The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

linkbetweenworldsThe newest Zelda title released two weeks ago for the 3DS, and I finally wrapped it up day before yesterday.  Before I proceed I should warn that this will contain spoilers. The game is designed as a sequel to the Super Nintendo title, A Link to the Past. The game takes a top-down approach like most of the handheld games. Don’t get me wrong, I love that play-style, but after seeing what the 3DS is capable of with Ocarina of Time 3D, it would have been really awesome to see a 3D style game using that or a similar engine. However, as Nintendo has shown us year after year, they are more interested in gameplay than graphics. In the case of A Link Between Worlds it has proven to be a great benefit and has made a very fun game.

The story of Zelda games are never very in depth. They prefer a more straight forward approach and this game is no different. The game takes place approximately 150 years after a Link to the Past, and a mysterious wizard named Yuga has appeared in Hyrule and started snatching up the descendents of the seven sages. He uses his magic to capture the sages inside paintings before taking them to his world, Lorule. Lorule is essentially Hyrule’s mirror just as the Darkworld was in A Link to the Past. His motives appear to be to use the sages to unseal the Demon King Ganon. After Yuga captures the last sage, Princess Zelda, he escapes to Lorule and summons Ganon, then merges with him. The princess of Lorule, Hilda aides you in escaping and tasks you with finding the seven sages portraits so you can release them and reseal Ganon.

The whole thing seems kinda fishy from the get go, but what other choice do you have? After completing all seven dungeons and freeing the sages, they bestow the Triforce of Courage upon you, and send you to confront Yuga/Ganon. However once you arrive, you find that it has all been a trick. Lorule is dying because they destroyed their Triforce in the hopes that it would stop their endless wars, but found that the Triforce was necessary to the stability of their world, and it was now falling apart. Princess Hilda had captured Zelda to claim her Triforce of Wisdom, sent Link after the sages to collect the Triforce of Courage, and summoned Ganon to collect the Triforce of Power. However, as usually happens, Ganon had other ideas and seized on the opportunity to reclaim the complete Triforce for himself. Upon his defeat, Princess Hilda apologizes for her attempts to steal the Triforce and aides you in returning to Hyrule. However, with the Triforce completed, Link is granted one wish. He and Zelda touch the Triforce and wished for the Triforce of Lorule to be restored, thus saving Lorule.

The story was immensely more satisfying that the last two handheld titles, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. It felt much more on par with the console titles, and it made the game that much more enjoyable. Nothing leaves a bad taste in your mouth like spending all those hours and finally completing the game, only to have it end with Hyrule destroyed (I’m looking at you Wind Waker).

This title also did not see the return of stylus controls like the last two DS titles. That in itself made me cry tears of joy. I cannot understate how much I hate playing with the stylus, and the previous two Zelda DS titles feels so wrong with it. A Link Between Worlds tries to recreate the Link to the Past controls instead, and playing the game has been an absolute joy. Between the Wii and the DS, it’s been so long since I just pressed B to swing my sword that I almost forgot what it was like. And let me tell you, it’s better. I really hope the motion control thing is a fad and we will return to a more normal control style, because the game just felt so much better.

Graphically the game looks very good as far as handhelds go, but because they chose a Link to the Past art style, they didn’t exactly push the 3DS to it’s limits. The cut scenes are done in full 3D however, which was kind of cool to see.

Much of the overworld map in Hyrule is almost identical to Link to the Past. On the one hand it makes it feel like they didn’t really make a new game, just added stuff to an old one. On the other hand it was very easy to find where I needed to go, and it fed off the nostalgia factor quite a bit. Lorule is very similar to the Darkworld, but there are some differences because their world is crumbling, so there are sections of the map that don’t exist, or are split apart.

My only real beef with the game is the length of the dungeons. The game has 11 dungeons much like Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, but they feel very short. It is also the first Zelda game in memory that I never felt really stumped by a dungeon puzzle. I’d love to tell myself I’m just that good, but I’m doubting it. The puzzles just weren’t as hard to solve this time around.

Item distribution in the game isn’t done through pickups in dungeons, but instead through a shop that allows you to rent items from the store for a fee. However, if you die you lose the items. This led me to always keep a full stock on faries, and never carelessly entering into a dungeon without proper planning. Later on you get the option to permanently buy items from the shop, but it is kind of weird not getting them inside dungeons. Additionally, because you can get almost all the items very early on, it means that you can access just about everywhere in the game very early on, and allows you to do dungeons in any order you wish.

I purchased the game bundled with a new Zelda edition 3DS XL, which I am pretty happy with.

20131125_140308I didn’t realize it until I got the box, but the game is distributed digitally instead of a physical copy inside. I really wanted a physical copy for my collection, and in case something happens to the downloaded version, so I purchased a physical copy from Amazon as well. It seems kind of ridiculous when you think about it, but I really like having the physical cartridge and box. The additional of the gold 3DS is keeping my collection going as well:

20131202_152400All told, I found the game to be extremely fun, and I enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, the last few days I would even avoid playing it at times because I knew I was close to the end, and I didn’t want it to be over. I 100% completed every side quest, mini-game, and collection quest before even stepping into the final dungeon. More than that however, the game has rekindled my love of this series, and that is an amazing thing. My interest has been waning for the last few years after the DS games, and I was never really thrilled with Skyward Sword due to the motion controls. But this game made me remember why I love this franchise, and makes me excited again to play more. I really hope to see more of the same from Nintendo in the future.