The beloved Eiji Aonuma brings us yet another entry into the series we all know and love. A Link Between Worlds is the direct squeal to A Link To The Past -- one of the most praised and loved Zelda games right next to Ocarina Of Time. Over the recent years fans have been complaining about the painfully long intros some of the new Zelda games have had. Eiji and the team have taken this criticism to heart and thus have created a new system within A Link Between Worlds, giving players the chance to rent out all of the weapons right from the get-go.
While this system did open up most of the game right off the bat, I personally think it made the game lack some of its old-school charm. Sacrificing tradition isn't always the key to a better game.
The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS) Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No.3 Publisher: Nintendo Release Date: November 22, 2013 MSRP: $39.99
First things first, A Link Between Worlds looks absolutely gorgeous. The art-style is attractive and easy on the eyes. Speaking of which the 3D effect amplifies its beauty, never getting in the way of the action or causing any unnecessary distractions. Instead it makes its already appealing art-style much more fleshed out, enemies look more detailed as does the world around you, simply put -- 3D is a great option when playing A Link Between Worlds.
Along side well crafted graphics and art-style are the controls. They all feel familiar while enhancing flexibility thanks too the 3DS's touch screen. You can easily switch out your items with the "Quick Item" system without stopping the on-going action. Of course what else makes the action enjoyable besides solid controls? Music of course, the music in A Link Between Worlds will all sound familiar -- that's because they're remixed versions from A Link To The Past; I found myself humming along instantly, and it brought back great memories.
A Link Between Worlds throws you into the action instantly. Shortly after being woken up by an obnoxiously loud child named Gully, you're thrust into your first dungeon. Albeit the dungeon is more of a learning curve for new players, as it's a small introduction of things to come. After some brief dialogue exchange, you're sent out on a quest.
As you adventure onward you soon encounter a small puzzle that requires the famous Bow. It's here that you're introduced to the new renting system, with this system you can rent any of the iconic weapons; granted you have the Ruppee's. From the Boomerang, Ice Wand and the Hookshot they are all up for grabs. This is where the game takes a different turn from its previous predecessors. Honestly this new system made the game way too easy. I see what they were going for, but in the process they forgot to take into account the balance issues this brings. I found myself having no struggle throughout the game because I felt so overpowered right from the start.
Making things even easier -- they implemented another new system, the Stamina Bar (Basically Mana that recharges slowly over time) in which all of your items use. You no longer have to buy arrows, bombs, mana potions, etc. It has all been stream-lined towards the Stamina Bar. I am personally not a big fan of this new implementation, I like the idea of collecting and buying my items, it's what gave the series its slight RPG touch. I love managing my items and strategically using them to my advantage. That being said, I can see how people can come to appreciate this change.
While you do basically acquire almost every item from the start, there are still a few key items that you must find on your own. Amongst them is a new item called Hint Glasses, while it's more of an optional item you can grab it quite early on. Its main purpose is to spoil a puzzle for you if you decide to use it because you've been stuck there for a while, though keep in mind that it does take a Play Coin to function. I'd advise staying away from this item at all costs, as the joy in any Zelda game is that great feeling of beating a tough puzzle that you've been stuck on for a while.
Last but not least is the is the paint-shifting ability. This core mechanic is the center of attention in A Link Between Worlds, a feature I certainly enjoyed. It goes along with the premise of letting Link explore almost everything from the very start. The first thing you do when you see a huge rock blocking a path in any Zelda game is run away and come back later when you have the Power Glove. With Links new power, you have the option of sliding right past that rock, giving you the freedom to explore that area even further. Those small touches breathes new life into such an old series; that's a welcome addition in my book.
The main purpose of this new mechanic is to get you into ''Lorule''. Essentially Hyrule's counterpart. You travel to and from these Kingdoms by paint-shifting into cracks on the walls, these cracks are spread out across both Hyrule and Lorule. Lorule cannot explored like its cheerful counterpart, most of Lorule's ground has been broken. The point here is for you to travel between worlds and find new areas to explore since Lorule is cut off into sections. I found this to be a rather interesting way to get you from point A to B without making things to dull.
While I found the paint-shafting ability to be a great addition, I found myself wanting more out of it. Without spoiling to much, there comes a point in the game where you get the chance to actually fight while in painting form. That is something I wish they would have experimented more with throughout the game, instead of just relaying on it for puzzle and traveling purposes; a very big missed opportunity on their part. That being said I'd like to see a variation of this new mechanic in future Zelda titles, as I see huge potential within it.
This wouldn't be a Zelda game without some crazy, quirky villain running around causing all types of mayhem. This time the main baddie is, Yuga -- a mad man that's obsessed with making the perfect portraits. Not with great artistic skills, oh no, that would be to simple. Instead he morphs living humans into the perfect paintings, and uses them for his collections. Yuga is a rather interesting character, while he isn't much different from your typical villain he does have a certain flair about him. One thing he did that stood out to me the most was when he kicks Link to the side and starts humming along with the in-game music. Little details like that are what makes his overall character memorable. He is a great addition to the cast of Zelda villains.
The story isn't anything to write home about, it's pretty straight forward and quite obvious. The cast isn't very memorable and quite lack-luster in fact. The only one that really stands out is Ravio the shopkeeper, he has a few lines that made me chuckle here and there. While his character development doesn't happened till near the very end, he is the one NPC I will remember when looking back at the game. I also wouldn't mind seeing Irene The Witch more often, she helps you out on your journey by allowing you to fast travel to save points you have discovered.
The Zelda series is mainly known for its challenging and unique dungeons. Sadly A Link Between Worlds is highly lacking in this department. I found myself clearing all of the dungeons without much thought, flying through them unintentionally. The puzzles are all pretty obvious and mainly consists of you using your paint-shifting ability to land on a switch or pass by a rolling boulder. Every dungeon felt too simple, they lacked a certain style and charm that other Zelda games have had in the past (I'm looking at you Water Temple). That doesn't mean they're necessarily bad, some are quite enjoyable -- you just can't help but feel that so much more could've been done.
If I'd have to pick my favorite dungeon, it would be the Dark Palace. In order to access the dungeon itself you must go through a stealth mini-game -- in a small town that was driven mad and turned into shadow-type creatures. You cannot damage them, instead you must make your way through a small maze without being caught (Reminiscent of Wind Waker). After making your way through said maze you gain access to the Dark Palace. This dungeon is filled with a few secrets of its own, and makes use of your lamp quite a bit; it was overall the most fun I had while dungeon crawling in A Link Between Worlds.
Besides finding new dungeons to tackle, they're plenty of other activates you can do. While the main story line will run you roughly 15-17 hours, there are mini-games, a shell collecting side quest and of course Heart Piece hunting. While Hyrule and Lorule aren't the most fleshed out and compelling worlds, there's still some exploring to be had. The best part is collecting the small baby shells which will than allow you to upgrade your weapons.
A Link Between Worlds brings some new ideas too the table, some great and others take away from what has made the series such a landmark in videogame history. Its main problem is that the game is too easy, taking away some of its challenging factors hurts it quite a bit. While you can unlock Hero mode after completing the game once it would have been a better idea to offer it right from the start.
While it does suffer from not having many memorable experiences, the final battle has easily become one of my favorite top down Zelda battles to date. The game plays and looks absolutely marvelous; if you have a 3DS and are an avid Zelda fan this is a title you should experience for yourself.