A Link to the Past is such a monomental title in the gaming landscape it's hard to find an interesting angle to approach the game from when talking about it. After two wildly different games on the NES, both of which have aged somewhat poorly in my opinion, ALttP was the game that truly cemented Zelda as something special, something to last. This is evident in how many parts of its setting was adopted in future titles. Hyrule Castle, the Master Sword, seven sages, the Lost Woods, Ganon as a wizard, the influence this game had on the rest of the franchise cannot be overstated. Not to mention the structural template: Collect 3 magical stones, red, blue and green. Collect the Master Sword. Villain confrontation. Another realm. 7 people to be saved. Boss battle with Ganon. This game brought that formula forth, and I genuinly admire it for how deep of a mark it left on the other games in the series.
Actually playing the game isn't all sunshine and rainbows though. This came out in 1991, and at that point, adventure games were still clinging on to vagueness as an intergral part of their identity. Granted, this game is far more accessible than Zelda 1 or 2, but compared to some of the newer games, it is still a frustrating mess to figure out. The puzzles are just a tad too obtuse sometimes, and the lack of story beats during long stretches of the game makes everything feel somewhat meaningless. I'm all for letting the player explore at their own pace, but that is not the same as making the story non-existent at times.
I also think the minimalist approach to story ends up hurting the game's pacing quite a lot. Pre-Dark World is not so bad, the dungeons are pretty short and sweet, and the end goal always feels near, but it's the main portion after the first Agahnim fight that the game starts to lose some of its fervor. You are constantly walking from one dungeon to the next, maybe taking brief detours to search for heart pieces, and this gets monotenous long before you're done. Other Zeldas counter this problem with a more substancial plot and more interesting people to fill it with, but the concept of a Zelda story wasn't old enough yet to make it anything worthwhile. None of the characters are very memorable, the maidens are practically McGuffins, Ganon is at his most basic, and he fails to leave a big imprint on the game as a whole, considering he doesn't show up until the very end.
However. Even though this game has aged somewhat badly in certain areas, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have tons of fun playing through this. The dungeons have interesting layouts, the bosses are mostly fun, there being two entirely different realms you have to manipulate in order to progress is a genius concept that's super well realizes, the graphics are crisp, and the soundtrack is a banger. On top of that, in its most cinematic moments I was completely hooked. The cold opening and the retrieval of the Master Sword are some of the most engrossing and immersive sequences I've ever witnessed, and one thing the game does unambigously well is retain that sense of drama and grandeur all the way through. ALttP hasn't aged like fine wine, but there are many games out there that owes it a lot, and its highpoints and general vibe make it well worth a playthrough, even if one might have to consult a guide a couple of times.