PN Review: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
As I’m playing through A Link Between Worlds, I can’t shake the eerie feeling that I’ve been here before. I know I’m playing a brand new Zelda game with new mechanics, features, dungeons, characters, and 3D graphics, but the history and nostalgia from A Link to the Past give me an odd sense of déjà vu.
A Link to the Past, originally released for the Super Nintendo in 1992, and re-released for the Game Boy Advance in 2002, is highly regarded among Zelda fanatics like myself as one of the best games of the series. It introduced elements of gameplay that have made it into many of the games that succeeded it, such as thematic dungeons, heart pieces, and the coveted Master Sword. When we learned at E3 that Nintendo were not just remaking A Link to the Past for the 3DS but indeed producing a true sequel, I was skeptical of how successful they’d be. I’m pleased to say that not only have Nintendo succeeded in producing a true sequel, it’s an excellent one at that.
The game opens once again with Link having a bad dream – a dream containing a faceless beast with searing red eyes and obvious bad intentions. Link is awakened by the son of the blacksmith, Gulley, harassing him about being late to work. In a tasteful nod to the past, Majora’s Mask hangs on the wall of Link’s house.
As soon as you get up and walk around, the speed at which Link moves is noticeably faster than in previous games. In A Link Between Worlds, Nintendo has thankfully reverted to using the Circle Pad for navigation instead of the stylus draw-and-attack system used in games like Phantom Hourglass.
We’re introduced to a new mechanic right away which is used both for save points and as a quick-travel system. When you approach a weather vane, you simply press A to save your game and add a new quick-travel point at the same time. A bell allows you to call upon a witch who will drop you at any quick-travel point you’ve unlocked. It works.
Also lending to that feeling of déjà vu, the overworld map is basically the same as the one in LTTP. There are some modifications but if you’re familiar with LTTP, you’ll instantly recognize this map. Although it’s unclear how much time has passed since LTTP, characters such as Sahasrahla, Dampé, and Impa are in the game. Deep ties to the Seven Sages and the Light and Dark worlds are present from the beginning and explained for those who might not have previously played LTTP.
A new villain, Yuga, wears cloaks similar to those we’ve seen on Ganondorf in the past. An unusual dark, upside down triforce appears on them. Yuga possesses magic that turns people into paintings, and he’s collecting descendants of the original Seven Sages. After a run-in with Link, and thanks to a special bracelet Link is given, Link is imbued with the power to flatten himself and run along surfaces in 2D. It lends an incredibly well-thought out and well-executed mechanic to the game that keeps it feeling fresh. Puzzles depend on this new mechanic from the start. The feeling of “you can’t get there from here” is ever present, but the transition between 3D and 2D modes is completely seamless with a simple press of the A button when you’re near a surface that can support it.
Nintendo took advantage of the 3D element with enemies such as Tektites and Stalfos appearing to get closer to the viewer when they jump. Knocking Hardhat Beetles into bottomless pits makes them appear to fall away and shrink into oblivion. It’s impressive. I’m really curious to see how these elements play out on a 2DS console.
A Link Between Worlds is different from previous Zelda games in that you don’t need to dig through dungeons to earn the weapons required to progress through the game. Need a bow and arrow or a hammer? Perhaps bombs or the boomerang? They’re all available to rent from Ravio’s shop at the start.
Yes, items cost rupees now, but this allows you to jump between dungeons as you like rather than being forced through a prescribed progression of dungeons. It gives a more open world feeling to the game. The catch is that if you die, you will be forced back to Ravio’s shop to rent them again for more rupees. Keep those bottles full of fairies and only rent the items you really need!
Another new mechanic is that Ravio’s items and Link’s 2D ability require use of power. This is represented by an auto-refilling purple power meter on the left of the screen. This keeps you from running out of ammo, but it places a limit on the amount of time you can spend in 2D mode and how many times you can use a weapon in succession. If you run out of power, the meter flashes red and white until it refills. This can make battles tricky.
While the game is StreetPass enabled, we were unable to test the StreetPass features before going to press. Based on the in-game explanation, you will be able to battle with Shadow Link versions of the characters you come across in StreetPass. We’ll report back on how this works in a followup article.
If you’re a Zelda die-hard like this author, you simply can’t go wrong with A Link Between Worlds. It’s the Zelda game you’ve been waiting for and more. Nintendo and Eiji Aonuma have outdone themselves with this game. And if you don’t already have a 3DS XL, take advantage of the gold-and-black Zelda themed bundle being released on November 22nd.