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CONSOLE: GBA DEVELOPER: Nintendo PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (NA): December 3, 2002 GENRE: Action/Adventure
// review by SoyBomb

One of the finest Zelda games yet in the palm of your hand.

We all know that Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the SNES is a classic. It has been etched in stone forever as a timeless game that will never be surpassed by many. It's even more classic than Classic McClassicson from Classictown. So naturally, when the Big N decided to remake some old titles for their Game Boy Advance handheld, it was pretty obvious that a Zelda game had to be among them. And what better way to honour the system than with a remake of A Link To The Past? Toss on a new multiplayer-only adventure, and you have yourself a grand ol' time. Unfortunately, unlike the time that I reviewed the GBA re-envisionings of the Donkey Kong Country series, I don't really have a review of the original to fall back on at this time. So let me just get you up to speed, and then I can point out the major differences.

A Link To The Past was the third game in the already hugely popular Legend of Zelda series. Following the grandeur of the original Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link for the NES, this game had a lot of hype to live up to. Many fans were concerned that this new iteration, set to grace the new SNES console in 1991 (and 1992 in North America and Europe), would fall a bit short of expectation, considering how way off base Zelda II was from its predecessor, becoming more of an action-RPG than a neat action-adventure game. Although Zelda II still sold well, it was the sheer thrill of adventuring, and not the concern of having to fight over and over to become a better player, that pulled millions of players to the original Legend of Zelda. But luck was in the cards, and A Link To The Past brought back the nostalgia in droves. A true evolution of the series, the third Zelda returned to the overhead view of the original, but expanded the exploration with even more secrets to find, more folks to talk to, and even a different second world -- a doppelganger land, if you will -- once the first was conquered. The controls were spot-on, the scenery was even more beautiful than ever before, and the music was a rich tapestry of fine melodies. And Ganon reared his ugly head for a third time, pleasing gamers who were quite the fans of the King of Evil. Many people still proclaim this as the best Zelda game ever, perhaps tied only with LoZ: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64.

Ten years later and after more than four million copies had been sold, Nintendo ported it to the Game Boy Advance, and here we are. The changes made were actually quite minimal, as the GBA port plays pretty much like its console counterpart. The controls are a tad different, on account of the GBA lacking an X and a Y button. Instead, the map is accessed via the L-shoulder button, and lifting is done a tad more awkwardly using the R-shoulder button. My R-Button is a bit sticky from eating too many fig newtons with it over the years, but it still works. The game pretty much looks the same, though a little brighter to compensate for the lack of backlighting on the older Game Boy Advance models. The overall view is wider than before due to the screen size; as a result, the information bar at the top has been rearranged and flattened up to allow more space for Link to visibly run around in.

The music and sound effects from the SNES version have remained relatively well intact. The music sounds much grainier coming out of those little Game Boy speakers this time, so you won't get the full aural experience that gamers a decade earlier had. One thing that IS new, which is something that has now become a slightly irritating staple in all Zelda games, is that every time Link swings his sword, jumps off a ledge, or falls into a pit, he shouts. Samples from older Zelda games have been inserted here, so now Link won't shut up. As well, they didn't recreate the sound of Link warping from one world to the other quite right. It's much lower-pitched here and just doesn't sound right. It makes me think of diarrhea. Then again, many things do. Lastly, the game underwent a bit of a retranslation, so some people say slightly different things than they used to. Many terms have been revised, such as faeries now being called "fairies". Shame, I liked the spelling "faerie". There are numerous smaller changes, though they are not majorly significant, such as that arrows can now be used to bust clay pots, and that Link runs on the file select screen, unlike before. But these are simply superfluous changes that don't severely affect gameplay. Ah, and there is a bonus dungeon at the end, as is the standard for so many games.

Nintendo didn't stop there, though. They also included Four Swords, a multiplayer adventure for up to four Links at one time! If you can find three friends to play alongside you (I couldn't...), you can work together to solve puzzles amidst randomly-generated dungeons. The game is quite generous, and won't give you any puzzles that require more players than you have available. I wish I could play it... but it looks nice.

So whether this game is worth purchasing is up for debate. For those who already have the SNES version, that's probably the one you should stick with, as it is of the higher quality on the big screen, and the changes are not major enough to suddenly jump on the remake for instant salvation. Younger players who did not experience the SNES version, or weren't even born at that time, would highly benefit from this faithful conversation of a delicious slice of gaming history. Plus it's portable, so it has that in its favour. It's worth the price even without the multiplayer addition, but this truly is a classic game that should be enjoyed in any way possible. So... get Linked!


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