A Link To The Past: It’s been three decades since the SNES classic pushed Zelda in a new direction. Today we remember how she did it herself and if she lost something along the way. 2021 is a year marked by anniversaries for Zelda. The original NES installment was released in early 1986, which means that the Nintendo saga is already 35 years old. And Skyward Sword HD, re-released a few months ago on Switch, is the remastering of a game that last week turned its first decade. It is a considerable amount of time, especially if we consider that it is the penultimate delivery of desktop (the pace has slowed down a lot lately), although it triples when we talk about A Link to the Past. The Super Nintendo classic also premiered in November, but in 1991, so it now becomes the third installment in the series with three decades behind it.
And thirty years later, it also remains one of the most remembered, loved and celebrated. Without leaving this website, you can boast both having taken a ten and having entered the podium of the best SNES games and the best Zelda, considerable feats considering the candidates that fall below. But they are opinions that are far from being controversial, because it is one of those titles that cast shadows longer than themselves. Players born years after its premiere know its name and its legacy, either by discovering it —and enjoying it— at the wrong time, or by the effect of cultural osmosis. Because videogames can be a much younger medium than music or cinema, but decade after decade it is beginning to become clear which are our Abbey Roads and our Thrillers; our Casablancas and Godparents. And A Link to the Past is one of them.
The first sequel no sequel
It is true that the role played by nostalgia cannot be underestimated in making it the object of obeisances and tributes. For many, A Link to the Past represents simpler times, less clouded by the complications of the adult world and by the cynicism that accumulates many generations, disappointments and games that drink from other games, which in turn drink from other games . A Link to the Past itself, in fact, would surely be more questioned if it were magically erased from the collective consciousness and reappeared as a neo-retro novelty in the Switch eShop. But that is not how things work. When it came out for real, there was exactly nothing like it; and if there is now, it is thanks to him.
Because A Link to the Past may be the third installment in a franchise that had already put several million copies on the market before its arrival (in fact, the NES original would remain the best-seller until Ocarina of Time), but That does not mean that its turning point was essential to pave the way to the modern era of the saga. For one thing, despite the existence of a formal Zelda II, A Link to the Past was the first sequel in the sense that it has been the norm ever since. And by this, we don’t just mean that it either solidified the top view (3D installments would naturally change that) or ditched the RPG component that The Adventure of Link had experimented with; also to the establishment of Hyrule as a tapestry of stories starring different heroes at different times.