2.04: Layering

Remember when I said Donlan’s piece on the original The Legend of Zelda inspired me to play through the whole series? I’ve been thinking about that article a lot as I make my way through the first few dungeons of A Link to the Past.

In one of Donlan’s anecdotes, Miyamoto is playing with his desk drawers, pushing them in and out and imagining a multi-levelled landscape. It was one of the inspirations for the first game, apparently. This makes a lot of sense, because – in true sequel style – A Link to the Past really builds on that idea.

Similar to the original game (yet much more finely crafted), there’s verticality to the Overworld, which steers you through the environment, allows you to jump down, or climb up via bridges. But in A Link to the Past, it’s now also built into the dungeons.

Enter a new room and it may take you across, or under, a bridge or a mezzanine that offers a view of a different part of the room you’ll loop back later. It’s a sneak peak at what’s to come and a nifty, economical way of increasing the complexity of the space. It makes you feel like you’re exploring a labyrinthine dungeon, when (early on at least) the route is often far more straightforward than it seems.

Even better, one of the dungeons requires you to reach an inaccessible area in a room by dropping into it from the room above, something you can only do by flipping a switch then using your knowledge of the space to identify which hole to drop through. It’s such a clever idea.

I’m interested to see whether this layering concept is developed any further, both throughout A Link to the Past and the Zelda series as a whole. On the evidence of Donlan’s anecdote, and the way the concept has evolved since the first game, it’s beginning to look like an important theme.