- Format: 3DS
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo
- Players: 1
- Site: http://zelda.com/link-between-worlds/
A Link To The Past was a defining entry in the Legend of Zelda series, introducing a lot of the concepts that remain beloved to this day. Over twenty years later, it would be easy for its sequel to rely entirely on nostalgia and antiquated mechanics – a complaint that’s been thrown at the last few Zelda titles – but A Link Between Worlds is anything but dated.
The art style used in the game evokes a child-like glee. It’s like watching action figures come to life and go on an adventure or seeing a picture book play out before your eyes. This is especially true of a number of character and enemy designs such as the Zora; a water-dwelling lizard race that look they belong in a Kinder Surprise. It’s very reminiscent of artwork used for older games, giving it a fresh yet nostalgic look. The music fits this and is suitably whimsical, a ton of classic Zelda melodies receiving an update while retaining their essence.
While the story is typical Zelda fare, its delivery is great. Seeds are planted throughout the game to keep the player intrigued, including Majora’s Mask hanging on Link’s wall in the very first screen of the game. Most of this is character-driven, and though certain twists in the tale are predictable, it culminates in a great climax with additional surprises.
This is helped by the remarkable job that’s been done on the animations, allowing the characters to emote in surprisingly touching ways. Given that a lot of games on more powerful systems struggle to get you invested, it’s a real achievement that Nintendo were able to utilize such limited character models so well.
A Link Between Worlds introduces the ability to become a painting. This allows you to merge with walls and traverse them, often finding new paths and items while doing so. This ability is used in some very creative ways and is integrated seamlessly; There’s no break in gameplay at all while merging.
The game gives a sense of freedom that calls back to older entries in the series. After the first few dungeons, you are told to head to one of seven locations. That’s it. There’s no carefully scripted sequence of events that shoves you from cutscene to cutscene; you’re simply told to go on your merry way and do as you please. The choice is yours. It speaks to how scripted games have become that this can only be described as refreshing: Nintendo have created a world to explore, not one to be guided through.
This freedom is further facilitated by the item rental system. Instead of being rewarded with a hookshot in a dungeon, you’re able to rent it from Ravio, the man-rabbit-thing who takes up residence in poor Link’s house. This is essential to the more open dungeon progression as it’s the crux of doing them in any order. It also adds some variables to your game: You might never use the boomerang while your friend relied on it.
Rather than having limited ammunition, Link has an energy bar that determines his use of these items. For example, you can get about three shots off with the bow and arrow before having to recharge. This is a great change as it removes the frustration of having to farm more arrows or bombs while maintaining the challenge of resource management.
Dungeon design is as marvellous as ever, using simple concepts in new and creative ways. While only one or two items might be useful in a dungeon, it’s more about how you use it. You’re forced to think more about what you’re doing rather than just trying everything and hoping something works. You’re simply left to figure out which piece of the puzzle fits where and it is incredibly satisfying when you do so.
The dungeons also only take about half an hour to an hour each, fitting into bite-sized chunks that excel on the portable 3DS.
Despite the game’s simple combat, boss fights each bring new mechanics that challenge your skills in highly rewarding ways. Unfortunately this doesn’t hold true for one boss that is simply a giant version of a common squid enemy. The traditional mini-bosses are also replaced by larger groups of regular enemies, occasionally accompanied by a super-size version.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds manages to pull off a remarkable feat: It hearkens back to the classic games without becoming stale and dull. Classic and new ideas are entwined to create a wonderful game set against the nostalgic backdrop of Hyrule that is constantly rewarding.