Back when I reviewed the original Legend of Zelda, I told people to skip it and its sequel and head straight to this one. Well thanks to SNES games now being on the Switch I was able to play it again after years so now I can review it for you. (my old copy ran away)
The legend of Zelda A Link to the Past is a top down action adventure RPG with an emphasis on exploration, and unlike the original at no point will it punish you for doing so outside of maybe having strong enemies or finding that’s as far as you can go without a certain item. (So yeah you won’t suddenly find a secret then be told you were wrong to do so and punished for it thus putting you off exploration, and you won’t suddenly find you need to get a bunch of items hidden behind enemies way to powerful for you at that time to even have a chance at…. ok focus on this not on raging at the original).
You play as Link (who you can name as voice acting doesn’t exist in the franchise till Breath of the Wild) and receive a message in your dreams from a girl named Zelda that the king has been overthrown by the evil wizard again and she’s trapped in the dungeon, oh and she’s the princess. Your uncle (because parents wouldn’t be invented in Nintendo games until Bowser had a son) says he’s going out mysteriously just as you wake up. Exploring the dark rainy night you find all the castle’s guards seem to be aggressive to you. Finding the secret entrance to the castle dungeon you find your uncle mortally wounded who gives you his sword and shield and tells you to save the princess. A nice touch is if you explore the castle you can find the one knight who is not instantly trying to kill you who explains all the others have been acting weird of late and expects him to be soon too, yeah the explanation that the guards are under the wizards spell is hidden, a nice node to the rewards to exploration.
Anyway, after saving the princess and escaping to a church, you’re tasked with finding these 3 pendants at the end of trials so you can claim the master sword (first appearance). As you play you are rewarded for exploring. In fact certain items required to continue are things you aren’t directly told you need to get but people will talk about them if you talk to the right people, meaning important items aren’t just the ones hidden in dungeons. While on your quest to claim the sword you begin to find out that more is going on than an attempted coup and just as you claim the master sword Zelda is captured, resulting in you rushing to the castle but arriving just in time to see Agahnim complete the ritual achieving his goal, before a boss fight.
Then the game reveals there’s a whole other world to explore, the Dark World. This is the world ruled by the Dark King of Evil, Ganon, revealed to have once been the thief Ganondorf (first time his name is mentioned, but not first appearance, that will be in Ocarina of Time) claimed the Triforce and turned the Sacred Realm into the Dark World, a dark mirror of Hyrule. Your exploration of the Dark World is a bit more limited as some areas you can’t instantly reach. You have to access some areas by going to the Light World, finding the portal and popping to the dark. Also you get a mirror that will send you from the Dark World back to the corresponding area in the Light opening up even more exploration as some patterns in the Dark World are in fact hints to use the mirror there to get to otherwise unreachable areas.
This is for many people, me included, when the Legend of Zelda truly starts, the first two have their issues which often turned me off massively, but this is where it hits its stride. A lot of the classic elements and items all start here. Hook shots, fire rods, Pegasus boots even the Master Sword itself. Also this is where the habit of having an opening series of dungeons before a major story shake up leading to even more and harder dungeons began. This is the true classic of the Legend of Zelda franchise so I was happy when it was amongst the first bunch of SNES games I got free for having the online.