I began this game from the Linked Game of OoS (completed 22 Feb, see note). It also spit out a Link code at the end, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read that the only way to 100% everything is to play both games, both with and without Linked Game enabled. I doubt I will be doing this, but if I come back to these games in a few years, as I do periodically with Link’s Awakening, I should play them in reverse order.
Most reviewers seem to think that OoA is the better of the two games in this series, but I’m not entirely convinced. This game has real problems; it’s hard to get around, the worlds of ‘past’ and ‘present’ don’t feel related to each other enough to form a coherent picture, and there is a lot of puzzle design which doesn’t really boil down to “it’s hard,” but more “extremely inconvenient.” Jab-Jabu’s Belly is a great example of this last point. Unlike the OoT Water Temple, where the trick is knowing what to switch and when, the trick here instead is to not make a SINGLE wrong move with regard to a door that will close and lock behind you. If you do accidentally do this, your punishment is a shit load of backtracking. Zelda puzzles shouldn’t feel frustrating in that way. When you get it right, you’re meant to feel like you solved something because you have a big brain, not that you got it right because you’re the best at obeying rote procedures.
The passwords feature is really, really awesome. I was amazed over and over again at just how future-proof these games were. Plus, stashing away a few secrets and then revisiting Holodrum to go find them is a nice, relaxing way to break up some of the more grueling parts of the game.
All things considered, the right way to do a Linked game is almost certainly to play Ages first, which I have not done here. Around halfway through the game, after having got the Master Sword and Red Ring, it starts to feel like you have this amazing arsenal of weapons, but nothing to use them on. It’s not combat-oriented enough. Even most bosses can’t be killed from slashing the sword, but rather by some ‘puzzle’ that ends with “X hits,” where X is always the same regardless of weapon.
I remember learning this 10+ years ago when I first owned these games, but I had forgotten it, and was again amazed: BOTH games offer access to ALL 3 animal friends, but the flute you get is locked in depending on which one of the animals you use to cross their respective areas. The areas also change based on which animal you’re riding, so really each game has 3 different potential world maps. In a linked game, you are locked in to whichever animal friend you got in the first game. Back in the Old Times, I played Seasons first, and ended up with Ricky because that was most obvious. Didn’t have a clue that any other flutes were possible. Apparently, not much has changed, because I did that exact thing this time around, and was again surprised when I was reading a guide and was reminded that Ricky was an option, and getting a flute for a different animal was possible.
Another example of strange design choices: I did not completely “fill out” either map, in the Past or Present. It seems odd that this wouldn’t be a requirement. My OoS file for sure has all of the real world, and all of Subrosia filled out. I assumed that was because it was required; there’s lots of content, so they had to ‘use the whole map.’ I suppose my OoA file could have some gasha seeds or other small secrets stashed away in these blank squares, but it feels more like the reason for this is that everything is so dense. They could have spread it all out more, and forced players to cover the map in order to complete the game.