The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Zelda SNES.jpg
North American box art
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Takashi Tezuka
Producer(s) Shigeru Miyamoto
Writer(s) Kensuke Tanabe
Yoshiaki Koizumi[1]
Composer(s) Koji Kondo
Series The Legend of Zelda
Platform(s) Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, known as Zelda no Densetsu: Kamigami no Triforce (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: The Triforce of the Gods") in Japan, is an action-adventure video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System video game console, and the third installment in The Legend of Zelda series. It was first released in Japan in 1991, and was later released in North America and Europe in 1992. Shigeru Miyamoto and his team were solely responsible for this game's development.

A Link to the Past's plot focuses on Link as he travels on a journey to save Hyrule, defeat Ganon and rescue the seven descendants of the Sages. A Link to the Past uses a top-down perspective similar to that of the original The Legend of Zelda. It added mechanics and concepts to the series that have become commonplace, including multi-level dungeons and new equipment (such as the hookshot and the Pegasus Boots), as well as establishing the concept of an alternate, parallel (and sometimes far more dangerous) world. It has been very well received since its release and is viewed as one of the greatest video games of all time.[4] To date, A Link to the Past has sold more than four million copies,[5] and has been re-released for the Game Boy Advance and the Wii's Virtual Console.



The same area in the Light World (top), and the Dark World (bottom)

Instead of continuing to use the side-scrolling perspective introduced to the series by Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past reverts to an overhead perspective similar to that of the original. Despite using mechanics and concepts from the original, A Link to the Past introduces new elements and innovations. For instance, arrows are now separate items, as bombs are in the original, instead of using a Rupee to fire an arrow. A Link to the Past also takes concepts from The Adventure of Link, such as the magic meter, which is used by 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 the Pegasus Shoes, an obtainable item. Link's sword attack was improved to swing sideways instead of merely stabbing forward; this gives his sword a broader range and makes combat easier. Link swings his sword as the default attack in future Zelda games, although stabbing is also possible in the later 3D incarnations.[6][7][8][9]

Recurring items and techniques were introduced for the first time in A Link to the Past, such as the Hookshot, the Master Sword, the Spin Attack technique, flute, and the Pegasus Boots. 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 make up 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 on lower levels.[6][7][8][9]

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 green color, the grass is dead, skulls replace rocks and pots, and trees have faces. People change forms in the Dark World based on their nature; without an item to prevent it (in this case, the Moon Pearl), 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 physical structure but an opposite nature (e.g. a desert in the Light World corresponds to a swamp in the Dark World, a peaceful village in the Light World corresponds to a dilapidated town of thieves in the Dark World).[6][7][8][9]

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 hidden warp locations throughout the Light World. This enables puzzles that exploit structural differences between the Light and Dark Worlds.[6][7][8][9][10]



Players once again assume the role of archetypal hero Link, here a young boy living with his uncle south of Hyrule Castle. Princess Zelda, a descendant of the seven sages, is held captive in the castle dungeon by Agahnim, a treacherous wizard who has set forth a chain of events to unleash Ganon. Sahasrahla, a descendant of those who forged the Master Sword, mentors Link on his quest.[6][11] Series antagonist Ganon remains sealed in the Dark World.


A Link to the Past is a prequel to the original The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link.[12][13][14] At the beginning of the game, a young boy named Link is awakened by a telepathic message from Princess Zelda, who says that she is locked in the dungeon of Hyrule Castle. As the message closes, Link finds his uncle ready for battle, telling Link to remain in bed. After his uncle leaves, however, Link ignores his uncle's command and follows him to Hyrule Castle. When he arrives, he finds his uncle seriously wounded. Link's uncle tells Link to rescue Princess Zelda from her prison, giving him a sword and shield. Link navigates the castle and rescues Zelda from her cell, and the two escape into a secret passage through the sewers that leads to a sanctuary.[15]

Link is told by a man in the sanctuary that Agahnim, a wizard who has usurped the throne, is planning to break a seal made hundreds of years ago by the Seven Sages. The seal was placed to imprison a dark wizard named Ganon in the Dark World, which was once the Sacred Realm before Ganon invaded, obtained the legendary Triforce, and used its power to turn the realm into a land of darkness. Agahnim intends to break the seal by sending the descendants of the Seven Sages who made the seal into the Dark World. The only thing that can defeat him is the Master Sword, a sword forged to combat evil. To prove that he is worthy to wield it, Link needs three magic pendants. After retrieving the pendants, Link takes them to the resting place of the Master Sword. As Link draws the sword from its pedestal, Zelda telepathically calls him to the Sanctuary, informing him that soldiers of Hyrule Castle have arrived. Link arrives at the Sanctuary moments after the soldiers have vacated, where he learns from the dying man that Zelda has been taken to Hyrule Castle. Link goes to rescue her but arrives too late; Agahnim sends Zelda to the Dark World. Link then defeats Agahnim in battle but is subsequently also sent to the Dark World.[15]

To save Hyrule, Link is required to rescue the seven descendants of the Seven Sages from dungeons scattered across the Dark World. Once the seven maidens are freed, they use their power to break the barrier around Ganon's Tower, where Link faces Agahnim again. After Link battles Agahnim for a second time, Ganon rises up from Agahnim's body, turns into a bat, and flies away. Link chases him, finally confronting him inside the Pyramid of Power in the Dark World. After a battle resulting in Ganon's demise, Link touches the Triforce and restores Hyrule to how it was before Ganon intervened.[15]


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 Super Nintendo Entertainment System in other regions.[16] (In the early 2000s, a beta cartridge for the NES Zelda III was announced on eBay, but later proved to be a hoax.)[17] 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.[18]

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.[4] Like Super Mario World, this game used a simple graphic compression method on the SNES by limiting the colour depth of many tiles to eight colours instead of the SNES's native 16-colour tiles. The tiles were decompressed at runtime by adding a leading bit to each pixel's colour 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; otherwise, they would have needed to wait for a 16 Mbit ROM.[4]

The script of the game was written by series newcomer Kensuke Tanabe,[19] while Yoshiaki Koizumi was responsible for the background story explained in the instruction manual.[1] The English language localization included 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 renamed from Kamigami no Triforce (lit. "The 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 changed 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.[20]


The Legend of Zelda: Sound & Drama
Soundtrack album by Koji Kondo
Released June 22, 1994 (1994-06-22)
Genre Video game soundtrack
Length 98:00
Label Sony Records

The score to A Link to the Past was composed by Koji Kondo. The overworld theme of The Legend of Zelda ("Hyrule Overture") returns in A Link to the Past, redone in S-SMP style. The theme is also featured in "Light World Overworld" and in "End Credits". A Link to the Past helped to establish 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 subsequent The Legend of Zelda games.[21]

A soundtrack to A Link to the Past, entitled The Legend of Zelda: Sound and Drama, was released in Japan. Disc one is 44 minutes long and features rearranged versions of a selection 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 game, The Legend of Zelda.[22][23]

Track listing



A comic book adaptation of A Link to the Past illustrated by Shotaro Ishinomori was published in Nintendo Power that was serialized for 12 issues from January to December 1992. The comic is a loose adaptation of the original game's story, featuring several plot changes and new characters.[24]

Two other manga were released in Japan: a three-volume manga by Ataru Cagiva from 1995 to 1996[25] and a four-volume manga by the duo Akira Himekawa released in 2005, following the plot of the Game Boy Advance version.[26] 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.[25][26]

Re-releases and sequels

On December 2, 2006 in Japan and January 22, 2007 in America, the game was added to the Wii Shop Channel's Virtual Console. Players can download the game for 800 Wii Points, or US$8. The English version is nearly identical to the English SNES version, with none of the GBA additions or changes, though the secret area known as the Chris Houlihan room has been renamed the Top Secret Room[27] (a closer translation of the original Japanese name, Himitsu no Heya (秘密の部屋?)).[28]

The next Zelda title, Link's Awakening was released in 1993 for the Nintendo Game Boy. It retained many of A Link to the Past's gameplay mechanics, including the top-down perspective, as well as an overworld which resembled that of A Link to the Past. After traveling to train abroad, Link is shipwrecked and awakens on an island called Koholint.[29]

Beginning on March 2, 1997 a simple unaltered re-release of the original Japanese version of A Link to the Past was broadcast via Satellaview. The game would be rebroadcast more often than any other Zelda title on the Satellaview, and was the only Zelda title broadcast by St.GIGA after ties with Nintendo were broken in April 1999. Unlike the two other Satellaview Zelda titles, Kamigami no Triforce lacked SoundLink support.[30]

In 2011 Shigeru Miyamoto expressed desire to have A Link to the Past remade for the Nintendo 3DS, stating how attractive the two layers would look.[31]

Apart from official sequels and re-releases made or licensed by Nintendo, A Link to the Past has proven to be very popular within the game modding community inspiring the development of numerous Fangames such as the unofficial 2007 sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Parallel Worlds.[32][33][34]

Inishie no Sekiban

In 1997,[35] a follow-up entitled BS Zelda no Densetsu: Inishie no Sekiban (lit. "BS The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets" or "Stone Tablets of Antiquity"?) was released in Japan. Designed exclusively for the Super Famicom's Satellaview peripheral, the game would make notable use of a voice broadcast system called SoundLink to provide voice-acting for several of the characters from A Link to the Past.[36] The game takes place six years after the events in A Link to the Past and it is set in Hyrule's Light World.[37] The game notably lacks a Link character, and instead the player character is known as the Hero of Light.[38] The available player-characters are actually the male and female BS-X avatars that also featured in BS Zelda no Densetsu. The game was divided into four weekly episodes. These episodes were played live, and a voice-acted soundtrack simultaneously ran on the satellite network, sometimes containing suggestions, clues, and plot development for the game currently being broadcast.[35] Each week, the player could only access certain portions of the overworld. Areas shrouded in clouds were unreachable. Two dungeons were accessible per week, however the episode ended only when time expired and not when the player had completed all the objectives for that week. The game could only be played during the set hours because the SoundLink content was central to gameplay (and not stored on the base unit or flash-RAM cartridge in any way), and the timer was based on a real-time clock set by the satellite itself.[35]

A Link to the Past & Four Swords

The game was re-released for the Game Boy Advance in 2002 in North America and 2003 in other territories as part of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords, a collaborative development effort between Nintendo and Capcom.[39] The port of A Link to the Past contains minor changes from the original, including the addition of vocal grunts and other sound effects taken from Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask.[40] Four Swords is a multi-player adventure that interacts with the single-player adventure. Accomplishments can be transferred between the two; for example, if the player learns a new sword technique, it is made available in both modes. By completing Four Swords, a new dungeon called the Palace of the Four Sword is unlocked in A Link to the Past.[41][42] Dungeons are randomly generated and are affected by the number of players.[43] If only two players are active, the game ensures that all puzzles generated do not require a third or fourth player to solve.[43] The plot of Four Swords revolves around the wind mage Vaati who escapes from the Four Sword he is sealed in and captures Princess Zelda to marry her. Link uses the Four Sword to create three copies of himself and rescues Zelda, trapping Vaati in the sword once again. At the time of its release, the story of Four Swords was considered the oldest tale in the series' timeline.[44]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 92.78% (SNES)[45]
Metacritic 95 (GBA)[46]
Review scores
Publication Score
Allgame 5/5 stars (SNES)[47]
GameSpot 9.2/10 (GBA)[43]
IGN 9.7/10 (GBA)[40]
Nintendo Power 4.9/5 (SNES)[45]

A Link to the Past is one of the best-selling SNES games, with 4.61 million units sold worldwide,[5] 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 was re-released as a Player's Choice title in North America, indicating that it has sold a minimum of one million copies there.[48]

A Link to the Past was critically acclaimed upon release for its graphics and gameplay, and has since been recognized by critics as one of the greatest video games of all time.[49][50] In 2005, IGN editors placed it 11th in its "Top 100 Games",[51] while readers voted it to 5th place.[52] The following year Entertainment Weekly chose it as the best game of all-time.[53] Members of GameFAQs ranked it the 4th best,[54] and readers of Japanese magazine Famitsu ranked it 31st in a 2006 poll.[55] It also placed 3rd in Electronic Gaming Monthly's list,[56] 23rd in GameInformer's,[57] and 3rd in a best 200 Nintendo games list by Nintendo Power.[58] In July 2007, readers of the magazine Edge voted it sixth in a poll of the 100 best games of all time.[59] ScrewAttack placed it 2nd on their list of top 20 Super Nintendo games.[60] It was awarded Best Sequel of 1992 by Electronic Gaming Monthly.[61] The game placed eighth (the second-highest Zelda game on the list) in Official Nintendo Magazine's "100 greatest Nintendo games of all time" list.[62] In 2009, Game Informer put A Link to the Past 12th on their list of "The Top 200 Games of All Time", saying that it "remains a blast today".[63] The game was reviewed in 1993 in Dragon #198 by Sandy Petersen in the "Eye of the Monitor" column. Petersen gave the game 5 out of 5 stars.[64]

A Link to the Past & Four Swords for the Game Boy Advance received positive reviews[65] and sold over 1.81 million units.[5] IGN praised it for being a faithful conversion of the original, but noted that the audio did not sound as crisp on the Game Boy Advance, and found the frequent sound effects tiresome. The game holds the top spot of Metacritic's all-time high scores for Game Boy Advance games with a score of 95.[46] In 2007, IGN named A Link to the Past & Four Swords the third best Game Boy Advance game of all time.[66][67] GamePro's Star Dingo called it a "masterpiece," as well as an "important part of the Grand Renaissance of the Second Dimension." He also praised the overworld for its secrets and "quirky random characters," adding that playing it required patience and exploring.[68] Star Dingo praised the port of A Link to the Past's ability to retain its visuals. He specifically praises its "clean sprites," calling its overworld a "colorful, happy place," sarcastically calling it kiddy. He also questioned how the series' cartoon style was abnormal for the series.[68] Star Dingo called the sound effects "indelible," though he noted that they were "a little dated."[68] UGO Networks compared Four Swords to The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, calling it "similarly gimmicky". They commented that the best Four Swords brought was its sequel, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.[69] CNET praised both the original A Link to the Past release as well as the Four Swords multiplayer mode, calling the former a "great handheld port of one of the greatest games ever released for Nintendo's 16-bit system", while describing the latter as "an exciting, replayable multiplayer experience".[70]


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