The Legend of Zelda series has never been the same since Ocarina of Time. Often heralded as one of the greatest games of all time, the success of Ocarina of Time has been a mixed blessing. The series has been in its shadow ever since its release and every subsequent entry in the franchise have been attempts to recreate that magic again. For this reason, many have come to recall A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo as the superior game and the best game in the franchise. So when Nintendo announced The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds as a quasi-sequel to A Link to the Past, not only was the excitement high but also the trepidation as to whether it could live up to the original. Fans and newcomers alike can rest easy as not only is A Link Between Worlds an amazing game on its own right but it’s one of the best games in the franchise and easily the best Zelda game to be released in a decade.
Developed by Nintendo EAD Group 3 and Monolith Soft
Published by Nintendo
Released on 11-23-2013
What makes the quality of this Zelda game in particular immediately apparent is the removal of a complicated set up for the game’s story. Gone are the arduous starts that many Zelda games have been plagued with. There’s no sword training or mechanical tutorial to go through nor are you stuck in a village for an hour. A Link Between Worlds just tells you which button does what, gives you a weapon, and sets you loose within the first 15 minutes or so, including the opening cinematic.
You won't have to wait long to jump into the action!
The game does have a storyline that progresses nicely, if a bit predictably, but it’s clearly not the focus as the plot boils down to save the world from Yuga, who wants to revive long standing Zelda villain Ganon, and you do this by getting pennants and rescuing sages, much like in A Link to the Past. If there’s one complaint to be made, it’s that this Zelda game lacks the grand scope that recent consoles iterations in the series have had.
The world itself isn’t that big either even when the world reveals the second area, Lorule. However, the game never feels constrictive as the whole world is more or less open to you from the beginning, meaning you are free to explore and find hidden caves, chests, rupees, and other various items. The game is in a top down perspective, much like Link to the Past and the original Legend of Zelda, and each section of the world will have something you want to explore.
You can get most of the items in the game very early on!
However, exploring would be a positive attribute if it wasn’t any fun. Luckily, Zelda’s combat is as entertaining as ever and progression well paced, but not for the same reasons the series is known for. Typically, you would enter and complete dungeons to unlock new abilities and items and while this is true to an extent, a majority of your weapons are available very early on in the game for you to rent from Ravio, a merchant who rents out room and board at your house. Many of the weapons of the game are from a Link to the Past, though your magic meter refills on its own and you just need to wait for it to refill in order to use your weapons and magic. The weapons work like they normally do but if you die, your rented items are taken away.
This makes the world so open ended and freeing, as you can rent out all the weapons from Ravio for a low price and get lost in Hyrule. There is no spike in enemy difficulty types in any part of the game and no matter where you go, you feel strong and capable, yet still challenged. Some might find the game to be too easy but it’s more about enjoying the journey than challenging your reflexes or problem solving skills. I completed this game 100% and it was one of the few games that I can say was a delight to do so. I wanted to get every bottle, every heart piece, every Maiamai, and complete every mini-game simply because it meant exploring the world more, learning every nook and cranny of each section, knowing the layout of the land.
The dungeons are well designed.
In the dungeons, the mechanics of the game are used in clever ways. There will often be various floors to traverse and rooms to open. Having most of the weapons in your inventory will often help you in dungeons by giving you a choice in how to tackle puzzles and various other obstacles but rarely does it give you an easier way to get through them. What’s more is the various dungeon designs are inspired, often giving you moments of realization of how this section was designed and what is expected of you to complete it. The painting aspect is particularly used in unique ways here.
The painting aspect of the game, which could have been a gimmick, is brilliantly used. This can be used to traverse over gaps you wouldn’t be able to jump across or cracks in the wall that lead into a walled off room. This is also how you enter Lorule. The painting aspect is also used in battle. There’s one boss fight, for example, that you need to use your Merge ability on his shield so when he looks for you, he spreads his arms out allowing you to pop off of the shield behind him for a sneak attack.
The painting aspect is brilliantly used.
There really aren’t any negatives to this game but there is one feature that just falls flat. There is a street pass feature that lets you battle other people playing the game when you meet them at various spots on the map. This feature is a neat distraction that reminds me of the unobtrusive multiplayer component in thatgamecompany’s Journey but to a lesser degree. Matches are typically over in a few minutes and it’s mostly a curiosity rather than an enjoyable extra in the game.
From a presentational aspect, A Link Between Worlds is good but not great. The graphical design looks nice but nothing that pushes the 3DS to its limit. Everything seems to have a soft filter on the graphics, which gives the game this weird plastic look, which you can take it or leave it. The 3D feature is used at times, especially for text and the various levels in dungeons but is ultimately inconsequential to the experience, meaning 2DS owners aren’t missing out on much. The soundtrack feature remade versions of Zelda classic tracks and in my unpopular opinion, I would have preferred some new tracks instead of the same songs we’ve heard before.
A Link Between Worlds is the most inspired game in the series in a long time and yet, one of the simplest. The game really does hearken back to the original Legend of Zelda, with that feeling of freedom but with better visual cues and better explanations of the rules of the game so you don’t get lost. The exploration in the game is never overwhelming and there’s no wrong way to do it. This is really one of the more purest version of what made The Legend of Zelda such a great system and Nintendo would do well to take this game into consideration with their upcoming Zelda game for the Wii U.
5 out of 5
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