in Sword of Mana, it looks like they didn't really put much thought into this, at least, no more than how it looked. see, when you do a strike, you cover a different type of area depending which direction you face. if you face left or right, you cover hardly any space, and if you face up, you cover a little more than 180', and down you cover exactly 180'. the point here is that you should cover the same amount no matter what direction you face, otherwise you lose range and thats just stupid. you have to worry about weapon management due to an important gameplay oversight on the part of the game designer IMO.
in Zelda:LA(gb), they did a good job of evenly distributing the sword arcs, except that you can't swing your sword in the lower right quadrant of the full arc of a super attack. for instance, if you swing your sword to the right, you cover the upper right quadrant, and if you swing your sword downward, you cover the lower left quadrant. there's just no way to cover the lower right without a power attack. oddly enough, if you attack upward, you cover the upper right quadrant, just like if you had attacked to the right. unfortunately, you have to work around that in battles. the range per attack could probably be bigger, too, but its not a real issue.
in Zelda:LttP(snes), it was pretty well done. the sword arcs were even all around and you get good coverage. as the weapons got stronger, the ranges' radius increased as well, making them more effective in that way too.
the thing that's bugged me is that you generally can't move (and attack) in 8 directions. sure, you can move up and over, but you don't face in that direction, and certainly can't attack at that angle. now, its not really been a big problem with these games. but we're only talking about swords. let's extend the discussion to other weapon types, like bows and spears.
in Sword of Mana, the spear is thrust out away from you in a straight line. you can only attack in 4 directions, and if you make a mistake in your aiming, you need to re-align and try again. generally the recovery from an attack with a spear takes a little while longer than with a sword, so if you make a mistake - you're more likely to pay the price. if you were able to attack in 8 directions, you've got a better chance to hit what you're aiming at, because you're not as limited in range.
the bow in Zelda:LttP(snes) and Zelda:LA(gby) both suffer from this problem as well. if you were able to aim in 8 directions, that simple addition would make the weapon much more effective. in Sword of Mana, the arrows travel in an arc, and no matter what height they're at, as long as they clip a monster sprite, they hit. its a good idea to take advantage of this fact; you can position yourself to get two hits on a monster with one arrow. i'm not sure if i want to deal with height or not, i suppose its something i'll need to write a test for.
while we're on the subject, using a bow should work more like how you do the magic targetting in FF:CC(gc) - press and hold button for target cursor, dpad to move target to where you want the arrow to land. another thing to test out.