I fired it up on Wii U Virtual Console and after getting past the intro for the first time in years and years... I was just amazed. This game is still really good. Even by modern standards. Yeah, some modern conveniences are missing but nothing that truly hurts the enjoyment of the game (especially with built in save states on Virtual Console).
This is the first Zelda game that feels fully formed. It's the core of the series realized fully. Exploring the overworld, uncovering secrets, slowly figuring out what to do in dungeons, getting more skillful at combat, finding new items to get around the world... it's all here.
Not to mention the structure. It's almost identical to the structure of Ocarina of Time. A Link to the Past finds you needing to collect three pendants which let you get the Master Sword and reveal an entire second world linked to the first. Then you need to collect seven crystals trapping seven maidens to unlock the way to the final confrontation. It's so close to Ocarina that I almost couldn't believe it.
It's also worth mentioning that the first intro dungeon acts as a tutorial without explicitly holding your hand or spelling everything out for you. You learn by doing. It seems like this is something modern games have forgotten. Even later Zelda games have the problem of too much text and tutorial up front, but not this one. A Link to the Past throws you into challenge after challenge that teach you new things about the game.
I'm also finding it interesting that 2D games seem to have aged better than 3D games. I've tried playing some early era N64 and PS1 games lately and they don't hold up nearly as well as a solid SNES game does.
Something I didn't notice until I was two dungeons in is that at some point my son had fired up the game and created a new save using his name. I was using that file without realizing it, so for the first time ever I ended up playing the whole game without my character being named Link. It was my son's name instead. Every time I saw it I got a little smile on my face.
Anyway, this isn't my first time beating A Link to the Past but it is my first time finishing it in at least ten years, if not more. I remember loving it on SNES and GBA so I'm glad it still holds up today. This is the first Zelda I can recommend to any gamer out there.
And with all that said I should probably start ranking the Zelda games as I go, just like I did with my Final Fantasy Project. So here we go, current rankings:
- A Link to the Past (1991)
- The Legend of Zelda (1987)
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1988)