The Legend of Zelda. Probably the world’s most popular RPG that still has a great deal of the populace confused as to who the titular character actually is. Though, to be fair, I’m not entirely sure how constantly being captured by an evil wizard constitutes a legend. Poor Link does all the work after all, without a word of complaint might I add…well, without a word of anything, but you get my point. Anywho, as one might gather from the title of this particular novel of graphic form, this release details the exploits of a Link to the Past, an early story in what would become a gaming legend…of Zelda.
Young Link was just a humble guy, sleeping in his bed like any other night, when suddenly a voice rang in his ears. Now this wasn’t just any disembodied voice haunting him during the witching hour, it was rather the voice of Princess Zelda, imploring him for help. You know…because. Anyway, putting plot reservations on the background, our hapless hero immediately storms an enemy fortified castle, sans weapons, and dashes for the Princess. He meets his uncle on the way, who dies, then saves Zelda, who is swiftly recaptured…so not the best outing of all time. However, in true RPG fashion a solution lies elsewhere in the world, one miraculously untouched for decades/centuries/eons (or whatever dramatic time period suits you); the Master Sword. So begins a secondary quest, to solve the first quest, that ultimately spawns numerous other sub-quests.
Now that the core story has been explained, it seems a good a time as any to bring up the major limitation of this graphic novel; pacing. From the outset, the story just barrels through the events of the game at a startling speed, presenting very little time to grab a hold of the situation or come to know the characters more than their necessary designations. Link is the hero, Zelda the damsel, Ganon the true evil and citizens the extras. Now whilst I understand that this is due to the time in which it was written, it’s a valid complaint nonetheless. The story just gives of a kind of shallow vibe, like it’s more of a recap of a tale, then an actual plot laid out before us.
Like the story just mentioned, the art style of the graphic novel carries with it the essence of old school illustration. Due to this, each image conveys a small sense of nostalgia within, to the heyday of the simplistic and clean style. To its credit, the entirety of the novel is presented in full water colour style, adding some visual power to each panel. On the topic of the less-than-current, this graphic novel is rife with a few classic onomatopoeic phrases that dominate scenes of action, such as Ker-Splash, Thud or (my personal favourite) Kablooie. It’s not that this practice is itself dated, but rather the words chosen. Either way, you get the picture and, more importantly, an estimation of what it sounds like when a giant, cycloptic centipede lunges through a surface of pure sand.
Overall, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is a fun nostalgia trip down one of the most well trodden paths in gaming history. Before the ocarinas and the wolf forms, before the sky cities and warrior-esque brawl fests, there was this. Now, without the rose coloured glasses we bought in our youth, this isn’t the most complex story ever put to paper (after first being put to cartridge). It’s a simple tale of a young boy becoming the hero the world needed and the one legend dictated. Now it can be said that video game stories lose a little of their charm when adapted, what with having the involvement removed and all, but that’s all a matter of personal opinion. As it stands for me, this is a simple story that was handled well for its time, but has begun to show its age. It’s far from the best, it’s far from the worst, what it is is fun. And sometimes that’s enough.
Link to the past and follow the legend over at Madman