Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Is it as great as the game its based on, or as bad as the pun in its title?

Out of all of the games in the Legend of Zelda Franchise, it is unarguable that one of the most beloved titles is A Link to the Past, mostly due to the refinement of the 2D Zelda gameplay found within it, as well as how gracefully the game had aged. So naturally, Shigeru Miyamoto (the man responsible for everything you love about Nintendo) thought it would be a great idea to remake A Link to the Past, but then decided to do something a bit different, and instead made a sequel that reuses many aspects of that classic, such as the map, enemies, and character designs. And lets just say the one of the greatest Zelda games in the franchise!

Taking place several generations after A Link to the Past, the newest incarnation of Link is a young blacksmith's apprentice on the usual daily grind. However things take a dark turn when Link chases after Hyrule's captain of the guards with his forgotten sword, only to find both the captain and the Sanctuary's minister turned into portraits by a flamboyant sorcerer named Yuga, who also makes quick work of Link before escaping. Link is rescued by a mysterious merchant named Ravio who urges him to go warn Princess Zelda of Yuga's presence, and gives Link a magical bracelet that later gives him the power to move along walls as a painting. As time goes by, Link stumbles across the presence of a mysterious alternate version of Hyrule known as Lorule, and discovers that the fates of both worlds are intertwined, and that he must rescue both worlds from the darkness threatening to engulf both kingdoms.

The plot is indeed your typical Zelda story, complete with its own twists and turns that may or may not surprise you. It has a relatively interesting cast of characters behind it, with the exception of the game's villain. Yuga is part of what I like to call the "Flaming Evil Narcissus" archetype which involves a self-absorbed, irredeemable, comically effeminate male villain who talks a lot about beauty, and how beautiful he is, and how ugly everyone and everything else is, etc. This is especially disappointing coming off the heels of villains such as Ghirahim, and Zant who were all legitimately frightening, and made the player feel rather uncomfortable whenever they were on-screen, while Yuga will mostly inspire laughs and face-palms with how utterly cartoony he is, fortunately though you don't see him much throughout the game.

Art Direction
Visually this game is absolutely gorgeous! The original Link to the Past version of Hyrule returns in full glory with an artistic redesign that will blow any fan of the series away, everything is very colorful, smooth and full of life here. The top-down perspective is wonderfully done without making the characters look awkward, and will entice even those stubborn fans who only like the 3D Zelda titles, though admittedly it can be hard to judge the depth if you don't have the 3D effect on, leading to a lot of damage from flying enemies. And speaking of 3D, this is one of the few titles on the 3DS that I can wholeheartedly recommend that you turn the 3D on, since it actually enhances the experience, and helps a lot with any depth judgment issues, although it isn't required which is fortunate for those that get headaches easily.

The Zelda franchise also has a reputation of having some of the best music in video game history, and this one certainly doesn't disappoint. The new music is fantastic as always, and the new arrangements of the classic tunes will make any long-time fan of the series weep with pleasure, and speaking of music, don't forget to check out the milk bar in Kakariko Village, where there is a band who will plays versions of different Zelda tunes from throughout the franchise! Also keeping in Zelda tradition, the voices are very much minimally used, but rest easy because for once in a newer Zelda game, Link doesn't shriek every time he swings his sword like in Minish Cap and other recent hand-held games, which is an automatic relief for anyone suffering multi-swing PTSD from those games.

Essentially the gameplay is the exact same as A Link to the Past, walk with the circle pad, swing your sword with the A button, etc. In short, its the classic top-down Zelda that we have come to love over the past 2 decades, but with a few new twists that make this game stand-out from its fellow titles. As stated before this game uses the same map as A Link to the Past (with a few changes), so if you've played LTTP, then you'll automatically feel right at home, and if not, you'll still have no trouble becoming immersed in the world of Hyrule.

The signature aspect of this game is undoubtedly the ability to turn Link into a painting and move along walls to either reach inaccessible platforms, slip through cracks in the wall, or beat a hasty retreat from danger. At first you'll have a little trouble using this ability, but as time goes by you'll get the hang of it, and find it used in some fiendishly clever puzzles. And like LTTP before it, this game has two worlds in the form of Hyrule, and Lorule, which can be accessed through special fissures littered throughout the maps of each world, and while they are structurally similar to each other, you'll find Lorule to be a bit more dangerous. Lorule is also sectioned off, and can't be accessed as easily as Hyrule, forcing the player to find particular fissures that allow them to get past the chasms dividing Lorule and also to obtain certain out of reach treasure, thus rewarding thorough lookers and collectors as the Zelda series always has done.

A good Zelda game is also defined by a good set of weapons and tools littered throughout the game, and this game has that...but with a twist. Rather than finding each new tool in each of the game's many dungeons, you rent them from the merchant Ravio for a price, and each item (except the Sand rod) is available from the very beginning which allows players to do something not seen in many Zelda games; wander around of their own free will and choose which dungeons to conquer in whatever order the player desires. However there is also a catch, renting items is fairly cheap, but death will result in all rented items being returned to Ravio, and must be re-rented for the same fee, which adds quite a bit of punishment to dying, adding quite a bit of challenge not seen in previous Zeldas since dying has some pretty nasty consequences. However, later on in the game you have the option of purchasing the items from Ravio for a large price, but will not relinquish the item upon death anymore, and allows you to upgrade the tool with the help of Mother Maimai. And for people that look forward to finding new tools in the dungeons fear not, since you now find a majority of the game's upgrades and equipment in the dungeons, such as new armor, ore for upgrading your sword, etc.

Speaking of tools, this game has your Zelda staples such as the Bow, Hookshot, Bombs, etc, but also adds two new fairly fun and useful items to the mix with the Tornado Rod, and Sand Rod. The Tornado Rod will lift Link off the ground, allowing him to access out of reach moving platforms, and stun all surrounding enemies with the resulting twister, while the (slightly less useful) Sand Rod allows Link to create columns of solid sand to walk along, or dig up hidden items (provided you are in a sandy location). While the arsenal isn't as impressive as previous Zelda games, it still gets the job done and provides a bit of variety to combat and puzzle solving. Unlike other Zeldas, all item use is governed by a Stamina Meter (including the wall merging), which replaces the magic meter, and is depleted by nearly every tool, however (unlike the magic meter of previous games) it recharges rather quickly and is a lot easier to manage since it doesn't require constant green potion drinking or scouting out magic pots to refill.

Replayability is very high here, thanks in part to an additional more difficult "Hero Mode" that is unlocked upon completing, and also thanks to the ability to choose whatever order the dungeons are done, which changes the order of upgrades you receive, allowing the player a degree of customization to their play-through since they are basically being made to choose which upgrades they want early on, and which ones they want to save for later. However, like with any Zelda game, it is undeniable that it is easy to burn out on the game if you do all the sidequests (and there are a lot of those here). And speaking of sidequests, some of them are rather fun, like the Cucco Dodging and Streetpass Shadow Link battles, but some are rather frustrating like the Hyrule Hotfoot, but they're all worth doing since they reward valuable pieces of heart and tons of rupees (which are way more important than before).

A few weak points aside, I genuinely feel that this is one of the better Zelda games in the entire franchise. It respects it's roots, while being innovative and fresh at the same time. I'm really glad that Miyamoto chose to make this game a sequel to LTTP rather than a remake, as it shows that Nintendo is still the best at keeping its gaming legacies alive, and relevant to this very day.



  • Good plot
  • Excellent controls, and use of the classic Zelda gameplay
  • Open world, and more choice than ever thanks to Item Rental
  • Beautiful musical score
  • Gorgeous visuals
  • Fun for both new and old Zelda Fans
  • Excellent use of 3D

  • Weak Villain
  • Some depth issues
  • Really...a "Link" Between Worlds?! (Nitpick), (Link to the Past was a stupid name too btw)
  • (Seriously, what was wrong with "Triforce of the Gods" NOA?!)

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