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The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past/Four Swords - Review

Shouldn't it be 'A Link to Another World'?
By: Michael Beckett

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 9
   Music & Sound 5
   Originality 4
   Story & Plot 2
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 4
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Hard
   Completion Time 20-30 Hours  
Overall
6

The dungeons in Four Swords get larger the more allies you have linked up.
The dungeons in Four Swords get larger the more allies you have linked up.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past/Four Swords

   Re-releases are becoming very common on the GBA. The latest game to see reissue is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which is, in addition to being one of the best Zelda games ever made, also a really horrible pun. At any rate, the translation from SNES to GBA is nearly flawless, with a somewhat elderly graphical style and bland, meaningless plot marring this otherwise fine RPG. The addition of the Four Swords multiplayer game really does a lot to help this package, particularly if you have friends who you'd be likely to play against.

   The Legend of Zelda games all have very similar combat systems, which traditionally consists of a real-time engine backed up with a sub-weapon scheme. The system is well constructed and a good deal more strategic than it appears at first glance, requiring an awareness not only of who your opponent is and what his capabilities are but also of your surroundings and the strategic handicaps and bonuses it gives you. All this on top of having to keep in mind the particular capabilities of the sub-weapon you have equipped means every battle on every screen has literally thousands of potential strategies and outcomes.

   Combat and field movement are so closely linked that there is no real difference from one to the other. There are enemies on just about every screen, though, so the fact that there isn't a deviation between combat system and field movement isn't immediately apparent. Control is fairly easy to get a handle on and Link's abilities are intuitively laid out. Field control was an imperative aspect of interface, and it's a good thing it got this much attention, because if your timing is off in battle you are quite possibly dead.

   Sound in general is decent, though it did seem to have a bit of a sharp edge to it. There are only a few themes on the soundtrack, mostly variations on the classic Legend of Zelda theme. It gets very monotonous after a while, and the 'voice acting' Nintendo saw fit to include didn't help at all. Is it possible Nintendo just likes having heroes who sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks?


What's the point of every Zelda game? Right.
What's the point of every Zelda game? Right.

   As a re-release, there isn't a whole lot different from the SNES to the GBA versions of A Link to the Past - unusual for a Nintendo game. There's 'voice acting', and the Four Swords definitely adds something, but in general, there's not much to surprise someone who has played A Link to the Past already.

   Speaking of lacking originality, didn't I hear this story somewhere else? The plot to A Link to the Past has to do with the history of Hyrule and how Ganon is plotting to take over by using the mystic powers of seven descendants of seven powerful mages. Aside from the 'descendants of powerful mages' part, the concept sounds remarkably like that of the original Legend of Zelda. In detail the plot is remarkably bland and devoid of meaning, message, and purpose. Characters are one-dimensional and uninteresting, and the ending is unsatisfying. At least it was translated well, but that probably has to do more with the fact that there was so little to translate. Word to the wise: don't buy this game for the story.

   No, the best idea is to buy this game for the combat system. The story certainly won't keep you coming back. There are only one or two side quests, mainly having to do with retrieving two nearly identical sub-weapons and one new sword attack, but there just isn't much to recommend this game for more than the once through.

   The respective styles of the two games, A Link to the Past and Four Swords, are radically different. Four Swords seems more styled after the cell-shaded Link of Wind Waker, while A Link to the Past remains almost exactly as it was in its SNES incarnation. This may be good or bad, but the bright colors and cartoon style are infectious and hard not to like, and they even translated well onto the GBA. On another note, I wish to applaud Nintendo for including a contrast control on this game, a feature which helps a great deal when playing in low light conditions. Let's see if we can't get that on more GBA games, shall we?

   Don't be deceived by A Link to the Past's colorful graphics and Saturday-morning style. This game is hard. It owes this distinction by virtue of expensive, hard to find healing, non-existent defensive items until late, late in the game, and having damage avoidance replace damage reduction. In a bizarre turnaround, I found that the normal conservation of HP during dungeon crawls to be far more difficult than individual boss fights!

   Something that amazed me about this game, with all its helpful options and useful items is this; there's no timer. I have no idea how long it takes to complete this game, but I'm going to estimate about 20 to 30 hours to complete.

   Re-releases are always hard to rate. If you liked A Link to the Past, and have a number of buddies who are likely to purchase this game, go for it. If not, this game is still a portable version of one of the most loved, most fawned over game series of all time, and provides a solid, rewarding adventure, uniquely suited to the portable medium.

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