LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST / Nintendo / Super NES
 
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Aside from feeling maybe a little simplistic and easy after taking on more complex 3D entries like Majora's Mask, ol' Zelda 3 has held up pretty damn well on the whole. Timeless sprite art and Nintendo's typically great use of color of the period, one of Koji Kondo's best soundtracks, great gameplay, a fun little game world and dungeon design that errs on the simpler side but is nonetheless consistently entertaining.
 
 


This one was a return to form for the series, after Nintendo did their "experimental sequel" thing they were fond of doing on the NES with the side-scrolling Adventures of Link. Top-down view and progression in the style of the first game, but just done up with better everything. It even holds to four-direction-only movement, which feels a little stiff and constraining if you haven't played this before at first (or in a really long time), but ends up fitting well enough given the whole game is designed around it. I can maybe see some really nitpicky little spoiled brats of the current gen coming back to this and going "WTF ugh no diagonal movement this is suxXXxxXX" but you have my permission to slap them if they do.





One thing that strikes you if you're coming back after years of exposure to the 3D entries is that the trend of "puzzle bosses" really started with Ocarina of Time, not in the 2D entries. Bosses here lean more on random movements and filling the screen up with projectiles or passive hazards, paired with limited hitboxes in some cases. So it's more of a reflex-tester style than a puzzle style, a few small exceptions aside. That in itself isn't inherently a weakness, but the bosses here are probably the game's weakest point, with a lot of really "meh" efforts and a couple that just lean on cheap and overwhelming hits to such a degree that the only viable strategy is bringing in enough potions to muscle through the assault. I think the absolute worst offender is a worm you fight on a very small platform; he's never any real threat to kill you, but an ill-timed hit knocks you off the platform edge, resetting the whole fight (and unfortunately this jerk makes two appearances, though by the second you can mercifully kill him with just three blows).





So bosses are the one glaring weak link here, but the bad ones collectively make up so little of the total playtime that I feel like it's petty to deduct a point just for that (plus they never represent a wall to progress; you just wish they would have been a little better). On the flip side, this is perhaps the most fun game in the series just to explore for the sake of exploring, with a densely packed world full of secrets. That's something that I think the 3D bloat, slowness and long stretches of empty space kinda lost to some degree, even as soon as the N64 games; Zelda 3 just feels so zippy by comparison, and like there's a secret to be found around every corner. Pair that with Nintendo's usual top production values of the period and you've got one of the best games of the 16-bit era.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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