
Many years later, a mysterious wizard known as Agahnim appeared as if from nowhere, using his magic to vanquish the King of Hyrule and take over Hyrule Castle. In doing so, he cast a spell on the knights of Hyrule, forcing them to obey him and kidnap seven maidens who descended from the seven sages of legend, intending to use them to break the seal by making them disappear into the Dark World, one by one. He eventually captures six of the maidens, leaving only the final descendant, Princess Zelda. As the game begins, Agahnim has captured Zelda and is planning on sending her to the Dark World to complete the destruction of the seal.
- -- Originally these were called the "seven wise men" but was changed to "Seven Sages" in the GBA remake so as not to contradict the fact that according to Ocarina of Time, only two of the sages were actually men.
The Quest for the Master Sword
At the beginning of the game, a young boy named Link is awakened by a telepathic message from Princess Zelda, who says that she is locked in the dungeon of Hyrule Castle. As the message closes, Link's uncle (perhaps in response to the same message, but that is unknown) goes to rescue her, telling Link to remain in bed. However, Link ignores his uncle's command, and goes to Hyrule Castle as well, taking a lantern with him. He walks through the rain to find the secret entrance to an underground passage (that comes out in Hyrule Castle courtyard), where he finds his uncle seriously wounded. Link's uncle tells him to rescue Princess Zelda, giving him a sword and shield, and teaching him an ancient sword spin technique that has been passed down through the generations of Link's family. Link navigates the castle and rescues Zelda from her cell. Zelda guides Link to the throne room, where they take a secret passage through a sewer that leads to a sanctuary.
Link is told by a sage that Agahnim is planning to break the seal by sacrificing the seven maidens; the only thing that can defeat him is the Master Sword. He tells Link to visit the house of Sahasrahla, a wise man known to reside in Kakariko Village, marking the location on his map (i.e. the game's overworld map). By the time Link leaves the Sanctuary, the storm and rainclouds have vanished, yielding to clear skies. It also becomes evident that Link is wanted for kidnapping Princess Zelda. Once Link arrives at the wise man's house, he finds only the wise man's wife present, and she tells Link that her husband left the village when Agahnim took control of Hyrule Castle. Link talks to a boy, who tells Link that Sahasrahla is hiding near the Eastern Palace, and marks the exact spot on his map. Link heads east, and arrives at a house where Sahasrahla is staying. Sahasrahla tells Link about the Master Sword, and instructs him to return with the Pendant of Courage from the Eastern Palace.
Link makes his way to the Eastern Palace. There, he solves a variety of puzzles, and eventually finds a Big Key, which unlocks not only the chest containing the Bow, but also the door leading to the lair of the palace's boss. Once he reaches the boss' room, he finds six large, blue statues called Armos Knights, which, sensing the presence of someone in the room, become animate and proceed to engage in battle with Link. After he defeats the Knights, Link takes the Pendant of Courage and exits the palace. He shows the pendant to Sahasrahla, who tells him that the retrieval and taking of the Pendants of Courage, Power, and Wisdom to the Lost Woods will allow Link to draw the Master Sword from its pedestal therein. Before Link leaves, Sahasrahla gives him the Pegasus Boots and tells Link of a helpful item to the east of Lake Hylia. He marks the locations of the other two pendants—one in the Desert Palace, and the other in the Tower of Hera at the top of Death Mountain—and the Master Sword on Link's map.
After more trials like those he faced in the Eastern Palace, Link carries the three pendants to the resting place of the Master Sword in the Lost Woods. Unfortunately, just as Link draws the sword from its pedestal, Zelda contacts him telepathically to call him urgently to Sanctuary because the Hyrule Castle soldiers have just arrived there. Link arrives at Sanctuary moments after the Soldiers have vacated it, where he learns from the dying sage that Zelda has been removed to Hyrule Castle. Link goes to rescue her, but arrives too late; Agahnim sends Zelda to the Dark World. Link defeats Agahnim in battle, but is also sent to the Dark World.
The Dark World
The Dark World is where Ganon has been imprisoned by the elders of the light world and, once he has managed to capture “the maidens of the elders” in crystals (thanks to Agahnim's work), he is also able to harness their power to "break a path through to the light world" where, with the power of the Triforce, he will be able to rule both worlds.
Once in the Dark World, Link finds himself standing atop the Pyramid of Power where Hyrule Castle stands in the Light World (as the two worlds are essentially parallel dimensions). To restore the Sacred Realm (now the Dark World) and save the once-peaceful Hyrule (a.k.a. the Light World), Link must rescue the seven maidens from dungeons scattered across the Dark World, defeat Ganon, and reclaim the Triforce.
Once the maidens have been freed, they use their power to break the barrier around Ganon's Tower, where Link faces reincarnations of the first three bosses: The six Armos Knights, the three Lanmolas (sand worms), and the Moldorm (a giant Worm), and of course, meets Agahnim again. After Link defeats Agahnim the second time, a bat rises up from Agahnim's clothes and flies off, crashing into the Pyramid of Power. As Link arrives at the Pyramid (using the bird he can eventually summon after he obtains the flute), he drops down into the hole made by the bat to find that the bat is none other than the evil Ganon, who can only be slain with the mystical Silver Arrows (reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda). After Ganon's demise at Link's hands, Link touches the Triforce and is granted the most noble wishes of his heart, among them, the Dark World to return its former glory as the Sacred Realm, peace to return to the Light World, his uncle to be healed, and all to be restored as it was. His quest completed, Link returns the Master Sword to its resting place, hopefully forever.
Instead of building on The Adventure of Link's overhead/side-scrolling hybrid system, A Link to the Past returned to the original formula of exploration and combat taking place in a similar medieval environment from an overhead perspective. The RPG-style leveling system from The Adventure of Link is also omitted: instead the player gains new heart containers (mentioned below) and other new items and equipment throughout the game, thus progressively increasing Link's abilities and strength. However, some elements of the game's magic system are retained. Control of Link is more flexible than in previous games, as he can walk diagonally and can run with the aid of an obtainable item. Link's sword attack was improved to slash sideways instead of merely thrusting forward; this gives his sword a broader range and makes combat easier. Link slashes his sword as the default attack in future Zelda games, although thrusting is also possible in the later 3D incarnations.
Several recurring items and techniques were introduced for the first time in A Link to the Past, such as the Hookshot, the Master Sword, and the Pegasus Shoes. Heart Containers that increase the player's maximum life (hit points) in the earlier two games are present, but many are split into Pieces of Heart, four of which comprise one Heart Container. Most of them are well hidden, adding replay value to the game. Many dungeons are multi-level and require Link to walk between floors, and sometimes fall through holes to land in lower levels.
A Link to the Past is the first appearance of what would subsequently become a major Zelda trademark: the existence of two parallel worlds between which the player travels. The first, called the Light World, is the ordinary Hyrule where Link grew up with his uncle. The second is what was once the Sacred Realm, but became the Dark World when Ganon acquired the Triforce. The Dark World is a corrupted version of Hyrule; the water is a dark, unpleasant color, the grass is dead, skulls replace rocks, and trees have faces. People change forms in the Dark World based on their nature; without an item to prevent it, Link turns into a pink rabbit. Each location in the Light World corresponds to a similar location in the Dark World, usually with a similar physical structure but an opposite nature (e.g. a desert in the Light World corresponds to a swamp in the Dark World).
Link can travel from the Dark World to the Light World at almost any outside location by using a magic mirror (and back again from the same location using the portal left where he reappears in the Light World). There are several other hidden warp locations throughout the Light World. This enables a variety of puzzles that exploit slight differences between the Light and Dark Worlds.
- Unlike previous games in The Legend of Zelda series, this game was not bundled with a gold-colored case.
- There is a secret room called the Chris Houlihan room. It is the result of a Nintendo Power contest, where the winner would get a secret room named after them.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition released on the GameCube in 2003, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was the only Zelda home console game not included. This was likely due to the game already having a port on the Game Boy Advance and would be accessible on the GameCube via the Game Boy Player.
- The game iterates on the dungeon designs of previous installments by adding the concept of multiple floors & layers, including basements.
- Official website
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past wiki guide at StrategyWiki