The title screen art from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The scene depicts the side of Hyrule Castle with its moat to the left. There are mountains in the distance.

There's so much I wanna say about this game. It was one of the first games I ever played. I remember being a little kid, before I was even in kindergarten, when my dad bought an SNES and a batch of games. After he taught me how to use the controller, he let me run wild with it. If you've ever played a Zelda game, you know that these games generally take a little bit more brainpower to get through than a small child would have. I definitely struggled with it. I remember understanding the gist of the story (save the princess from the evil dude!) but hafving an absolute hell of a time progressing. At some point or another my dad started helping me progress and understand more details about Hyrule as it was presented to us. He was no expert, so the going was real tough. We only made it to the end of the first world, but damn I had a lot of fun playing this together with him.

Like most Zelda titles, this was a puzzle-based dungeon crawler. As a top-down 2D game, it felt quite different from the 3D titles that woul coem late. Even without taking its place into gaming history into account, this entry is jam-packed with depth and content. It's absolutely amazing to me that they managed to fit 11 dungeons, 2 huge overworlds, and a cart full of items, heart pieces, and hidden areas onto a single SNES cartridge; doubly (triply?) so when you look at the level of detail they gave this version of Hyrule.

Its only 2D predecessor, the original Legend of Zelda for NES, was great as well. But ALTTP gave Hyrule so much of its life and minutiae that has persisted to this day. Hell, heart pieces. the central Hyrule Castle. Kakariko Village. the Hookshot. THE MASTER SWORD. The details surrounding the Triforce have changed over the years, but this was the first Zelda to give them a story and purpose. Now you had some color on the world as it was originally presented. On the OG NES title, you got the skeleton of a story. Ganon was a vague personification of villainy. But ALTTP's Ganon was fleshed out and given life. He's out there scheming - He corrupted the king's guardsmen. He tainted the sacred Golden Land with his twisted desires while its inhabitants suffer. And now he's kidnapping Zelda and the ancestors of the Knights of Hyrule so he can break the seal on the Dark World and launch his full assault on the Light World! Sure, it isn't the most complex story in the gaming world. But where the NES title created a rough draft for the franchise, ALTTP fleshed that out and added color where there was none before.

You begin this game as just a young man, waking up on a rainy night to a girl's voice you heard in your sleep. She's pleading for help. Just after waking up, your uncle leaves the house and tells you to stay in bed. He promises to be back by morning. Led by nothing other than a hunch, you leave the house and head for the castle. You rescue Zelda from the clutches of the evil wizard Agahnim. Soon, you find yourself pulled all across Hyrule in a quest to obtain the Master Sword and defeat the wizard. But when you finally confront him armed with the legendary weapon, he pulls you into the Dark World - a twisted and hostile version of the world Link calls home. Remember how I said Ganon was kidnapping maidens? Well, he's got em now, and he's using them to undo the seal on the Dark World RIGHT NOW.

* side note - I'm not gonna lie, the younger version of me totally thought the wizard was the end of the game. It BLEW MY MIND that I wasn't even halfway done with my quest!

To those making their first pass through ALTTP, the Dark World can be unforgiving. The puzzles one has to solve, sometimes just to OPEN the dungeons you need to find, get a little tricky. And the dungeons themselves really crank up the difficuly a few notches from all of those in the Light World. As a kid, there were several dungeons I COULD NOT figure out how to access. It was a coin toss whether my (at this point) 7-8 year old mind could solve my way through the 1st DW dungeon - the Palace of Darkness (creative name ik lol). I died so much in there, and got lost so many times. There were many times I quit and reloaded my previous save because I was convinced I used my keys in the wrong order (this cannot happen lmao). Other than that, I was only ever able to beat the 3rd dungeon - Skull Woods before my time playing with my dad came to an end, and my original SNES cartridge was tragically lost to time (F). That shit was hard as a kid. Fuck, the dungeon was underground and split up into sections. You had to wander around Skull Woods looking for holes in the ground to fall into in order to move from section to section. And you had fuckin' Wallmasters falling from the ceiling trying to take you back to the entrance. Eesh. Past that point though, there were several dungeons I had trouble even ACCESSING. Could not figure out how to get into the Ice Palace until I was emulating the game as a teenager. I remember being too confused with the Swamp Palace to proceed past the first room or two. Thieves' Town confused the crap out of me too. I COULD NOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME figure out how to cross the first gap in Misery Mire (I was missing an item from another dungeon). And my first time in Turtle Rock, when I was 14 or 15, was an absolute nigthmare. The magic management they make you do can be TOUGH if you aren't approaching the dungeon with the right tools and mindset. Ganon's Tower was oddly forgettable, though a nice challenge leading up to the game's climax. Defeating Agahnim for real was so satisfying when I did it for the first time - it had been over a decade since I'd first seen this asshole, and it was good to finally take him down. Of course, even better was finally seeing Ganon reveal himself, and defeating him once and for all...this part took me awhile. He's fuckin' HARD. I was also missing a key item, as it turned out.

Moving on, I wanna hit on that music. This title gave us our first versions of the Kakariko Village theme, as well as that of the Great Fairy Fountain.

My favorite pieces of music from this game are honestly tied:

1 - the Dark World theme. You hear this as soon as Ganon's servant pulls you into the Dark World for the first time. It sets the tone of your adventure so well. It's epic. My ears hear a direct translation of Link' courage as he learns the true scope of JUST HOW FUCKED the world is, and feeling the odds all stacked against him. Maybe it's just me. Fuck me, it probably is. But this piece of music really says something.

2 - Dark World Death Mountain - idk how to describe this one. It's just awesome as fuck. That's all.

As I'm sure you can tell if you've kept up with me (or played this game yourself), the scope of this game was HUGE for its time. It really felt like a world detailed enough and big enough to get lost in. I'd spend hours and hours just fucking off and doing stupid shit all around Hyrule. Before I finally beat it, it sometimes felt like the game would never end. I'd give a lot just for the chance to erase my memory of this game and do it all over again for the first time. Nevermind, no I wouldn't. I have too many fond memories tied to this game that are absolutely irreplaceable. I wouldn't trade them for the world.

This game had such a deep impact on me that it's hard to measure. My dad and I would bond over playing this game. It was my introduction to gaming. It was my introduction to story-based gaming. It was my introduction to medieval high fantasy, a genre I've been in love with since...well, when I played this game! The LoZ franchise is, to this day, one of my all-time favorites. Loading this game up always has such an epic feel to it, and I wish I had more detailed words to describe that feeling with, but for now they escape me. But it isn't just me. There's a reason this game is widely regarded as a classic of the genre. If you're into this style of game at all but haven't checked it out, I implore you to do so at your earliest opportunity. It isn't QUITE my favorite Zelda game (that's a story for another day), but DAMN it's up there.

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