Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Replaying A Link to the Past on the 3DS

As stated in my previous post, I also went through A Link to the Past again, while finishing my 2nd Hero Mode run of A Link Between Worlds. Surprisingly, I did so on the 3DS as well, where Nintendo introduced the Super Nintendo Virtual Console for New Nintendo 3DS this month. Because there's no cross buy functionality and I still didn't touch my Wii U copy, I actually didn't want to get this, but then I received a review code from Nintendo and having it next to A Link Between Worlds on my New 3DS during my travels was nice, so I could easily switch between both games and enjoy them on the same system.

There was also another perk: in Europe they went for the 60Hz NTSC version of the game, instead of the usual 50Hz PAL version. This also let me experience the original game for the first time in English, because the console versions in Germany were locked in German and there was no language selection at the time.

In any case this was the first time that I've played through A Link to the Past again since the release of A Link Between Worlds. The latter became one of my favorite Zelda games and now I had the chance to compare, how the original holds up. And... it's alright, but I enjoy playing through A Link Between Worlds a lot more. Both games have a strong beginning, where you can prep in Kakariko and get some stuff like your first bottle and the Bug Net, before you head for the Eastern Palace. A Link to the Past starts out way more epic with Hyrule Castle in the rain, but I feel like this is a long and linear part, where I have to drag myself through, before the real fun begins.

And the "fun" feels a little bit like Hero Mode early on. I was actually searching for some fairies to put in a bottle, where you can't find them in the same spots as in A Link Between Worlds or Ancient Stone Tablets. There are some fairies south of Eastern Palace, but I forgot about those at first, so I went to the only spot, where I was sure to find fairies: the ice cave at Lake Hylia. However, getting there right in the beginning can be quite tough with those Sand Crabs, which are fast and deal TWO HEARTS of damage for some reason. So, it would have been smarter to go to Eastern Palace first.

And except for the Ice Rod and the Magic Powder, which you can both get early, it feels somewhat more restricted than A Link Between Worlds. After the Eastern Palace there isn't much to do except for going to the Desert Palace, because only the Power Glove really opens the Light Worlds up for you, where you finally can get the Zora's Flippers, which also give you some restricted means of teleporting with those vortexes in the water. You can't get the Ocarina until after the Palace of Darkness and I really missed Irene's broom. In A Link Between Worlds the game really opens up after the Eastern Palace. You can get the Power Glove and the Zora's Flippers right away, you can teleport early on and you can rent all items except one, opening all of Hyrule except for the desert.

I also feel like the Hyrule in A Link Between Worlds is more enjoyable to explore. A Link to the Past invented one of the best overworlds in the series and A Link Between Worlds perfected it. It start with small things like the pathways east of the smithy, which I immediately missed in A Link to the Past. And A Link Between Worlds makes just better use of all the areas, like the Flute Boy Meadow, even if it's just because you find Maimais there or Shadow Links. But there are also significant additions like the Rupee Rush minigame, one of my absolute favorites. In A Link to the Past you have this little parkour minigame, which you only play once and then never visit the same spot again. So, it feels like a waste of space. The world has more substance in A Link Between Worlds and the Light World was for me always the strong part of A Link the Past, because the Dark World basically just is dungeon crawling with little to do on the overworld.

The controls are also not ideal. For some reason someone decided it was a good idea to put the map on the X button, instead of using this button for a 2nd item. Also, the Pegasus Boots are used with the A button (which takes some time getting used to after playing both A Link Between Worlds and Tri Force Heroes), while the shoulder buttons don't really do anything. Later Zelda games handled the controls a lot better.

It's also curious, how throwing pots at enemies is the best way of fighting early in the game - it's a lot more powerful and effective than using your sword. But of course there are only a limited number of pots around, usually as many as there are enemies, so you have exactly one shot with each pot. It really seems like this even was an intended feature, using the "pots of power" as weapons, which got lost later in the series (it's still a thing in Link's Awakening, but there you have to earn the Power Bracelet first).

It's also noticeable, how you can get many Rupees early on, I got more than 700 Rupees before Eastern Palace. But the only thing to spent Rupees on are the Zora Flippers for 500 Rupees and then the Pond of Happiness, which takes up to 1400 Rupees... As soon as you did that, the only thing really requiring Rupees are potions, where a Blue Potion costs 160 Rupees. I abuse those together with the Cane of Byrna quite a lot for the bosses and then I refill my Rupees at the treasure chest game in the Village of Outcasts. But that's really all there is to the currency.

With the Restore Points of the Virtual Console I even went for a clear zero death savegame for the first time, similar to The Legend of Zelda in February. On the GameBoy Advance this wasn't an issue, because this version didn't count saving as "dying". The original did though, so you had to beat the game in one run in order to get this:

(When I replayed the game in 2011 on the Wii Virtual Console I also didn't die, but I saved about ten times. I remember that a friend watched me beat the game and then made fun of how I died ten times, where I had to explain to him that this happens with saving the game... Well, buddy, here's your proof.)

The one thing I always claimed to be a lot better in A Link the Past were the dungeons and even with those I now feel like they are a lot more enjoyable in A Link Between Worlds. The classic dungeons make better use of enemies, that's for sure - I really wish the Eastern Palace in A Link Between Worlds had some Eyegores for example. But save for this the dungeons were not really that much more difficult. Most people also remember the classic dungeons to be longer, but that's not actually the case, they are about the same. In some cases they are even shorter, e.g. Tower of Hera, which is so much more amazing in A Link Between Worlds and doesn't have the annoying Moldorm mechanic, where in A Link to the Past I now abused Restore Points to make things less frustrating. I always hated this fight.

Or if I compare the Ice Palace to the Ice Ruins, there's a clear winner. The Ice Palace isn't really that enjoyable. I avoided getting the Cane of Somaria in advance and going through the same trite set of rooms again and again is just absolutely tedious. Even the new Turtle Rock, where people seem to complain about how short it became, has a lot more to it than the classis SNES version, which was just a mess of Somaria roller coasters and tube mazes. And it was a very short dungeon also. The only bigger exception, where I still prefer the classic version, might be Skull Woods, as I explained in my previous post.

But... that's how it should be. A Link Between Worlds built on an amazing game and improved upon many things. A Link to the Past has the more serious / epic story, but overall I have moved on to the successor. It's still quite a short game, so this probably wasn't the last time that I've played it though.

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