Of the hundreds of Chris Carter’s reviews, his most controversial one is probably his 6.5 review of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. With a series notable for getting high scores all around, any review going below an eight grabs the attention of gamers, and something below a seven will undoubtedly bring up the fans of the series to defend it, even in a stage where most of them probably have not played the game yet.
Now, more than two years after the initial review, I see over 2000 comments in Chris’s review. I am not entirely sure, but it might be the most commented Destructoid article, or at least in the top 10.
Internet's Reaction to an under 8 Zelda review
So, here, two years after the fact, after finally playing the game and finishing it, I am ready to open up a conversation with Chris about his review. Because I like videogames, I like reading reviews because they offer a critical conversation with the reader. This conversation is often one-sided, which is why I am now replying to Chris’s review, in the hope that he reads it in the same way I read his work.
First, I must say that I am a huge fan of Chris’s reviews, both in style and content. However, being a huge fan doesn’t make me a carbon copy of the man. Disagreeing with him on a review is not a form of assault, and I am only actually bothering with writing a response blog out of respect. Chris usually is active in responding to the community, and I am sure he will appreciate a contrary opinion to his.
To summarize Chris’s review in a number of points:
- A Link to the Past is Chris’s favorite Zelda game (this is an important point).
- Technically, the game looks, sounds, and plays great.
- The Wall Mechanics is ok, but becomes predictable.
- Lorule is a worse version of The Dark World.
- The Story is not that memorable (?).
- Conclusion: The Game lacks heart.
A huge part of this rebuttal to Chris involves the first and last points in this summary. The fact that A Link to the Past is his favorite Zelda game, and the weird insinuation that for some reason the game lacks “heart”.
How Can you Like A Link to the Past and not A Link Between Worlds:
Right off the bat, I am going to say it, A Link Between World is clearly an update of the mechanics and style of A Link to the Past. It is like a reimagining of that classic title, and in effect, is actually the superior version.
First, get rid of the nostalgia goggles. I reviewd A Link to the Past in my SNES reviews series, and liked it well enough to put in my top 10 SNES game. However, if I played a Link Between Worlds first, I would have probably not liked A Link to the Past as much.
ALBW is clearly an homage to the earlier game
Let’s go back and critically take a look at the SNES game. While it still plays great, and is surely a classic, it suffered from a myriad of issues, some of which Chris found being a problem in this game. When criticizing the characters and story of ALBW, Chris should remember that ALttP did not have neither stories nor any memorable characters. Ganondorf only appears as a weak-sauce boss in the end of the game. Whereas ALBW introduces some characters I will probably remember sometimes down the line, ALttP had nothing.
In his review of ALBW, Chris called the soundtrack a remix of the best hits of ALttP. Obviously, Chric remembers more tunes from that game than were actually included. In the overworld, there were three tracks only. There was one dungeon music for nearly all dungeons (except the Final one), and two boss battle tunes. Super Mario Bros. had nearly twice as much tracks.
Then we come to the dungeons, the actual meat and potatoes of any Zelda game. Here, I don’t disagree about the simplicity of ALBW. I didn’t die once in the game. Yet, I only died once in ALttP. Both games are easy, and if you have enough bottles, you won’t die in either. But, in actual dungeon design, the various ideas used in ALBW far trumps the limited dungeons of the older game.
The "Limited" Wall Painting Mechanic itself makes most ALBW dungeons more complex than the linear affairs of ALttP
Finally, we compare the two Dark worlds of the games. In the first one, its one large connected world while in the second it is segmented into nearly 7 parts. This, Chris feels, reduces the freedom of travel and such. That is actually only partially true. While in ALttP, you have more freedom in traveling between the two worlds, you actually have less freedom in traveling to anywhere that counts.
I am not sure if Chris remembers, but in ALttP, you have VERY LIMITED sequence breaking ability. Many items are held in dungeons, and hence you actually cannot travel as freely as you have the illusion that you can. Contrary to that, in ALBW, you can pretty early on break the sequence in any way you please. While Lorule is truly segmented, you can actually reach those segments pretty early on as opposed to the various road-blocks you encounter in ALttP.
This is what baffles me most about critics of ALBW who profess their love to ALttP. You cannot like one and not like the other, because ALBW was created specifically as a homage to the earlier game, and it is clearly an update on it, and is consequently the superior version.
The Game Lacks Heart:
First off, I am going to get corny and point that there are many hearts thrown about in ALBW, and if you are missing some, just cut some grass. That joke was used plenty of times in the comments and it made me laugh.
But let’s get serious here.
Seriously Man, Ravio is in this game
In reviewing games, the “lacking heart” negative is often used. It’s used to suggest the dev team didn’t have their heart into it, to suggest the publishers were milking the franchise, to suggest basically that there was no “passion” into making the game. Of course, it’s also one of those remarks you cannot prove, and you base on your feelings.
Now, I am not about to go stupid and claim subjectivity has no place in a review. It sure as hell does, but I am going to argue against the subjective claim.
Simply put, I find no basis to make that claim at all. Obviously, ALBW is both an homage to the great ALttP, and a conscious attempt to revitalize the series. A half-hearted game wouldn’t have attempted to shake up the entire formula by introducing the item rental system. Yet, that is exactly what ALBW was trying to do.
All Zelda games, with the exception of the first, are linear games in an open-world dress. Sure, ALttP did have the illusion of choice, but functionally, you only had about three choices when it came to which dungeon you tackled first. The other games in the series are simply a straight-line affair, with each dungeon providing the item you needed to reach the next.
No Matter how you remember it, ALttP blocked your progress for most of the game
In that regard, ALBW is actually the only Zelda game to give you access to 6 dungeons at the same time.
On another note, I actually dislike this argument. It lays claim on the developer’s intentions that I think the reviewer has no right to insinuate. I don’t think it’s fair of Chris to claim that the development team were not passionate about making this game. Especially since it is obvious that ALBW was specifically made to celebrate ALttP, a game so many people are passionate about.
I want to reiterate that I don’t mean any disrespect to Chris in this rebuttal. Unfortunately, in a time in the internet where disagreement is often perceived as harassment, I feel the need to stress on my respect for Chris. In fact, if I did not often enjoy reading his articles and reviews, I wouldn’t have bothered with this blog.
One thing I like reading from Chris is his series retrospectives, one aspect in which he revisits his opinions of past games. In his retrospective of the Zelda series, he revised his opinion on a number of games, and he came to appreciate some more, and others less.
It is my belief that once Chris revisits his Zelda retrospective once again, he will alter his opinion on ALBW drastically. Any review is simply an opinion on a game at that point of time. Such an opinion can easily change.