I’ve had my hands full with non-digital adventures lately, so I started playing about half an hour of A Link to the Past every night as stress relief.
In terms of gameplay, A Link to the Past is perfect. In terms of story, it makes zero sense. No one can agree on who Ganon is or what he’s doing or how and when the Dark World came into being.
I think there are two possible explanations for this sort of fractured narrative. The first is that Nintendo simply didn’t care, because nuanced storytelling wasn’t expected and wasn’t the point of the project. The second is that no one in the world of the game fully understands what’s going on, and so what Link is picking up are bits and pieces of hearsay, some of which is contradictory. In the end, all Link knows is that the wizard Agahnim (who is either Ganon’s servant or Ganon’s avatar) hurt his uncle and imprisoned Zelda, which is reason enough for him to flip out and start killing people.
When I played this game as a kid, I didn’t have a real sense of Agahnim or Ganon being threats. It always seemed to me that what Link was fighting was the world he lived in, which was dangerous even without political power struggles. Even if Zelda is safe on her throne, there will still be Zora shooting fire at people from the lakes, and boulders falling off the mountains, and all sorts of creepy crawlies feeding on each other inside lightless ruins.
Now that I’m older, this game reminds me of the conversation from Clerks about contractors on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. Namely, if the Dark World only exists because Ganon is there, and then Link defeats Ganon, does the Dark World disappear? If it does, do all the people who have been trapped there for however long it’s been – two or three generations, I think – do they all disappear too?
Regardless, the pixelated graphics are gorgeous on my widescreen HD television. I’d really like to play Secret of Mana, which is equally beautiful and relaxing, but Nintendo removed it from the Wii U Virtual Console for some reason, alas.
( Header image from Zeldapedia )