Review – Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

A Link Between Worlds The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Developer Nintendo
Publisher Nintendo
Platforms Nintendo 3DS
Released: 11-22-2013 (NA)
Verdict: Relive the past with the power of 3D!

An odd 20-some years ago Nintendo struck gold on the SNES in A Link to the Past with a refined system that premiered in the very first Legend of Zelda game on NES (Skipping the RPG focused sequel on the NES). Since then the top down perspective that has served the original games so well has been relegated mostly to hand held systems (Except 2004’s Four Swords Adventure on the GameCube) is back on the Nintendo 3DS in a direct sequel to A Link to the Past. A Link Between Worlds picks up a few generations after the SNES original and smartly plays on gamers nostalgia by using the same over world map, and as soon as the game opens up I can tell you it works. Seeing the SNES classic world in a refined perspective and beautifully done in 3D sends all the best feels through the body of anyone who played the original.



The gameplay is mostly the same and the touch screen is kept to a useful minimum for menus, item swapping, and checking out your gear which leaves the top screen mostly empty save for the player’s hearts and the “action meter”. Speaking of the new action meter most of the legitimate documentation refers to it as the magic meter but it is so much more now. It’s really a perfection and the next step of the stamina meter from Skyward Sword. Now there is no more worrying about bombs or arrows as they smartly use the action meter now, meaning you never have to worry about being in a dungeon and not having enough of an item that is required. Another smart edition to the action meter is that is fills up automatically now. This is a wonderful turn, though without all of the items to be picked up it means you are generally finding rupees EVERYWHERE. Rupees are in such an abundance you rarely will need to look for them and there are no hidden wallet upgrades so Link is free to fill his wallet up to 9999 from the start.

Rupees are used to rent and buy items this time around which is a lovely departure. From very early on in the game you get the ability to rent 90% of the games items. Further into the game you obtain the ability to buy these items for good, which allows you to upgrade them with the help of Mother Maiamai. Speaking on Mother Maiamai she has lost her 100 babies across the light and dark worlds and for every 10 you collect she will power up an item that you own. It’s a fresh new way to encourage players to explore their worlds and keep the sound slider all the way up as baby Maiamai’s can be located by their feint audible cries. I loved exploring the world and found myself just spending hours just collecting the babies. The collecting and exploration is further expanded once the ability to travel to Lorule is unlocked and portals open up all over the map. This makes the decade old over world feel fresh and unexplored despite the hours I invested in the SNES classic.

Rent all you want... Just don't die!

Rent all you want… Just don’t die!

Dungeon progression starts out as a paint by numbers if you played Link to the Past. Three light world dungeons which hide three spiritual stones needed to unlock the master sword from its lost woods pedestal. Once you break into Lorule and are tasked with 7 more dungeons to save the sages reincarnate the game really opens up in a way any Zelda game since the original hasn’t. You are free to tackle any dungeon in any order. With my wife and I playing at the same time we found we had decided to deal with the tasks in a completely opposite order. The only problem with this is that none of the dungeons feels harder than another and a real sense of progression is lost. Even in the original Zelda for NES if you decided to play Level 8 first, you were free to, but the difficulty would make it known you are tackling a dungeon with some serious difficulty. Despite that the freedom to explore and make each quest your own is decidedly welcome to Zelda games. I only hope that the Wii U version will follow suit.

Additionally, this game, like its predecessor wastes no time with hand holding that the series has picked up since transitioning to 3D. It takes about 10 minutes to get into the action and I cannot overstate how welcome this is from Skyward Sword’s 30 minute guided tour of Skyloft and then the additional 30 minutes of menial tasks before you can even begin exploring. I hope that this approach too follows into the Wii U game soon to show its face.

On the topic of 3D, stereoscopic 3D that is; I have to say this is the first game I have willingly played mostly in 3D mode. (Sorry Mario 3D Land) The 3D visuals are subtle when they should be and the bosses stand out in beautiful color and depth. This is the game that should have launched with the system if Nintendo was serious about pushing the 3D. It’s a shame to see it finally show up 3 years after the systems launch but, if you were on the fence about the system before I can comfortably tell you this would be much less of a moving and cinematic experience if played on the 2DS.

Finally, the characters here are a bit lacking as is the general story. Growing up in the Atari/ Nintendo era it was always understood that the story was in your head. The game could play out as much as it could convey in its limited memory and format and the player was left to imagine the rest. Having grown into gaming this way A Link Between Worlds didn’t disappoint me, but I certainly was not impressed either giving the storytelling the device and medium have been able to achieve since A Link to the Past. The characters are underdeveloped, the plot paper-thin, and the dialogue only as wordy as it needs to be. This doesn’t hurt the game at large, but if you thought you were getting anything but what was presented 20 years ago, you will be disappointed. Ganon is by far the most robbed in his game as he doesn’t get a single line of dialogue. Not one word. Notta. For the greatest villain Link has ever faced this is an injustice that is inexcusable especially since this game takes place before the first two NES games where he is an overpowering force that is not easily dealt with. The final battle with him also leaves MUCH to be desired.

This image from the demo is FAR more interesting than Ganon in game.

This image from the demo is FAR more interesting than Ganon in game.

All said this is still a game that cannot be missed if you are a Zelda fan or have a 3DS that needs some quality time with your hands. This is a game that should not be missed and will be a welcome addition to any collection as you play it over and over in Hero Mode and Shadow Battles via StreetPass.


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