Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Okay, I’m kind of cheating with this entry, since I didn’t bother to record this game, provide screencaps, or prove I’ve beaten it. Why should I? It’s Legend of Zelda. Beating it isn’t a matter of skill, just attention span. Besides, I’ve beaten it multiple times over the course of my life, so doing it once more won’t mean a thing.

And I want to say something upfront.

When I was young, I loved Zelda. I played all of them (minus the CD-i ones of course), with my fandom phase ending with Majora’s Mask and the two “Oracle of Something” games. It was around those that I realized Zelda had lost its ancient magic and had become an empty franchise, trying to keep itself fresh with shallow gimmicks as opposed to good gameplay. This Kotaku article sums it up best: Zelda isn’t really about exploration or the wonder of discovering an untamed world, it’s about coming to an arbitrary roadblock and then ferreting around until you discover the item that lets you get around it. It feels like work.

Even back in the day, I never felt like A Link to the Past (arguably the Zelda franchise’s last hurrah, although I argue Ocarina of Time is better) was the all-time classic everyone hailed it as. By the time I played it (my first 16-bit console was a Genesis), I had already played superior games like Landstalker, Secret of Mana, Crusader of Centy, Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia. It wasn’t like I was intentionally avoiding Zelda–just that for the longest time, I couldn’t find it anywhere.

And it’s not like A Link to the Past is terrible as a game. Hell, seeing Death Mountain brings me back to my grade school years and reminds me of the excellent days when I would rent games from Crossroads… err, anyway, the problem is just I’ve grown to dislike a lot of the concepts that are part-n-parcel to the whole Zelda (and in some ways Action RPGs and RPGs in general) thing.

Case in point, there’s this one well in Kakariko village you can’t jump down until you have both the hammer and the power glove (by Mattel!) Going down there is a shrine you can sprinkle magic powder on to get a magic bonus. But you won’t have the necessary items until after the fourth Dark World dungeon, so the game is already almost over. It feels like such a waste, to be forced to wait until so late in the game to get an upgrade that would’ve come in handy much, much earlier. It’s almost pointless for it to even be in there at all.

Another reason this game tends to annoy and frustrate me is that much of the exploration ends up being purposeless. You bomb a wall and find a hidden thief… who gives you 300 rupees. And it feels like such a waste because I already have 959. Rupees are easy to get and I’m perpetually full of them. Likewise, when you open a chest and it just has arrows or bombs–again, I already have plenty, and a one-time treasure chest should not be filled with items that can be replenished by breaking pots or killing enemies, anyway.

I’d like it if I could just ignore the treasure chests and pots until I was sure I needed them, but no–sometimes they have keys in or under them that you’ll need later, so you’re forced to waste potential resources on the off chance that one of them is that key you’re looking for.

That’s my problem with Zelda: It’s not about “adventure” or “exploration” in any meaningful sense of the word. There is none. It’s just a bunch of ferreting around. A true adventure would allow the player to discover things for themselves. Zelda never does. Except in the NES original, and of course all the weakling modern gamers call that “bad design” now.

It makes me think that “good game design” is a synonym for “dull, tedious and boring,” and I suddenly understand why “badly”-designed games like Blaster Master or the original Zelda somehow seem more engrossing–it was because you literally don’t know what to expect. That makes them mysterious, and wonderful. I actually want to see more of them because they’re strange new worlds with their own rules where something awesome could be anywhere.

Hmmm. Maybe Blaster Master should be next week’s game? No promises though!

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42 thoughts on “Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

    • I mentioned it in the article, but just to be clear: Ocarina was the last Zelda I unambiguously enjoyed. In some ways it felt like a return to true exploration and adventure (whereas ALTTP and the Gameboy one felt too methodical).

      Majora’s Mask and its god-damn three days gimmick though… ugh.

    • ATLA review might happen soon. I decided to economize by buying the original, one-volume-at-a-time releases (which can be had for the price of shipping basically) as opposed to the box sets.

      So… it happens when it arrives.

    • Incidentally, I just noticed that when I was checking out, Amazon said Avatar was “by Dante Basco.”

      Too bad it wasn’t by Dante Sparda. That would’ve really been interesting…

      • Speaking of people named Dante, I find the main character of Devil May Cry kinda flat. He had some moments in 3-4, but other then that he’s overpowered in cutscenes and just says cheesy one liners and acts like “Look at me, I’m cool, and totally not a ripoff of an anime character!”. Again, he has his moments, but like a lot of Capcom characters (I’m looking at you, Resident Evil) he’s somewhat less interesting then most, at least for me.

        Did you hear about the DMC remake? He doesn’t have his white hair and red jacket anymore :/

    • I heard of the remake. Apparently its loved by casuals but hated by hardcores. I want to play it just because some of the themes seem interesting (the whole “the world is an illusion” thing) but I don’t have a PS3 or an X-Box.

      As for Dante being flat… you do realize that’s pretty much the point, right?

      • The hate against it is simply because its a reboot/prequel, and those are hated for obvious reasons *cough*starwars*cough*Halloween

        Its stupid hate, but it might come from the fact that they think remakes/reboots/sequels= unoriginality. But they forgot you could put your own spin on something…

        Get PS3, cause I got stuck with a XBOX 360, which has little exclusive titles while PS3 has a lot of great ones.

        Dante being flat is the point…how?

    • Dante is the quintessential action hero. Strong, skilled, fearless and not afraid to flaunt it. He has enough quirks to make him human (his pizza addiction, being bad with money, keeping a picture of his mother around etc) but he’s not meant to be deep or complicated like, say, a Final Fantasy hero. He’s just a really easygoing, lovable guy who just happens to fight monsters and also happens to be damn good at it.

      The hate for the remake may be dumb, but the reason the remake even exists is dumber, so its kinda justified.

      The problem with “putting their own spin on things” is that if you’re gonna do that, you might as well make an original story. Stories, much like people, have an identity and that identity is what people like, so a remake that “puts its own spin on things” is really just a liability.

      Have you seen the reports lately that Hasbro wants to do an alternate universe My Little Pony, where they’re all human, and they go to high school? (Look up “Equestria Girls” if you haven’t–no, not the song. Its the reported name of the new show)

      • I’ve heard about that, and honestly I’m not excited for the idea.

        Its either going to be MLP but with humans, or another generic “highschool drama” thing.

        Hasbro just wants to market on the first shows success even more, and are trying to attract more children. Or adults.

        I’m not sure how the executives at Hasbro organize things.

    • Yes, I’ve been to the one site on the internet that’s worse than TV Tropes (both are hives of unchecked facts and blatant misinformation, but Cracked is worse because they pretend they’re an authorative source)

      • How’s it bad in your point of view?

        Mine? The articles take themselves too seriously, yet pose as comedy and snarky. The writers, especially David Wong, Daniel O’Brien, and John Cheese, act like there wise and intelligent…yet then say something that makes them look stupid.

        Seriously, drinking game EVERY time the writer acts like he’s worthless and that he has ancient knowledge or some crap. What’s worse is that there way to negative. This isn’t some “the truth hurts”, this is “even the most mundane tasks, such as buying a couple kitchen knives, involve strife, decay, and agony”

        WE GET IT. You work at a relatively underpaying website in the middle of noewhere, that gets found because of TV Tropes and Facebook.

        And the comment section usually completely agrees with the writer. Or when they don’t they just say “this is bullshit”. There not specific, and you can barely even contact them.

        They ban people for the dumbest reasons, I’ve gotten banned for making 2 crappy forums…that were crappy because several trolls started a flame war and I got involved.
        And why the heck are all there most recent articles focused on “5 things about X/Y that you totally X/Y”.
        No video game articles? No historical articles? Just some ‘scientific’ ‘trivia’ collected from…where? Not even Wikipedia or a book or something? Just these random websites?

        WHY?????

    • In addition to all that you said, the thing about Cracked is that they

      A) do insufficient research and

      B) they tend to take things as having more meaning than they actually do and

      C) they tend to cherry-pick their arguments, acting like everything they cite only has one correct conclusion and conveniently ignoring anything that questions or refutes that conclusion.

      In a nutshell, if you heard a “fact” from Cracked, there’s a 90% chance that its completely, utterly wrong. To the point that it might even be completely made up.

      • B) Like?

        C) Is actually my main gripe with the site, its called unnecessary and invalid generalization on subjective and disputed theories.

    • An example of B) (acting like things have more significance than they do) is their article “Inside the Monkeysphere.” It says that some scientist said humans aren’t capable of empathizing with everyone on the planet, claimed this was because of some hard-wired biological limit and went on to claim that this was why society is doomed to failure.

      It’s, of course, totally wrong. Fodor’s Number is only a theory. There’s no way to actually test it, and it’s more likely not due to any hard-wiring as much as the simple impossibility of getting to know every single human being on a personal level. As for the “society doomed” part, well, that’s just Cracked being a bunch of whiny emo kids who think they’re smart.

      Really, you don’t even need research half the time–half of everything Cracked says can be debunked with just ten seconds of critical thought.

      The worst part is they’re not even funny.

      • And yes, they can be debunked with just a couple thoughts.

        That’s why I’m so annoyed that there are grown men on that site that agree with everything Cracked says, and barely even read the article. They just look at the pictures and headlines. They don’t see the BS that the author is pulling out his ass, they just think “Wow, this trivial ‘fact’ is so cool….so cool. THEREFORE IT MUST BE 100% TRUE!”

        Like seriously, they dedicated an article on cheesy Giraffe sex jokes. I thought only Family Guy would stoop that low. That low, unfunny, headache inducing, excuse for humor. The satire sucks too, its like Captain Planet.

        Now to get that mess out of the way, have you ever went to SCP Foundation wiki? Its not scientifically accurate, but there’s some really cool stories there.

        I recommend checking it out.

  1. BTW, have you ever played the Elder Scrolls?

    Its got more adventure…and exploration. Just watch any playthrough of Oblivion or Skyrim or Morrowind.

    • Actually yes, the Elder Scrolls games were some of the first non-Japanese RPGs I fell in love with. Daggerfall was my introduction, and later I played Arena (the only one I’ve beaten) and, later still, Oblivion.

      And yes, I’ve been to SCP Foundation Wiki. And I’ve heard of the game based on it too, but haven’t played it yet (I don’t really like randomly-generated dungeons.)

      Hey man, don’t compare Cracked to Captain Planet. That’s an insult to Captain Planet! He’s a hero! Gonna take pollution down to zero! 😉

      • Skyrim, especially if you have a PC (which I’m saying because you don’t seem to have XBOX or PS3, plus on PC you get mods), is pretty good. However, its much different then its predecessors. I guess you could say its a bit more “dumbed down” as the hardcore RPG nerds call it, or you could simply call it “adapting to a new controller”. The plot is probably the most boring and cliche out of the TES games, next to Oblivion (which was still good, the plot just wasn’t that unique). If you have the time to waste, then there’s tons of collectables and stuff that you can loot. Even a couple books and unique weapons. Hardcore TES fans will think its a disappointment, mild RPG’rs will give it nothing less then 8/10.

        There is a game based on SCP wiki, its okay. Better then Slender, and updated more. The “random dungeon” thing can make it either unwinnable or really easy. Graphics are downright laughable when compared to a regular game, but there good for an Indie game made by around 5 people or less.

        Okay, Cracked is WORSE then Captain Planet. They aren’t out to end pollution, there out to make lists on “5 Mindblowing reasons your Polluted because we can’t think of actual research and just google a thing and click on the first thing we see so it must be true and humans evolved from dick jokes and we honestly don’t know what the heck we’re talking about”.

      • Bringing back the Cracked thing:

        There writers, especially Adam Tod Brown, are laughably arrogant. They have the gall to act like there “reasons you should stop thinking that way” lists are suited for everyone. They need to grow up, and stop acting like there so wise and right.

        BTW, do you have a PC?

    • I have two PCs. One’s a laptop and that’s primarily my internet machine, the other is a Windows 98 desktop primarily for playing older games.

      I need to feature that in a video at some point.

      And yes, I’ve played System Shock, Ultima Underworld (Ultima in general actually), Fallout (for a bit), The Bard’s Tale (originals), Wizardry, and Penumbra. And others.

      • I have a 2009 PC, thinking about getting a new one if it ever becomes too obsolete.

        I wonder, can a Windows 98 play anything past 2005?

    • “Can a Windows 98 PC play anything past 2005?”

      Except in very rare cases, no. As I said, my w98 PC is primarily for older games.

      I did, however, get a couple of freeware versions of Go running on it. I was surprised they worked.

    • A commendable goal, although it seems like its similar to pushing a boulder uphill.

      The post office seems to be dragging its heels lately, so my ATLA DVD hasn’t arrived yet. I’m thinking of also doing reviews for Batman Beyond, He-Man, and maybe Defenders of the Earth.

      • Ahh, I saw the description fail on “Pinky and the Brain” was fixed by someone. I’ll start at the repair shop.

        You know whats sad? People like associated dumb 80’s cartoons with He-Man all the time.

    • It is sad that people associate He-Man with the bad stuff. But I’ve noticed that there’s a general trend of ignorance and apathy regarding any animation that was before 1991 and isn’t classic Looney Tunes. People just assume Batman the Animated Series was the first cartoon to have serious storylines or deal with “mature” themes (even though He-Man did too and actually handled them better than Batman in a number of ways… and both pale in comparison to Robotech, which yes was a dubbed anime but its to its credit that its actually a pretty faithful dub).

      Speaking of Batman…

      Arkham City is the sequel to Arkham Asylum, right? I don’t have the consoles its on, so I haven’t played it. It sounds like its decent as a plot for a video game where the goal is to just beat people up, but without actually playing it I can’t comment more than that.

      • Batman The Animated Series…well, as a kid I did like it more then He-Man. I’m curious though, how does it have more mature plots exactly? I’m thinking about watching an episode of Robotech, got any link that isn’t YouTube? Comment section is always shitty.

        SPOILER:

        The game was brave enough to have more to do then beat immates up, and it killed several major characters off.

    • Why can’t you just ignore Youtube’s comment section?

      Thing is, I really don’t see how B:TAS is all that mature. I watched the entire series just recently and it struck me as little more than a straight-up power fantasy that was putting on a “dark” face to give an illusion of maturity.

      Case in point, yes the artstyle and aesthetic all have this “dark” vibe to them, but…. come on, one episode ends with the Joker parachuting into a police van, and his pants just HAPPEN to get pulled down, and this is in an episode where the story revolves around him hypnotizing comedians into committing crimes as some sort of revenge.

      The closest thing to maturity this show ever had was the episode about the slavers and the one about the guy and the kids who lived in the sewers. Those were legitimately some resonating themes.

      But you asked me how He-Man was better. Well, first of all because He-Man doesn’t pretend its dark. This changes expectations, and makes it a pleasant surprise when the show veers into more mature territory (Batman’s style, by contrast, sets up the expectation that its going to delve into such territory and it becomes an issue when it doesn’t).

      As for actual mature issues He-Man has dealt with? Well, there’s the episode where he discovers a city run by female-supremacists who are both suppressing their own desires and leading to their own ruin because they refuse to listen to the miners (all male). This actually gets more points today than it did in the 1980s, because these days “feminism” isn’t really about equality, it’s about… well, creating the exact kind of society seen in the episode.

      Then there’s the episode where He-Man was tricked into believing he killed somebody. Granted, it turned out to be a trick, but that’s an issue Batman never had to deal with in ANY capacity (not in the animated series, anyway).

      There’s also the ever-present fact that He-Man’s villains usually have more depth to them than just being the cackling mustache-twirler of the day. Many of them have real lives and motivations outside of just being evil, and in the better episodes, this comes out. Evil-Lyn in “The Witch and the Warrior” and that one-off queen in “A Tale of Two Cities” for example (the latter is kind of subtle, but you can feel near the end that she genuinely likes He-Man). Not to mention all the stories about redemption. Heck, even Skeletor got to save two children and a puppy once. Again, by contrast, I’ve noticed Batman’s villains tend to go the opposite route: they *start* with more interesting personalities, but then get flanderized into one-note recurring gimmicks (the Mad Hatter was a particular disappointment to me).

      And that’s enough of that.

      I finally got a notice that my ATLA DVD is shipping, by the way.

    • Doesn’t surprise me. Rolfe gives me huge “Nintendo Fanboy” vibes.

      (Particularly that awful Sega CD review of his. So wrong, so full of misinformed opinions)

      (Not to diss Rolfe–I love his videos and his work–but his fanboyism is one of the few flaws he has that irks me)

      • He’s a nostalgia machine, more so then the actual guy named after Nostalgia.

        The Nintendo console also has some of the less crappy games he reviews.

        Then again I’m a Sony/Nintendo fanboy (Uncharted is one of my favorite games) myself.

  2. Yeah that’s the thing with large linear games that are not heavily story based or level based. They want the game to seem large and open instead of feeling like you are just going from level to level by giving you an item or ability that allows you to progress rather than a ‘Level X Completed!’ screen. Without a strong story to keep your interest, eventually the illusion that you are somehow playing a more complicated or deeper game wears off.

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