Nintendo Power’s “A Link to the Past”
Reviewed by Mirren
Back in the day, Nintendo Power used to print a lot of comics based off popular video games in their magazine, ranging from classic series like Mario to one-timers like Blastcorps. Most of the time, they were comics that loosely followed the title they were based off of, or were new side-stories created by the artists and writers. In January of 1992, NP would publish the very first chapter of an A Link to the Past comic drawn by Shotaro Isinomori. This would be a very anime-like approach to the story, similar to the 1991 Manga of A Link to the Past in Japan- “Triforce of the Gods”. Nintendo Power’s comic would run for a full year in the magazine, with one chapter being printed a month, until in 1993 when it was published in a book form.

Like all of the Legend of Zelda Manga or comics, the story keeps the main plot from the game; Agahnim is up to no good and kidnaps Zelda, Link has to find the Master Sword and Sacred Pendants and free the Wise Maidens to save her, and then stop Ganon from sending Hyrule into darkness. It ends up becoming very much like most of the Zelda titles, where for most of the story Link is journeying across Hyrule to save someone or find some new item. There’s no doubt that this feels a very simple for a story at times, but because of the common appearances from characters other than Link, there’s a lot of plot-progression and character development throughout it.

The plot’s pretty simple, but it works
There are a few points in the story, though, that don’t make sense, and can almost be considered plot-holes. One occurs after Link has obtained the Master Sword, and the Zora mentions its name. For some reason, Link suddenly forgets that, and he says “Master Sword? That’s what they call this?”, when he himself has even referred to its title beforehand. Another time is during the battle with Trinexx; after one of the characters comes in and shoots the black head with an arrow, the blue head suddenly collapses for no reason, while the other heads are fine.I suppose that there’s a reason for them, but they’re not explained, and they become bothersome as you read. There’s a few of these, too, so it’s not like you see them only once in a blue moon or anything. Maybe it was because of a page limit or something, who knows?

When the story begins, we already see a problem that would come up very often in the entire comic; goofy character artwork. The first moment that we see Link, he looks as if he’s nine years old, when we already know that he’s somewhere in his teens. Then when he puts on the famous green cap, which in this comic looks like a really bad bed-hat, he looks even worse. What more could go wrong?

Well, the problem is that, even though Isinomori shows some really beautiful artworks at times, his characters often sport the bugged-out anime eyes and anime expressions. Now, I love anime, but it’s overdone in this comic, especially at inopportune times. I’d say that for more than half of the story, Link’s eyes are bulging and he’s got some freaked-out look on his face. Pretty much whenever he gets hit in a fight, he takes it like it’s some silly Saturday morning cartoon. I can understand that a Zelda story is supposed to have humor in it, but after the first chapter or two, you’ll really get sick of seeing the hero act as if his entire adventure’s a joke.

Link is goofy to the point of aggravating
Other characters don’t act as goofy as Link does, but a few just plain look bad. A new addition to the story, Roam the Knight, has that stereotype anime look with spiky hair, and the pointed face like a bird. He looks very good when he becomes a humanoid eagle in the Dark World, but his human form looks so much like the other anime characters that use that style, that it’s boring. Sahasrahla’s another one that gets shafted. Because of Isinomoro’s cartoonish art approach, the wise elder from the game turns out looking like just another wide-eyed anime character.Luckily, some members of the cast do look nice. Princess Zelda was the perfect example of simplicity being better than complexity. She doesn’t have anything intricate about her, but because of it, the easy artwork looks great, and doesn’t have anything that stands out. Others like the Zora and Agahnim also look great, since their appearances stick to the official artwork that was released for the game, and aren’t messed around with at all.

One thing that also works for the cast is their dialogue. While it’s nothing noteworthy and in the end sounds like the script from a generic fantasy adventure, it sounds right, considering that the comic is like a generic fantasy adventure. The characters’ personalities and roles in the story go hand in hand with what they say.

Another thing that makes the story good, and what makes it worthy of being read, are the fights. In every single chapter, there is at least one action scene. For the most part, they’re pretty fun, with lots of conflict in them. Like all of the Zelda comics, the battles are brief, but I actually think that works well for them, because then they don’t drag out and get boring or repetitive. Long scuffles can be good, but when the movement and attacks become the same thing over and over, it just isn’t enjoyable to read.

You can count on this comic to provide a lot of fun fights
Yet, the only real problem with the action sequences is that a select few are too short, and they seemed rushed. Some are important scenes, too, that are discussed about before hand by the characters, and they come up for only one or two pages. Again, I can understand that there must’ve been limits, considering that this was being printed only in Nintendo Power at the time, but there still probably could’ve been something done to lengthen a couple. Nevertheless, this doesn’t do much to hinder the overall quality of the battles, which serve as the best part of the comic.One of the things that makes the fights so good is that there are many familiar faces from the game included. You’ll see several of the bosses come in for a brawl with Link, and then there are a lot of the mini-bosses and grunt-enemies that make appearances. This really helps to establish that although the comic is differing from the game in many ways, it’s still trying to keep the overall feel of it, and in this case, it really helps it feel like you’re reading a Zelda comic. You’ll see some new beasts like a giant spider and a huge red jellyfish, but they don’t step out of the Zelda realm, so they feel natural to be there.

A lot of enemies from the game make an appearance
Now, one bad part about the enemies is that some of them have disappointing designs. It’s not about the level of skill that Isinomori has- they’d look bad for anyone. One example would be Trinexx, who we actually see on the front and back covers of the book, being a three-headed oriental dragon. The difference from what we saw in the game is so great it’s almost impossible to shrug it off and ignore it, considering that he’s not of Zelda and turned into some Japanese anime dragon. He’s pretty much like the dragon from Dragon Ball Z, with three heads, and it simply feels out of place.Unfortunately, there was an enemy that looked worse than Trinexx, and for some reason that had to be the main baddy of it all; Ganon. I know that I’ve griped about pig-Ganon in the past, but I don’t see how anyone can excuse his look in the comic. It’s one of the plainest, most boring designs of his. He’s basically a fat black pig with a red cape and a bronze necklace; there’s very little more as far as his appearance goes.

Why other things in the book are so detailed and look so great, and Ganon doesn’t, makes no sense to me. This was our main enemy, the biggest threat in the story, and he has no detail or special visuals about him. I mean, I don’t hate Pig-Ganon, I love the look he had in the actual A Link to the Past game, and I adore the official art of him from the Oracle titles, but in here, there’s nothing eye-pleasing about him.

It may surprise you, after seeing the rating I gave this comic, and all the negative criticism that I’ve written, that I really enjoyed reading it. When I first started visiting ZU three years ago, it was one of the first things I looked at on the site, and I loved it. A year or so ago, I read through it again, and I loved it. Then when I read it a week ago to prepare for writing this review, I loved every minute of it yet again. It’s a fun, exciting adventure based off one of the best games in the Zelda series.

It certainly doesn’t have the quality of other Zelda comics, and I do indeed prefer its Manga counterpart- “Triforce of the Gods”, but I liked this one, and if you can ignore a couple plot holes and sometimes goofy artwork, then you should as well.

In the end, it’s an enjoyable read, for sure

  • I’m simply pointing out that Nintendo has seemed to forget about what made their classic adventure series so great to begin with: the adventure part of it.