Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

Have you ever wanted to reclaim the joy you first felt when you played one of your favorite games?  Then, have you ever wished the story didn’t end once you beat the big bad, and you could stay in that world with new adventures?  Well, the Nintendo 3DS title The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds really is able to deliver all that.

As a more-than-spiritual successor to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the game feels like you never left your Super Nintendo.  The game takes place in the same world as ALttP but now it’s in 3D, and on a screen probably not much bigger than you originally saw the SNES version if you’re playing on a 3DS XL (OK, maybe that’s overstating the size of the 3DS, or assuming you had a four inch TV screen).  The point stands, however, that the game looks great with the same art style you remember, vividly displayed in 3D.  The 3D, although not a must, greatly showcases how a game can utilize the 3DS capabilities to really make the world pop.  The other point of nostalgia for those who played the ALttP is the sound effects.  An arrow hitting a target has the same thwack, the sound of falling is unchanged, and even the sound of a soldier alerted to Link remains as iconic and yet still unthreatening as ever.

Let’s get a little into the plot.  So spoiler alert, Link likes to sleep in (hey who doesn’t).  Reminiscent of ALttP, Link wakes up to find out there is trouble! …except the trouble is that he is late for work! Yes, Link in this iteration is an apprentice blacksmith, although this plays little importance for the rest of the game except for introducing the blacksmith and getting the story where it needs to go.  Once you get to the blacksmith’s, you discover that the Captain of the Hyrulian guards has forgotten his newly forged sword.  You are sent off to find the captain at the Sanctuary where he is battling a new foe, Yuga.  Yuga turns the priest of the sanctuary, defeats the Captain, and knocks Link unconscious.  Link awakens in bed, having been brought back by a merchant, Ravio.  Link is then summoned to Hyrule castle by Zelda where he is instructed to – you guessed it – retrieve three pendants, get the master sword, and defeat evil.

Somewhere along the line, you gain the ability to shift into walls like a painting, and this wall shifting allows you to enter cracks in walls of Link’s Hyrule to enter a new kingdom, Lorule.  This land is very reminiscent of the Dark World from ALttP.  The princess counterpart of Zelda in this land, Hilda, requests that you save the seven sages (like the previous game) in order to obtain the Triforce of Courage and achieve the mantle of hero your green tunic has designated you become.  Lorule seems to be collapsing and dying due to some force, and requires you to find different entrances around Hyrule to access all of the areas of Lorule, each containing a dungeon.

The plot is all pretty standard Zelda fare, with hardly any new story points introduced from ALttP.  However where the game does change is the dungeons.  The position of the levels remain relatively the same (desert, Kakariko village, death mountain, etc.), but the dungeons have been given a whole new layout, with some similar traps to their ancestor dungeons.  The puzzles are new and fresh, and using Link’s new power of wall-shifting becomes very crucial to beating some dungeons as well as finding extra rupees and even some hidden chests (Hint: do not leave a dungeon until you collect every chest on the map!).  The new challenges are not terribly difficult, and the dungeons even seem slightly more linear at times than I would like for a Zelda game, but the puzzles are fun and compelling nonetheless.  Perhaps a younger me would have had more issues figuring out some of the trickier puzzles, but having played so many puzzle solving games, I didn’t find any puzzle stumping me for more than a few minutes.  Some bosses end up being rehashed, but some are new and take into account the 3D aspect of the game.  Others give you new takes on the classic bosses where the same strategy to begin to defeat them works, but then they gain new abilities as the fight goes on.

An interesting aspect of this game is that pretty much every item is rented by Ravio, the merchant who sets up shop in Link’s house.  This makes some of the game fairly easy early on, as having items that you wouldn’t normally obtain till near end of the game – like the ice rod – allow you to plow through dungeons. There are also a couple of new items thrown into the mix like a sand rod as well as a tornado rod for some good 3D puzzle action for a new dungeon.  If Link falls in battle without a fairy to revive him, Ravio sends his bird to come collect his items, with you having to earn enough rupees to rent the items again.  This didn’t happen to me as I never died during the game, but it’s certainly an incentive to play smart and try not to die (or to at least carry a fairy with you at all times).

Final verdict:  10/10

A Link Between Worlds is a fantastic game, and it’s easy to see why it has received such rave reviews with nine and ten scores.  The only issue was that it seemed to end too quickly, but whether that’s because I already knew how to defeat some bosses or because some puzzles were reused, I like to think it’s because I just plain didn’t want to leave the world again.  The game has taken something most gamers have played and loved, and gave it a new spin.  This spin allows A Link Between Worlds to stand out from its predecessor, as an entity all its own.  Mixing nostalgic feelings into the gamer culture is a great way for game series to harken back to a time most gamers have fondly cherished, and to produce games that not only appeal to old pros by offering something new, but also allow newcomers to experience what we felt so long ago.  I hope A Link Between Worlds is the start of a trend.  A trend where we look back to what made us love a game, even if that means bringing you back to the same world and just tweaking it to keep you surprised.