Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

A-Link-Between-Worlds-artSo, you are launching the first original title in your flagship franchise on a highly successful platform, naming it a sequel and successor to one of the most beloved games of all time, and try to reinvent the series at the same time…  All in a little over two years worth of development…  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, plenty to be quite honest.  In fact, I was underwhelmed when the title was revealed, in part due to the art style utilized by the game, and in part due to how it looked a bit like Nintendo was pulling a bit of a fast one with a not super polished final product.

Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review
Platform: 3DS
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group 3 and Monolith Soft
Publisher: Nintendo

Lately it has gotten difficult for me to determine how to properly introduce a title as a familiar idea except there is now another addition to it, but it is difficult to not bring up the more of the same label in regards to everything under the umbrella of story in A Link Between Worlds.  You are a kid in a green cap who works for a blacksmith, needs to deliver a sword, and gets caught up in matters far beyond him, sending him to a castle in order to try and save a kingdom from a dark figure, and eventually a princess.  With seven sages, alternate worlds, in this case Lorule, if only due to how the Dark World would make this sound a bit too much like a remake, and picking up a sword of the mastery goodness after three dungeons.Legend-of-Zelda-A-Link-Between-Worlds-3DS-Official-Screenshots-Nintendo-006

It is undoubtedly derivative of other Zeldas, but whereas the more modern titles have had this long introductory sequence before jumping in on the action, you are off to the first dungeon within the first half-hour of playing.  Effectively leaving much of the story and character details at a level more reminiscent to the title it is a numbered sequel to in Japan.  Impa is there because she was pre-established, there is a Zora princess because Zoras are part of Zelda, and the new bad guy is bad for reasons not too important, but he turned a cute girl into a painting so he must be stopped for the greatest justice.  Though, if I am going on this route, I’d be listing quite a lot, as the game’s overworld is basically just A Link to the Past’s.  Right down to most of the building’s interior.

With that in mind, it is very easy to assume that A Link Between World is rather underperforming from what one would expect of this franchise.  However, in reality it is one of the more enjoyable titles I have played this entire year, through a mix of being both a new 2D Zelda, and for shaking it up very nicely.  First off, dungeons no longer hold items of use specifically to them, instead the majority of your arsenal is obtained by renting it from a newly introduced shop.  With each dungeon demanding a specific item to be completed, while you maintain every item you rented until you fall in battle, which in part due to a healthy amount of bottled fairies, is an event I never had to experience.  On top of that, the rentable items all share a unifying energy source, or magic bar which gradually regenerates over time.  Meaning that you no longer need to worry about having a surplus of bombs and arrows, as they are not only readily available, but you now have more incentive than ever to use them.the_legend_of_zelda_a_link_between_worlds_6

This also removes much of the linearity in dungeon order, with the second and third being interchangeable and only one of the later seven requiring you to do another dungeon before it.  Said dungeons are a bit on the brief side, not that it necessarily prevented them from being enjoyable little escapades of treasure, puzzles, and a boss battle that seemingly lands on either rather easy, and a pain in the bum.  With the desert boss and the giant hand being ones that I got through due to brute force more than anything else.  As a select few puzzles left me a fair bit confused, only to realize I was suppose to leave a bomb to hit a south wall, which I could not reasonably see.  Well, unless I used the ability to merge with the walls, as is often an expected key ingredient seeing as how it is the sole unique ability introduced.

Said ability also happens to be how the classic dual worlds set-up operates, as Lorule is accessed at key point represented by a cack of dark energy Link squeezes through in a somewhat lengthy animation.  An animation that will be seen rather frequently due to how Lorule is laid out by large chunks of land with inaccessible divides, prompting you to mix and match dimensional portals and fast travel, which are kept separate despite how you are helped by a transdimensional broom.  Which I made quite a good deal of use with, as I decided to hunt for all 100 collectable octopus crabs and every Heart Piece not tied to that baseball minigame.  Neither of which were especially hard to figure out, but they very much reinforced the more explorative aspects of Zelda despite having a map that I memorized thanks to a water damaged guide book.A-Link-Between-Worlds-Comic-Con-Screenshot-7

Though, that hardly seems to explain just what it is that I happen to really, really enjoy about this title that, the more I think about it, reminds me of the finer points of Metroid titles, but with even more exploration.  There’s simply something to dealing with baddies, breezing through puzzles, and getting all the things not nailed down that I find rather irresistible, and A Link Between Worlds does pretty much all of that, and does it pretty damn well to boot.  Though, you could apply far lesser titles to the wonderful assortments of remixes to A Link to the Past along with a few new tracks, and have me say similar things.

On the visual side, things are very odd when tossing the words about in my head.  When I look at screenshots and even a gameplay video of the title, I am still not keen on the art style the game settled on, but when I am actually playing, I am rather fond of A Link Between Worlds’ visuals.  Simple, but smooth models, a vibrantly remade world, distinct locals that are keenly crafted into the third dimension, and so forth.  It does make me question just what the 3DS’ power actually is if this is the peak of its graphical fidelity, but considering how smooth it is when still needing to toggle between one of the system’s original selling points, it feels extremely petty to mention how Ganon looks too smooth.Zelda-3DS-Screens_10-31

A Link Between Worlds is many thing, but original is not one of them, and that’s just fine.  To me, the title is essentially Zelda distilled to some of its core elements, even if that means it lost some of what made it special in the process.  It is a fast, fluent, and energetic journey that is one of the few titles that I couldn’t stop myself from clearing within two days and seventeen hours.  There just is not too much in regards to a grand storyline as it is pretty much derivative, and the whole thing feels like a “link” “between” two major points in the franchise.  But if I were a less critical lass, then I would probably be praising it as one of the best games of all time.

Exquisite (9/10)
Problems very much exist, it’s just that there are too many good things that lie in between them and the far, far larger creamy center for them to be anything but an occasional distraction.

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