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The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

A Link to the Past

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Series: The Legend of Zelda
Genres: Action-adventure
Release date(s): 1991
Media 8-megabit Cartridge
Number of players Single player
Platforms SNES, Game Boy Advance

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past|ゼルダの伝説 神々のトライフォース|Zeruda no Densetsu Kamigami no Toraifōsu|lit. "The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods"}} is the third installment in the Legend of Zelda series. It was first released in Japan and was later released in North America and Europe. Shigeru Miyamoto and his team were solely responsible for the development of this game.

A Link to the Past uses a top-down perspective similar to that of the original The Legend of Zelda, doing away with the side-scrolling format used in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It added many mechanics and concepts to the series that have become commonplace, including multi-floor dungeons and a variety of new equipment, such as the Hookshot and the Pegasus Boots. It has been well-received since its release and has been listed by GameSpot as one of the best installments of the series. To date, A Link to the Past has sold more than four million copies, and has been re-released for the Game Boy Advance and the Wii's Virtual Console.

Gameplay Edit

File:Light World - Dark World.png

A Link to the Past uses the top-down perspective of The Legend of Zelda rather than the side-scrolling perspective of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, using many mechanics and concepts from the original but also including many of its own new ones. For instance, although there are whole Heart Containers, which are usually obtained after defeating a boss, Link can also collect Pieces of Heart: when four of these pieces are found, a new Heart Container is formed. A Link to the Past also takes some concepts from The Adventure of Link, including the Magic Meter, which is used by several items, such as the Lantern. 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 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 and the Pegasus Boots as well as the Master Sword, a legendary sword that would become a focal point of many future games. Heart Containers that increase the player's maximum health (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. All dungeons are multi-level, requiring 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 the Moon Pearl 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 geographical 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 also several hidden warp locations throughout the Light World. This enables a variety of puzzles that exploit slight differences between the Light and Dark Worlds.

Plot Edit

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Main article: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past/Prologue
File:Link's Dream.png

In the land of Hyrule, a powerful and mysterious sorcerer known as Agahnim has deceived and deposed the good King of Hyrule. With the rest of the land living in ignorance of his acts, Agahnim orders the soldiers of Hyrule to capture Seven Maidens; descendants of the Seven Sages, who originally sealed the great King of Evil, Ganondorf, away during the Imprisoning War. Agahnim seeks to send the maidens to the Dark World; a twisted version of Hyrule, in order to break the spell placed on his master. Zelda, princess of Hyrule, is revealed to be one of these maidens and is imprisoned by Agahnim.

One stormy night, the young boy Link, a descendant of the Knights of Hyrule who protected the Seven Sages during their battles against Ganondorf, is telepathically contacted by Princess Zelda. Zelda begs Link to come rescue her from her captivity in the dungeons of Hyrule Castle. Link awakens, and his uncle, armed with a sword and shield, asks him to remain in the house before leaving. However, Link gets out of bed and is once more contacted by Zelda, who tells him about a secret passageway leading into the castle. Inside the passageway, Link finds his wounded uncle. Link's uncle gives him his sword and shield, and passes away. Link reaches the dungeons of the castle and rescues Zelda. The two exit the castle by way of a Secret Passage leading to a Sanctuary. The Sanctuary's loyal sage relates to Link the legend of the Master Sword, a legendary blade feared by those of evil intent, that is needed to break a barrier leading to Hyrule Castle's main tower, where Agahnim resides. However, to pull the Master Sword from its pedestal, located deep inside the Lost Woods, Link must find three Pendants of Virtue: the pendants of Wisdom, Courage and Power. These have been taken to the three dungeons in Hyrule and to fulfill the prophecy and prove his worth, Link must brave the many trials of the dungeons and overcome monstrous foes.

File:Link Obtains the Triforce.png

After successfully gathering all three Pendants of Virtue, Link pulls the Master Sword from its pedestal. Almost immediately, Link is contacted by Zelda, whose hiding place has been discovered by Agahnim's servants. She is taken away to Hyrule Castle once more, where Agahnim is ready to transport her to the Dark World. Breaking the barrier placed on the door to the Hyrule Castle Tower, Link ascends the tower and confronts Agahnim. However, he is too late, and Agahnim sends Zelda to the Dark World. Agahnim and Link do battle, and by deflecting Agahnim's magic back at him, Link seemingly defeats the evil sorcerer. However, Agahnim tells him that his efforts have been futile, and sends Link to the Dark World. Upon arriving in the Dark World, Link is contacted by the wise man Sahasrahla and is told of the one way to stop Agahnim's evil plot; he has to rescue the imprisoned Seven Maidens from dungeons around the world.

After freeing six of them, Link finally frees Zelda, the seventh maiden. With the power of the Seven Maidens, Link breaks the seal on Ganon's Tower, and works his way up Ganon's evil stronghold. After defeating Agahnim once more, it is revealed that the wizard was possessed by the true King of Evil, Ganon. He retreats to his domain, the Pyramid of Power, and Link follows after him. After a long and fierce battle, Link defeats the Evil King with the Silver Arrow. A stairway opens, and the Triforce, an omnipotent golden relic that grants the wish of whomever touches it, appears before Link. With a pure heart, he wishes for all of Ganon's evil to be undone. After peace is restored to Hyrule, Link lays the Master Sword to rest in the Pedestal of Time, seemingly to rest forever.

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Development Edit

In 1988, development of a new NES Zelda began, but one year later, the project was brought to Nintendo's next console; the Super Famicom in Japan, the SNES in all other regions. In the late 1990s, a beta cartridge for the NES Zelda III was announced on eBay, but later proved to be a hoax. Due to the success of previous titles in the series, Nintendo was able to invest a large budget and ample development time and resources into the game's production, resulting in a game hailed as a sword-and-sorcery video game classic, and one of the best games of all time.

At the time, most SNES game cartridges had 4 Mbit (512 KB) of memory. This game broke the trend by using 8 Mbit (1 MB), allowing the Nintendo development team to create a remarkably expansive world for Link to inhabit. Like Super Mario World, this game used a simple graphic compression method on the SNES by limiting the color depth of many tiles to eight colors instead of the SNES's native 16-color tiles. The tiles were decompressed at runtime by adding a leading bit to each pixel's color index. Memory was also saved by eliminating duplication: The Light World and the Dark World are almost identical, and reverse engineering of the game's ROM contents has revealed that only the differences were saved.

A Link to the Past, like the previous two entries in the series on the NES, features a counter that registers the number of times a player received a "Game Over" screen during the course of the game. This total is shown in the ending sequence (which also gives the breakdown by dungeon) and on the save file after finishing the game. The SNES version adds to the counter every time the user selects "Save and Quit", so the only way to achieve 000 is to complete the game in one continuous session. In the Virtual Console release, the player can select the home button and go to the menu, while keeping the game in the same state it was when the home button was pressed. In the Game Boy Advance remake, saving and quitting does not advance the counter, and beating the hidden dungeon starts another ending sequence in the Dark World that also shows how many times you used each item.

The English localization included a number of changes to the original Japanese game. The most common change was the removal of religious references to conform with Nintendo of America's content guidelines. The most obvious change was made to the subtitle of the game, which was changed from Triforce of the Gods to A Link to the Past. The font used to represent an unreadable language, Hylian, originally had designs of a vulture and an ankh. These designs were based on Egyptian hieroglyphs which carry religious meanings, and they were altered in the English version. The localization also made changes to plot details included in the instruction manual. The priest Agahnim became a wizard, and his background, which originally implied that he was sent by the gods, was altered to remove any celestial origin.

Music Edit

Main article: The Legend of Zelda: Sound & Drama
File:The Legend of Zelda - Sound & Drama.png

The score to A Link to the Past was composed by Kōji Kondō. The overworld theme of The Legend of Zelda ("Hyrule Overture") returns in A Link to the Past, redone in SPC700 style; it is featured in "Light World Overworld" and in "End Credits". A Link to the Past arguably established the musical core of the Zelda series. While the first game originated the "Hyrule Overture", many recurring motifs of the Zelda scores come from A Link to the Past, including "Zelda's Lullaby" (Princess Zelda's Theme), "Ganondorf's Theme", "Hyrule Castle" (Royal Family Theme), "Kakariko Village" and "Select Screen / Fairy Cave". These themes have been used in most subsequent Zelda games. "Rain Scene" and "Title Screen" have also occasionally been featured in other games.

A soundtrack to A Link to the Past, titled The Legend of Zelda: Sound and Drama, was released in Japan. Disc one is 44 minutes long and features rearranged versions of some of the game's themes, along with a bonus drama track. Disc two is 54 minutes of the original arrangements for the game and those of the original NES The Legend of Zelda.

The Dark World theme is featured in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Chris Houlihan's Top Secret Room Edit

Main article: Top Secret Room
File:Top Secret Room.png

The Top Secret Room is a secret location in the game owned by Chris Houlihan, a real person and the winner of a Nintendo Power contest. It has a telepathic tile on the upper wall and 45 Blue Rupees on the floor. The game program sends players to this room when an error condition occurs while loading the next screen, but one is also able to access this hidden room via another way. If one starts at the Sanctuary, in the light world, and dashes to the secret underground entrance, that's concealed by a bush just outside of Hyrule Castle, within a specific amount of time, one is able to access this hidden room. After exiting the room, players are transported to the outside of Link's uncle's house, even if the secret room had been accessed in the Dark World.

Reception Edit

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Critical reception Edit

A Link to the Past was critically acclaimed upon release for its excellent graphics and complex, well-engineered, intriguing gameplay, and has since been recognized by some critics as one of the greatest video games of all time.

A Link to the Past has been featured in many "best games of all time" lists. In 2006, Entertainment Weekly chose it as the best game of all-time. In 2005, IGN editors placed it 11th in its "Top 100 Games", while readers voted it to 5th place. Members of GameFAQs ranked it the 4th best, and readers of Japanese magazine Famitsu ranked it 31st in a 2006 poll. It also placed 3rd in Electronic Gaming Monthly's list, 23rd in GameInformer''s, and 3rd in a "200 Best Nintendo Games" list by Nintendo Power.

Consumer reception Edit

A Link to the Past is one of the best-selling SNES games, with 4.61 million units sold worldwide, and has had an exceptionally long stay on Nintendo Power's top games list: when the SNES list was finally retired, A Link to the Past had more than five consecutive years in the number one spot.

It has been re-released as a Player's Choice title in North America, indicating that it has sold a minimum of one million copies there.

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