There are few formulas as classic as the top-down Legend of Zelda titles. It’s easy to forget that even the greatest of gaming had to build up to what we’re all so familiar with. A Link to the Past is the third Zelda game! Marking Link, Zelda, and Ganon’s debut on the Super Nintendo, A Link to the Past returns the series to its top-down gameplay of the NES original.

Sleeping calmy, a descendant of the Hyrule knights, Link, is telepathically summoned by Princess Zelda to protect her. Hyrule Castle has been taken over by a dark witch named Agahnim. This crazed follower of the beast Ganon has kidnapped the descendants of the Seven Sages and intends to use their innate magic to break the spell sealing the Demon King away. What begins as a simple rescue mission transforms into an odyssey of land and sea across worlds of light and darkness.

Link has his sword, his map, and one sub-weapon equipped at any time. A few powerful sub-weapons are limited by a magic meter. You can regain magic points by defeating enemies. Link can buy and collect items from all over Hyrule. Each one served a purpose, and almost everything can be upgraded with a little bit of exploration and a few rupees.

A Link to the Past gives the player a lot of freedom. You’ll have to do some tasks in certain orders, and most dungeons require certain items from others, but you’ll never feel railroaded from one location to the next. Both overworlds feel designed to be mysterious but not overwhelming. It becomes clear when you’re unable to accomplish a task.

Dungeon design in A Link to the Past would become the gold standard going forward. They all feel well-designed and easy to comprehend, but they’re a bit underwhelming. Some puzzles can be a bit too complicated to feel fair. Bosses are extremely simplistic, but some are infuriating. There were a few that, to keep my sanity, I ended up using emulator-exclusive tricks like rewind and save states.

All around, the game is about what I expected. I can see why many hold it dearly to them, it is the stepping stone that all future titles would take off. That’s exactly my problem with it. I don’t see the masterpiece that everyone seems to love. I think most of the hype is nostalgia. Certainly a great experience, but not something I think I’ve missed out on all my years in gaming. I wouldn’t die to get your hands on an original copy, but I’d recommend picking it up on virtual console or trying your hand on Nintendo Switch Online.

There are only so many fighters you can cram into a one-off N64 party game, but we all need to admit there were some glaring omissions. Jigglypuff over Mewtwo? Captain Falcon and Ness over the likes of Bowser and Zelda? Princess Zelda was the third newcomer revealed for Super Smash Bros. Melee. Based on the N64 classic Ocarina of Time, she shared a slot with her alternate form Sheik. Each would have their own moveset and could swap between the down-special move. Unfortunately, Zelda was pretty rough. Most of her moveset would be original, but she had never fought until Melee. Later, the series itself would adopt her Smash moveset as a core part of her character. In Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, the two would be separated. Zelda would gain the assistance of the phantom from Phantom Hourglass. Smash would define who Zelda would become, and I believe it’s best this song was played as it was.