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The Importance of ‘A Link to the Past’ to the Zelda Franchise

March 16, 2019
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Do you remember 1991? Pete Sampras won his first ATP Tour World Tennis Championship. It’s the year of Terminator 2 Judgment Day, Beauty and the Beast, The Addams Family, and Silence of the Lambs. In the United States a pound of Bacon cost a $1.95, gas about $1.12, and a carton of eggs a mere .85 cents.  You might recall the SNES was released in August bundled with Super Mario World.  An impressive game, but not the game we are discussing today. So come drink a large glass of nostalgia with me friends as I look back at a game heralded as one of the greatest of all time, “The Legend of Zelda a Link to the Past”.

With 4.61 million sales world wide, a Link to the Past (LTTP) is recognized as an epic masterpiece, one that has endured over time. Within in the Zelda fandom it is perhaps one of the only games to be seen as a rival to Ocarina of Time (OOT) in regards to importance to the franchise.  Despite the game being over 25 years old years old it’s still considered critically important to the series.

LTTP began development in 1988, and originally had a very different concept than was eventually released. The 3rd installment was suppose to feature multiple characters.  An elf, a magician, a woman, and a fairy.  Thankfully they scratched that idea of reinvention (perhaps remembering the mixed reception of Zelda 2) and instead worked at expanding on everything that made the original wonderful.

This game like the iterations before it does not hand hold and much like the original exploration is key.  The world is immediately thematic Darkened by a storm rain pouring across the landscape.  When you find your uncle he is dying. He uses his last moments to give you his sword, shield, and a mission: Save the Princess Zelda. With that you are on your own, which is a stark contrast from the hand holding that started in OOT and ballooned out of control in later installments (Breath of the Wild aside). A Link to the Past was all about exploration as a young hero when on an adventure to save Hyrule.   

We can all acknowledge the original Zelda perhaps was ground breaking from a programming point of view, but remember the formula was not in stone. Zelda 2 featured an entirely different direction opting with side scrolling action. This idea of changing the format every game followed on with the beginning development of LTTP. As I stated earlier it was originally a four person adventure game.  I would say more “Final Fantasy”, than the Zelda as we know today.  When Miyamoto and staff settled on returning to the top down style, as well as the Zelda/Link/ Ganon dynamic of the original it solidified their direction. Every game following would adhere to a similar formula building upon the layers of history and gameplay. If you remember Zelda 2 didn’t even have the same Zelda even though it was the same Link.

It would be more than story direction that would echo through the series. Several game mechanics and items would be borrowed from LTTP.  The dual world idea for instance with LTTP leading the way with the dark world.  Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, and even OOT with its dual time gameplay followed suit.

It was the genesis point of popular songs like the theme for Kakariko Village and the fairy fountain.  Where would we be today if it had not created the concept of hook shot, flippers, and and even a bug net. How it repels Ganondorf’s energy attacks I’ll never know. 

Yes this reimagining of the 8 bit original added a new depth not seen before. Each successive Zelda game has always built upon its predecessors. It’s no different here with Ocarina taking several ideas the LLTP had invented.

One iconic moment would be in Ocarina of Time when you walked into the Temple of Time with your three pendants.  Do you recall the chills that raced down your spine the first moment that energy flashed as Link pulled the sword from the pedestal? I do, however it must be known that the most iconic weapon in video game history originated in LTTP. 

I still remember the moment Link trekked through a large misty clearing in the Lost Woods. Small animals scattering as Link neared where the sword slept. The three pendants earned from the Tower of Hera, the Eastern Palace, and Desert Palace floated above the young heroes head. There was a flash of light as the sword came free the mists retreating from the power of the blade. Its one of my favorite video game moments to this day.

An astonishing 8MB of memory (1MB alone for music) were crammed into this conceptually powerful game. It was so beloved at the time that there was concern for a 3D Zelda and how it would fare in comparison. Thankfully, Miyamoto and company would go on to take a risk creating Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.  Yet it’s important to remember that often history is often built upon the backs of giants. For its era, a Link to the Past was that giant. It was a Link to the Past in title, but a link to the future in reality.

Tell me what you think! Is A Link to the Past as important as I say? Or are these merely the ramblings of a madman chugging too much coffee?  Let me know in the comment section down below, or you can discuss in our wonderful forums.

Some say he is a leaf on the wind, others say he is the wind beneath their wings.  Either way he is a huge Nintendo fan and has been gaming since the age of 8.  One part Jedi Master, and two parts Starfleet Redshirt he has been known to quiet the ocean and make mountains sit. He comes to you now to share in all things Nintendo.

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TheLostHylian

Some say he is a leaf on the wind, others say he is the wind beneath their wings.  Either way he is a huge Nintendo fan and has been gaming since the age of 8.  One part Jedi Master, and two parts Starfleet Redshirt he has been known to quiet the ocean and make mountains sit. He comes to you now to share in all things Nintendo.

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