- "Please help me... I am a prisoner in the dungeon of the castle. My name is Zelda. The wizard, Agahnim, has done something to the other missing girls. Now only I remain... Agahnim has seized control of the castle and is now trying to open the seven wise men's seal. I am in the dungeon of the castle. Please help me..."
- — Zelda telepathically contacting Link
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.
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 Lamp. 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.
Many centuries prior to the events of the game, in the land of Hyrule, many parties sought to enter the mythical Golden Land, where the omnipotent and omniscient Triforce, a relic believed to have the power to grant the utmost wish of the person who touches it, was rumored to be found. Eventually, the thief Ganon managed to successfully do so, turning the Golden Land into an inhospitable wasteland known as the Dark World. In order to prevent Ganon from causing more destruction and pain, the Seven Wise Men sought to seal him away in the Dark World. The valiant Hylian Knights protected them from Ganon's forces, and the seal was successfully placed; however, the Hylian Knights' bloodline was almost entirely wiped out as a result of the battle. It was prophesied that if Ganon should ever return, a descendant of the knights would ultimately defeat him, and restore the Golden Land to its former glory.
Centuries later, the mysterious sorcerer Agahnim has deceived and deposed the good King of Hyrule. Agahnim then brainwashed the soldiers of Hyrule to capture Seven Maidens; descendants of the Seven Wise Men, in order to send them to the Dark World, thus breaking the seal placed on Ganon. 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, 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, wherein Agahnim resides. Link seeks the elder Sahasrahla in Kakariko Village to inquire about the sword, but finds that he has moved elsewhere. Upon meeting Sahasrahla, the elder tells Link that in order to prove himself worthy of wielding the Master Sword, he must retrieve the 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.
The Light World
Link recovers the Pendant of Courage from the Eastern Palace, and returns to Sahasrahla. Upon seeing the pendant, Sahasrahla is convinced of Link's potential to become the legendary hero, and presents him with the Pegasus Boots, boots that grant great speed to the wearer. Link travels south to the Desert of Mystery, where a mysterious slab with an inscription blocks his way. In a nearby cave, Link encounters Aginah, a wise sage who tells him of the Book of Mudora, an ancient tome that allows the user to decipher old Hylian. Using the Pegasus Boots, Link knocks the book down from a shelf in the House of Books, and successfully gains entry to the dungeon, allowing him to recover the Pendant of Power. While traversing the cavernous depths of Death Mountain, Link comes across a Lost Old Man, whose granddaughter was one of the Seven Maidens captured by Ganondorf. As thanks for aiding him to his home in the mountains, the old man gives Link a Magic Mirror. Link uses a portal on the mountain to enter the Dark World; for the duration of his stay, he is transformed into a bunny, as ones who enter the Dark World transform into a shape that reflects what is in their heart. Braving the Tower of Hera, Link obtains the third and final pendant, the Pendant of Wisdom, as well as the Moon Pearl that grants the holder immunity against the transformative effects of the Dark World.
After successfully gathering all three Pendants of Virtue, Link pulls the Master Sword from its pedestal in the Lost Woods. Almost immediately, Link is contacted by Zelda, whose hiding place has been discovered by Agahnim's guards. 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 with the Master Sword, Link seemingly defeats the evil sorcerer. However, Agahnim tells him that his efforts have been futile, and draws Link with him into the Dark World.
The Dark World
Upon arriving in the Dark World, Link is contacted by 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 Agahnim is defeated once more, Ganon is seen rising from Agahnim's body before turning into a bat and escaping to the Pyramid. Ganon later describes Agahnim as his alter ego. Link pursues Ganon to the Pyramid. 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 returns the Master Sword to the Pedestal of Time, seemingly to rest forever. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, as this game's sequel, confirms that this is no longer true.
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 port, 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.
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 & 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
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 north wall and several Rupees on the floor. The game program sends players to this room when an error condition occurs while loading the next screen. This is designed to prevent the game from crashing should such an error occur.
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 the list of Electronic Gaming Monthly, 23rd in the list of GameInformer, and 3rd in a "200 Best Nintendo Games" list by Nintendo Power. In 2018, it was ranked as the number one greatest game of all time by GameInformer.
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.
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.
A Link to the Past features two fully-explorable worlds; in addition to the overworlds, the Light World has four dungeons and Dark World has eight, giving a total of twelve dungeons, the most of any Zelda game. Each palace has from two to eight floors, and most floors have several rooms. Moreover, many entrances on the overworld lead to more places to explore; cave mouths (sometimes needing to be bombed to open) lead to caves, all houses with doorways can be entered and explored, and sometimes bushes or gravestones conceal a hole that leads to secret places. In short, the game's world was very large and intricate for a game of this time (and in fact, was larger than the worlds of several subsequent Zelda games).
The game also premiered a simple graphic compression method on the SNES by limiting the color depth of many (but not all) tiles to 8 colors instead of the SNES's native 16-color tiles. The tiles were decompressed at runtime by simply adding a leading zero bit to each pixel's color index.
Re-releases and sequels
In 2002, Nintendo and Capcom ported A Link to the Past to the Game Boy Advance. The Game Boy Advance version was released in North America on December 2, 2002, and in Japan on March 13, 2003. This port was packaged with a newly developed multiplayer Zelda game called Four Swords. The two games worked together; extra features could be unlocked in one game by completing tasks in the other. Additions to A Link to the Past include voice clips, an additional dungeon, an additional end sequence for clearing the new dungeon, Palace of the Four Sword, and the ability to unlock a continuous spin slash attack. Other changes include a less time consuming puzzle in the fifth dungeon of the Dark World (Ice Palace) and a text overhaul. Fairies were re-spelled as "fairy" as opposed to "faerie" that is actually an archaic spelling from the original SNES game. A "press start" prompt and the ability to skip the opening animation were also added. The GBA version received excellent reviews that considered it a faithful conversion, and it sold over 1.81 million units.
On December 2, 2006, in Japan and January 22, 2007, in North America, the game was added to the Wii's Virtual Console. Players can download the game for 800 Wii Points. It is nearly identical to the SNES version, with none of the GBA additions or changes, though the Chris Houlihan Room has been renamed to the Top Secret Room.
The next Zelda title, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was released in 1993 for the Nintendo Game Boy. It retained many of the gameplay mechanics of A Link to the Past, including the top-down perspective. It is set a few months after Link's battle with Ganon; after traveling to train abroad, Link is shipwrecked and awakens on an island called Koholint.
A Link to the Past had one more follow-up, though it was only released in Japan. BS Zelda no Densetsu Kodai no Sekiban, often translated as "BS The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets" or "Stone Tablets of Antiquity". It was exclusively released for the Super Famicom's Satellaview peripheral. It takes place at around the same time as Link's Awakening since Link is on his journey. The player characters are known as the Heroes of Light. They are actually the male and female Broadcast Satellaview mascots, which were previously in BS Zelda no Densetsu. It was released in 1997, then rebroadcast in 1998.
In an interview for The Guardian regarding The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Shigeru Miyamoto was asked whether Nintendo have plans to adapt other older Nintendo games for the Nintendo 3DS. Miyamoto responded saying that a remake of A Link to the Past rendered in stereoscopic 3D may be a possibility.
A Link to the Past was among the 21 games included in the Super NES Classic Edition. As such, to promote the release of the game and A Link to the Past with it, a collector's poster for A Link to the Past stylized after a cover for Nintendo Power was created and distributed alongside two other similar collector's posters for PAX West 2017, and also digitally distributed via Nintendo's official twitter account.
A comic book miniseries by Shotaro Ishinomori based on A Link to the Past appeared in Nintendo Power beginning in January 1992 and ran for 12 issues. Many portions of the game were omitted, and several new story segments were added.
In the manga, a new character named Roam was introduced who was a knight with the ability to take on an avian form. While at first meeting Link as an enemy, the two quickly became allies and joined forces to help take down Ganon. Roam bears a very strong resemblance to Jet Link, AKA Cyborg 002, of Ishinomori's classic manga Cyborg 009.
Two other manga were released only in Japan: a three-volume manga by Ataru Cagiva (which previously adapted Link's Awakening), from 1995 to 1996 and a four-volume manga by the duo Akira Himekawa (which adapted Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, and Four Swords Adventures) released in 2005, following the plot of the Game Boy Advance version. Both follow the game's plot more closely, and the latter introduced a new character called Ganty, a thief with a single devil's horn and a star under her eye.
Also, in the comic book, which is published by Square Enix, (Alaska, Arjuna, and Kanika) Original characters also appear.
- A Link to the Past Characters
- A Link to the Past Glitches
- A Link to the Past Items and Equipment
- A Link to the Past Prologue
- A Link to the Past Secrets
- A Link to the Past Walkthrough
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past official site
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past at Nintendo.com
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past at GameFAQs
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past at MobyGames
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past at The Internet Movie Database
- Collection of reviews of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
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