Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
A terrible evil is overtaking the land of Hyrule, planning to use seven pure maidens to unlock the gateway to the Dark World. Agahnim will stop at nothing to carry out his plans, even plotting to use Princess Zelda as one of the seven maidens! Telepathically she reaches out to a young man named Link, begging him to save her and Hyrule. Link sets out on a journey to do just that, crossing into the Dark World and using mystical artifacts to save the princess and restore Hyrule to safety in manga master Shotaro Ishinomori's 1992 adaptation of the hit SNES game.
Link, that pantsless elven hero of many a video game, is back from the dead pages of Nintendo Power Magazine! For fans of the Nintendo franchise The Legend of Zelda who were either not subscribing to the Nintendo Power Magazine in 1992 or are not familiar with Shotaro Ishinomori's art style, this book may come as something of a shock. Serialized one chapter a month for the entirety of 1992, Ishinomori's manga adapts the classic game of the same title, taking a few deviations in order to move the plot along in a way better suited to comics, but using a style of manga art that today will likely look dated and maybe a little goofy to some fans. But Ishinomori was a master of his craft, and this full-color, oversize volume is still a treat, combining cartoonish action with a quest story and some beautiful imagery to give both franchise fans and those who just like the work of the manga greats something to enjoy.
The story follows Link, a young orphan, who one night awakens to hear Princess Zelda, heir to the throne of Hyrule, speaking to him telepathically. She needs his help to save both herself and six other pure maidens who are in danger of being used by the evil Agahnim to open the gate to the corrupt Dark World. This is really the only point where we have to remember that the book is not about the first game in the franchise, as Link's knowing the princess is never explained here; however if you ignore it, Ishinomori moves right into a standard fantasy quest narrative. Link just misses saving the princess and, with the help of several other characters including a wise elder, a spritely young lad, and a couple of mysterious strangers, must collect the three pendants of power in order to locate the Sword of the Master, which will enable him to defeat not just Agahnim but more importantly Ganon, the root of the evil. There is a very game-like feel to the story, with a couple of moments where you can practically see the original game sprites telling you that the princess is in another castle, but Ishinomori's simple approach to the storytelling and vibrantly colored art helps to keep your attention on the page.
It is important to remember that when Ishinomori created this volume, video game graphics were nowhere near where they are today. Pixelated sprites were the order of the day, and so there would have been concept art and box art for Ishinomori to work from. In part, this explains the art style of the book: a cartoony, child-friendly style reminiscent of Osamu Tezuka and very dated by today's standards. There are some issues with this, perhaps the most noticeable one being that Link at times bears a distinct resemblance to the Keebler Elf. There also isn't much consistency in terms of characters' heights or builds, and both Link and Zelda seem to waver between being ten years old and twenty. Villains are drawn with much more solid designs, and some of them are a lot of fun to simply look at, with swamp wizard Sir Vitreous being one of the best. (As is his creepy eyeball monster.) There is a sense of movement and weight to the artwork, particularly when Link is struggling through sand or a mace is exploding upwards from the ground.
Both the color and size of this book make it a bit unusual, and another thing to note is that it is printed “flopped,” reading like a western comic book. There is no indication that this is a change in any way from the original publication, and everything reads with relative ease. There are a few speech bubbles where determining the order we're supposed to read them is a a bit tricky, but since that often happens with unflopped books, that can hardly be said to be a problem specific to this publication. While the color may throw some readers, it really enhances aspects of the story, specifically the more fantastic ones. The cover image, when seen within the actual story, is very powerful, something the depth of the colors helps to bring out, giving the picture a feeling of peace and solemnity immediately when you turn the page. While this could have been accomplished in black and white, the color definitely adds to the immediacy.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is most likely going to appeal to fans of the original game and readers of older manga. While there is plenty for a casual reader to enjoy, the old-fashioned (albeit striking) artwork and the basis for the plot make this better suited for those specific audiences. Ishinomori's take on the game is fun to read and makes interesting visual choices, and you don't have to know the original to enjoy this, but it certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Visuals are striking with their bold colors and sense of movement. Story reads fluidly and quickly. Beautiful book in general.
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