The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
The Zelda series has long been synonymous with Nintendo both handheld and living room consoles, and it could be said that no Nintendo console is complete without a Mario game and a Zelda game. With the arrival of A Link Between Worlds the 3DS now has both, adaptations notwithstanding, and it is a triumphant arrival indeed. Combining old school sensibility with a top down styled display, but fresh new twists on classic Zelda puzzling, A Link Between Worlds is a pleasant romp that should satisfy old school fans and will entrance newer players alike.
A Link Between Worlds features the usual setup of a boy called Link (or whatever you want to name him) waking up to a normal day on Hyrule. This particular Hyrule is the same one – down to the map – of the classic A Link to the Past, but you are a different Link than the one in that game (for readers confused by Zelda chronology, check out the Hyrule Historia and Zelda timelines online). Going about your day’s business you stumble across Yuga – an evil so-and-so – who is kidnapping all the sages from the kingdom of Hyrule. Yuga turns you into a painting, like he has all the sages, however you are (of course) able to escape this entrapment, but maintain the ability to turn into a painting. Link meets up with Princess Zelda who gives him his marching orders, and then has to make his way through various dungeons to save the world, eventually journeying to Lorule, Hyrule’s dark twin reality. For additional fun, there are numerous references to other Zelda games peppered throughout, from Majora’s Mask hanging on the wall of Link’s house, to the story of Ocarina being told through large majestic paintings on the wall of Hyrule castle.
A Link Between Worlds’ gameplay takes the view top down, reminiscent of the Zelda games of old. However the 3DS allows the stereoscopic 3D to really make a difference in dungeons with lots of layered levels (hint: there are lots) and literally ads another level of depth to the game. The normal Zelda items also make a return: the Master Sword swings with a tap of B, and fires beams of power if you are on full health, which is thoroughly awesome. All the old favourite items return as well: the bow, the hookshot, the bombs and so on, but this time with a twist.
A Link Between Worlds does not require you to find the requisite item for a dungeon within the dungeon (or even have a dungeon have requisite item), but rather all these items can be rented out at the start of the game, being returned to their owner Ravio (who has set up shop in Link’s house) when Link loses all his health. The result of this means that the dungeons can be tackled in any order you wish and become true puzzles that don’t require gimmicks to solve. Additionally, Link losing his items when he dies means that there is a real edge and urgency to some of the trickier elements of gameplay, and it adds the delightful edge of consequence which makes each win that much better, and each loss hit that much harder. Save points are only gripe as they are naturally irritating to me – I much prefer to save at any time I choose. Still they do have the added bonus of doubling as quick travel points, a welcome addition that prevents tedious backtracking when you realise that you went the wrong way, or forgot something.
The true gameplay of Zelda lies in the dungeon building and level design and A Link Between Worlds has inventiveness in abundance. Each dungeon has its own unique flair to it and presents some real brain teasers of the variety that will cause you to slap your head when you can’t figure it out, and then again when you do. Of particular note is the new 2D gameplay, where Link can turn into a painting to assist in solving puzzles. This allows the level design to reach a new dimension, literally. The game makes you think outside the box so often that the result is a thoroughly engrossing experience and one that really is fun and rewarding to play. The resulting gameplay and level design results in something that feels classic, yet fresh – emblematic of the game as a whole.
The art direction of A Link Between Worlds creates a whimsical and beautiful experience. The score is a perfect selection of classic Zelda tunes and a sprinkling of new ones wonderfully recorded with real instruments, creating a fresh yet familiar soundscape. Of particular delight to me was the 8-bit noise Link’s sword makes as it hits enemies, helping to make this game feel old school in a very cool way. The graphical depiction of Hyrule is also quite lovely with 3D sprites creating the population of Hyrule and the monsters that live there too which makes the game to feel like a long lost Zelda classic from the NES and SNES eras.
There are hours of puzzle solving fun packed into Zelda and the light-hearted tone of the story suits the nature of the gameplay to a tee. Combined with simple yet gorgeous graphics, a whimsical and beautiful soundtrack and a simple feel of fun and exploration, Zelda hasn’t been this much pure fun since Windwaker. There are lots of “gritty” and “realistic” games that are currently flooding the market, but none could match the charm, whimsy, and simple magic and sense of wonder and adventure that A Link Between Worlds has – it is an outstanding game and most pleasant experience for anyone who decides to try it out.
- Classic yet fresh approach to the whole game
- Wonderful, innovative and brain teasing new dungeons
- Fast travel is very welcome
- Art direction is whimsical and beautiful
- Save system is not ideal
- Some of the graphical depth is literally lost if you play on a 2DS
Written by Alex Holmes