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The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Manga Review

6 min read

Zelda CoverA link that’s sadly best left in the past

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Shotaro Ishinomori
Translation: Dan Owsen

What They Say
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is an adaptation of the beloved, internationally bestselling video game originally released for Nintendo’s Super Entertainment System.

The cover here is a rather classy image of the Master Sword in its stand, overgrown by plant life, with a golden logo overtop. It looks absolutely stunning despite its simplicity and is quite the attractive cover. The back cover uses the image of Link facing down the three-headed dragon, which is also quite nice. The paper used is a nice, solid, glossy type, and the book is printed at a larger size, approximately that of an average comic trade. It’s a nicely put together, high quality book all around, though there sadly aren’t any extras to speak of. Honorifics aren’t used, and sound effects appear as stylized translations. The text used is serviceable, but it’s also a tad awkward in places. At least some of this is due to the age of the translation, having originally appeared in Nintendo Power way back in 1992 (hence the interesting reference to the old marketing phrase “now you’re playing with power!”, which will probably go over the heads of most readers not going into this with nostalgia). It is of course also worth noting that the book is printed in a left-to-right format, in all likelihood thanks to its history with Nintendo Power.

The artwork is also a rather interesting element. That it’s done by Shotaro Ishinomori, the creator of Cyborg-009, means that it unsurprisingly has a rather old-school look, and elements of his other works can definitely be seen here. For the most part, this means that the book has a rather simplistic and rough style to it. Unfortunately, this makes for a book that looks somewhere between bland and just a little flat most of the time. However, every once in a while the coloring and artwork combine together and create something that is absolutely stunning, most often in the form of sweeping landscapes and structures, as well as flashy effects such as explosions. It’s also important to note that, admittedly to some degree due to the roughness of the original graphics and the fact that the series hadn’t become as set in its iconography at the time this came out, a number of elements will look just wrong to the fans of the game. Of course some of this is also due to stylistic changes purposefully made by Ishinomori as well, but in the end it results in designs that are unfortunately a little more generic and flat than they should be. It’s certainly not a bad looking book, and it has moments of stunning beauty, but unfortunately it’s also not a book possessing a great style for the most part.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
On a dark and stormy night, a young lad named Link receives a telepathic plea for help from Zelda, the princess of the land of Hyrule. Heeding this warning he rushes to the castle, and is just in time to see his Uncle struck down by the evil wizard Agahnim. Before he can die he entrusts Link with his sword and shield and the mission to save Zelda, as well as giving Link a weird tease about his dead parents that doesn’t really ever go anywhere. With his daring and bravery he manages to rescue Zelda, but Agahnim is able to almost immediately grab her back. Now wanted in the kingdom for the false charge of kidnapping thanks to Agahnim’s secret control of the kingdom, Link is forced to flee, all the while journeying for the legendary Master Sword.

Link’s quest eventually leads him to the elder Sahasrahla, who informs him that he needs to find three pendants to get the Master Sword. Unlike in the games, though, he just kind of gives him the first one. The next requires a fight with a Lanmola, which is once more rather unlike the games, and goes down rather quickly. Next up Link gets a taste of the Dark World, which has the power to change your body into a beast via the negative emotions in your heart! However, he isn’t discouraged and continues on to the Tower of Hera, where he faces a giant spider after climbing some stairs. This gets him the last pendant and, soon after, the Master Sword. Using a hot air balloon, he catches up to Agahnim just in time to see the wizard send Zelda into the Dark World. To make matters worse, Link can’t simply slash the evil magician, but thanks to an idea that actually mirrors the game for once, he manages to triumph over his foe. Even so, he ends up in the Dark World in the aftermath.

While there, he’ll rescue a surprisingly low number of the Seven Maidens, fight enemies using the strange “firecorn” grenades instead of just the bombs from the games, and even meet a rival unique to the comic named Roam, who’s actually kind of decent, though he doesn’t do terribly much. Finally, will Link be able to triumph over Ganon, the evil behind all that’s occurred?

In Summary
Though there is definitely some charm to this book, it’s hard to recommend it to anyone except perhaps those looking to revisit their nostalgic childhood of reading it in Nintendo Power. The story is changed quite a bit from the threadbare original game, but unfortunately it actually seems to have somehow lost far more than it gained. The basic plot with Agahnim, Zelda, and Ganon is certainly still there, and we even get a kind of neat new character in the form of Roam. However, the rather key elements of the unique and complex dungeons and, perhaps more importantly, the unique tools that Link always uses, are almost completely absent. The only real tools here are original creations, and they’re quite lame, one cutting down on travel (which is already cut out in plenty of instances throughout the book), and another explaining the weird telepathy from the game, which is kind of unnecessary. As a result, though there are some of the crazy bosses from the game (which look quite different but are at least still intimidating), they all go down to Link’s sword rather than to their own unique weaknesses.

This isn’t to say that the book needed to be a slave to the game’s plot and ideas, but unfortunately what it introduces in its stead simply feels generic and flat, and even includes at least one incredibly half-baked plot point. Plus, of course, this is an adaptation of Link to the Past without the bunny, which is enough of a tragedy to speak for itself. All in all this an okay book which certainly isn’t offensively bad, but it’s not really deep or interesting enough to stand on its own, and for fans of the series, the changes are sadly more likely to annoy than intrigue. If you want to experience a link to your past of reading the story in a magazine, then this may do the trick, as the actual construction of the book is quite nicely done. However, for everyone else, it’s probably better to stay away.

Content Grade: C+
Art Grade: B
Package Rating: A-
Text/Translation Rating: B-

Age Rating: All Ages
Released by: Viz Media
Release Date: May 5th, 2015
MSRP: $19.99

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