This review contains spoilers

So, I've never considered myself much of a Zelda fan. I've attempted to play through this game many times and it just wasn't gripping me at all, same with Wind Waker (although I think that game's art style is gorgeous and its characters are very charming), A Link Between Worlds, and Breath of the Wild. However, after playing through a whole lot of Hyrule Warriors, it inspired me to try giving these Zelda games a chance again. I figured I'd start with this one since its the only old game in the TLoZ series I've played before aside from Link's Awakening and its one of the most acclaimed games in the series. I find that I respect this game a lot for its important contributions to the series and its strong legacy, but I just really was not super into this one. By the end, I felt like I was just completing it to get it done so I could move on to other things. I think I've learned that 2D Zelda is really not super up-my-alley, but it is fun to play every now and then.
This game really surprised me in a lot of ways. For one, I actually died a ton here. I could just chalk that up to my relative unfamiliarity with 2D Zelda but I was really terrible at this game for a good while and cherished every Piece of Heart and Fairy I got. I also tend to suck at exploration in games, quite frankly, so there were plenty of times I had to look up where to find the item needed to progress so I wasn't aimlessly searching every corner. Thankfully I was able to complete most dungeons with minimal use of guides, and I only ever used Restore Points near the end since I was just annoyed and wanted to finish the game already. The biggest thing that shocked me is how long the game is; I'm not sure why I was expecting it to be short but it took me nearly 30 hours to beat. There's a lot of content here and I was not expecting that to be the case.
As far as gameplay goes, yea its pretty standard 2D Zelda stuff, although that was probably pretty innovative at the time this game came out. Aside from some annoying enemies and secrets that I would have been running around like a headless chicken trying to find by myself, I think this was solid overall. You swing your sword or use magic items you find to take out your enemies. If you're feeling a little spicy you can also kill enemies by clocking them in the head with the throwable objects you find. Some enemies require specific weapons to die, like the goblin looking enemies that copy your movement in mirrored directions or some of the bosses. You can also stand still to block stuff with your shield; I'm used to having a dedicated block button in my games, but this works. It's usually more reliable to just avoid things though since its not always obvious what you can block, like the lasers from those statues with the rotating eyes (I think they're called Beamos) are unblockable but you can block the lasers from the eye symbols on walls or doors that you find in later dungeons once you get the Mirror Shield...except some of the eye lasers inexplicably just can't be blocked for some reason. Of course, as you'd expect, each dungeon has a lot of puzzles and they're pretty nifty. Thankfully, any secret areas that you have to bomb or dash into with the Pegasus Boots to open up are indicated visually, so there'll be an obvious crack in the wall or something to clue you in (although some of these don't actually lead to anything and are just there to trick you).
The story...uh, its there, I guess? I feel most, if not all, of the story is just window dressing for the barebones plot of "Go through these dungeons so you can save the seven sages and beat Ganon". There's a good bit of lore here but there's not much real story. Basically, Link is a kid who is part of the royal knight family. Zelda sends him a message through telekinesis. Your uncle goes out on a mission and he tells Link not to leave the house. Of course Link completely disregards that and he goes to the castle to save Zelda from the royal dungeon. Doesn't take long to meet up with his uncle, who got badly damaged in his quest to go fight the corruption taking over Hyrule Castle. He decides to give his sword and shield, telling Link he must go save Zelda. I guess she also told him that Link was going to rescue her. After saving Zelda, she stays with a priest at Sanctuary and tells you to go fight the evil wizard Agahnim for the good of Hyrule. Basically, Agahnim is an alter-ego of Ganon who usurped the kingdom, which he did so he could kidnap the descendants of the ancient seven wise men and dispel the seal that their ancestors put on the Golden Land for so long. I don't think it was really explained what this Golden Land is even meant to be, but it is undeniably connected to the Triforce. From here, Link needs to go to three dungeons that each award one magic pendant, which he needs all three of to pull out the Master Sword in the Lost Woods. Eventually you also have to go through the Dark World - an alternate version of the Light World created by Ganon - and do all seven dungeons there. After that, Link has the final showdown with Ganon, wins the Triforce, and the day is saved. So, the story is overall very basic, but I don't really expect amazing stories out of these games anyway so that wasn't much of a bummer to me.
I think this game was pretty good overall. I have some minor nitpicks like the ones I mentioned earlier and some ones I hadn't mentioned yet, like how it was driving me nuts that I had maxed out Rupees for a good portion of the game with basically nothing to spend them on. ALttP earns a good 4 stars out of me; I respect this game for its legacy, but its honestly not something I would ever want to go beat again, and I did end up getting quite bored of it my last few play sessions before completion.

Reviewed on Mar 26, 2023