The Legend of Zelda is one of the most beloved video game franchises of all time. 25 years ago Nintendo released what many fans consider to be one of the best — if not the best — Legend of Zelda game of all time, and also one of the greatest video games in history. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was released on Nov. 21, 1991, for the Super Famicom in Japan. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of its Japanese release, we look back at the Super Nintendo classic, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
The Fall Before the Rise
According to The Legend of Zelda Hyrule Historia, A Link to the Past takes place in what is considered the Downfall Timeline. This timeline is a result of the events of The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, a game we wouldn’t see until exactly 6 years later on Nov. 21, 1998.
A Link to the Past and the other games in the Downfall Timeline occur after the “Hero of Time” fails to stop the evil Ganondorf from obtaining all three pieces of the Triforce. This transforms him into the Demon King Ganon. In a final attempt to stop Ganon, the Seven Sages of Hyrule along with Princess Zelda seal him and the Triforce away in the Sacred Realm.
Peace doesn’t last long in Hyrule, however, as a new dark power begins to grow. The priest Agahnim, a mysterious character whose unknown origin has been the source of much debate for the past 25 years, wields a powerful magic. This allows him to overthrow the king of Hyrule and send the Seven Maidens, descendants of the Seven Sages, to the Dark World, breaking the seal on Ganon.
A Hero Awakens (Literally)
“Help me… Please help me…” This lonely cry for help awakens Link on a cold and stormy night. Princess Zelda, the last and final maiden, sends Link and his uncle Alfon a telepathic cry for help. She informs them that she is a prisoner in Hyrule Castle.
Alfon informs Link that he’ll be going out and will be back by morning. He urges him not to leave the house while he is away. Link gets out of bed and makes his way to Hyrule Castle anyway. Upon finding a secret entrance, he discovers his mortally wounded uncle in the dungeon where Princess Zelda was a prisoner.
The Mystery of Alfon’s Last Words
“Save the Princess… Zelda is your… … …”
These are the last words Alfon speaks before he hands Link his sword and shield, takes his last breath, and sends him on his quest to save Princess Zelda and the kingdom of Hyrule. For 25 years fans have long debated what Link’s uncle was trying to say before he dies. Some theorize that Link and Zelda are siblings in A Link to the Past. In the manga, Alfon tells Link that his parents might still be alive. It isn’t unreasonable to assume that Link and Zelda could be related to one another.
Some assume he was just going to say something like “Zelda is your destiny,” or something related to how Link must save Zelda and Hyrule. A more accurate translation of the original Japanese seems to back this up. This translation, “You are the princess’s…” could easily be completed as “You are the princess’s only hope.”
Regardless of what Alfon was going to say, it doesn’t change the fact that there is an inexplicable, erm, “link” between the two characters. The fates of Link and Zelda always tie together. One brilliant thing about the series is how it continues to redefine their relationship from game to game. While in most games we can assume they’ve never met, in the most recent game, Skyward Sword, they are childhood friends that grew up together.
25 Years of A Link to the Past
A Link to the Past is a masterpiece from beginning to end. From its carefully crafted overworld map that changes with Light and Dark versions, to its amazing soundtrack. Dungeons require you to bring your thinking caps. The bosses are tough and thought out. The upgrades are diverse and abundant. And the controls are tight.
The moment you enter and hear the Dark World theme for the first time is a special moment. Moments like these are rare in gaming. It’s like the moment you reach Wily’s Castle in Mega Man 2. Or perhaps when you enter Brinstar and hear the Brinstar Green (Overgrowth) theme in Super Metroid. It’s just special.
On the eve of its 25 year anniversary, we recognize The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for setting the bar for future Zelda titles. While the original Legend of Zelda is a fantastic, groundbreaking game in its own right, and Ocarina of Time is notable for transitioning the series into 3D, A Link to the Past set the mold for countless 2D Zelda games. It’s no coincidence that the critically-acclaimed A Link Between Worlds takes so many cues from the 1991 SNES classic.
With the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild set to coincide with the launch of the Nintendo Switch, the Big N is looking to set a new standard for the series. Hopefully they do, and an entirely new generation will have their own classic Zelda game to fondly look back on 25 years from now.