Sunday, January 22, 2012
Review: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (WiiVC/SNES)
I've now played every console Legend of Zelda game with the exception of Skyward Sword. Most recently I took my maiden voyage through the oft lauded SNES entry: A Link to the Past. It's impossible to view this game in a vacuum where I can unremember collecting the Triforce some 7 times prior. Yet it's also unrealistic to expect this game to be iteratively better than say, Twilight Princess. Considering these factors and most of all my general adoration for the Zelda franchise, I was still truly stunned to find myself in an early dungeon of LttP almost totally lacking the desire to continue forward. Ultimately I did push on, partly due to my self-inflicted charge to finish games that I purchase, but also because I possessed optimism that this version of Hyrule could grow on me.
In light of Nintendo's recent bend of pedantic in-game instructions for how to use Wii controls, it's refreshing to play a Zelda game that hearkens back to simpler times when you could press "start," enter a cave, pick up a sword and begin an adventure. A pitfall of this strategy is that it requires a high level of preconceived curiosity and exploratory desire on the part of the player that is more difficult to achieve when the world is somewhat familiar and lacking the visual "awe" factor that usually accompanies these flagship titles at initial release. Additionally LttP offers a decent amount of player choice, which is always neat to see in older games, but once again this relies heavily on your own initiative since the game merely suggests where to try next, rarely narrowing where you can actually explore.
I began to approach sitting down to play more LttP similarly to filling out a Sudoku, as it required me to be in the mood for solving that particular brand of puzzle. I feel a little bad constantly conjuring up references to other Zelda games in this review, but how else can a game like this be evaluated in 2012? It's a franchise so staunchly rooted in its formula that it would almost be like writing a Madden review that doesn't acknowledge the previous year's game's existence. Often with Zelda games, style differentiation is enough to warrant giving each entry a try. Nintendo consistently trots out top-notch art direction no matter how underpowered the hardware they work with may be. Perhaps Zelda games really are meant to be played exclusively around the time they originally come to market. This allows enough time between doses to build the demand for a new version, while the visual changes make things appear just different enough to distinguish it from the last one.
Completing Twilight Princess granted me with a cautious optimism for the future of my beloved franchise, but A Link to the Past has left me with a sense of acceptance that Zelda is what Zelda is. What it is is something pretty grand though. It may be built around a formulaic structure, but it's a system that works. My only fear is a personal one: that I've exasperated this series' magical hold on me. Though, since I've laid out that I think these games are optimally played when they're most current, I suppose I should withhold judgment until reporting back post-Skyward Sword. The fact that I'd even seek to play more Zelda after this must count for something, right?