Playing the 3D Legend Of Zelda
games, I feel like they've totally changed. You are limited to a small portion of the world at first, gradually increasing to more locations as you complete more dungeons. You often have to stop and solve complex puzzles involving multiple items, slowing down the gameplay. And the combat is very one-on-one much of the time.
It wasn't always like this, and this game shows it. The fact is, the 3D Zelda
games are nothing like the 2D ones, other than sharing some elements in common.
What A Link to the Past
is, essentially, is a form of top-down Metroidvania
. You can go anywhere that you are able to within the parameters of what abilities you have earned, and there is a lot to explore even before you expand your list of abilities. There's a lot of openness in what you can do, lots of side items to search for in your spare time, and a lot of freedom.
What's more, the gameplay moves fast, something which got lost in the transition to 3D. Link moves quickly around the world, fights involve multiple enemies at once and are frantic yet easy to follow, due to the top-down 2D perspective, and the individual locations you visit are fairly small and quick to enter and exit. The world still feels large, but can be navigated quickly - the best of both worlds, in my opinion.
Like most Zelda
games, there's a big focus on the dungeons, and you will indeed be spending a lot of time underground in those maze-like environments, exploring, solving mostly minor puzzles (not the heavy brainteasers of the 3D games), and fighting. There's fortunately a lot to do aboveground as well, but as the game goes on, you do spend more time in the dungeons.
Ultimately, A Link to the Past
shows how, in some ways, I feel that Zelda
has devolved from what made it fun. Unlike the later games, A Link to the Past
is refreshingly fast-paced and gameplay-focused. Cutscenes are short, it's possible to do some things - such as some Dark World dungeons - out of order, and the gameplay moves at a fast clip. If the 3D games kept these aspects, I'd like them a lot more.