Review: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

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As I’m sure many of you know, I am a very ambitious video gamer, and I’m sure you also know The Legend of Zelda is my favorite video game series. It’s always been a big part of my life, and as weird as this might sound, it actually helped shape who I am. As a child I would get lost (literally) in the land of Hyrule for days on end, adventuring, discovering secrets, and saving the world. I yearn for that feeling again – a grand adventure.

For the past few years most video games have left me empty. There are very few I can say I sat down and played through from start to finish and really, REALLY enjoyed them. Even recent Zelda games (Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, and Skyward Sword) all felt somewhat dull to me. Like they’ve lost their way and become “just another action/adventure game.” Then at E3, Nintendo surprised us all.

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An official sequel to my favorite video game, A Link to the Past, was announced, and was coming out later this year for the Nintendo 3DS. At first I was cautious, but as time moved closer and closer to launch, I became more and more excited. I am pleased to say that The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds delivers a game I’ve been waiting for years to play. It’s a wonderful sequel, an exciting adventure, and filled with the classic Zelda adventuring we haven’t felt in a long time.

The game starts off with our hero, Link, as he is lazily sleeping in instead of doing hard labor as the resident Blacksmith’s assistant. The Blacksmith’s son, Gulley, is sent to wake the dallying young hero from his seemingly eternal slumber. Eventually Link is woken up and heads out to make up for his prior idleness. The Captain of the Hylian Guard is there to pick up his newly crafted Shield, but as he leaves, he forgets to take his sword.

As you can guess, Link is given the assignment of returning the sword, but after tracking down the Captain, something horrible happens. Seres, a young maiden, is transformed into a painting by a new villain to the Zelda franchise, Yuga, who proceeds to kidnap the girl and claims to be heading for Zelda soon! Time to head for Hyrule Castle where we meet the famed lady who needs no introduction.

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So Link’s Quest has officially started. Soon after he acquires the ability to morph into a painting himself to help traverse environments and enter the portals to Lorule, a dark realm in the later parts of the game. He also meets a helpful salesman named Ravio who has seemingly convinced the baddies of Zelda to join his little scheme of renting or selling Link his tools and weapons, instead of just waiting for Link to inevitably find them. Cleaver guy! These new mechanics were some of the best ideas Nintendo could have provided to make this game fun, unique and overall memorable.

The world is virtually the same as A Link to the Past‘s world, but with the whole “centuries passed” feel to it. Some things are slightly different, but it will still be easy to navigate for those who have wandered this rendition of Hyrule before. Lorule, however, is a very different world compared to the previous Dark World. Lorule is littered with mighty trenches and seems more like a land in peril than an inherently evil world, which is exactly what it is.

What’s wonderful about this game is that Nintendo took a risk; you now purchase or rent items you’d normally find in dungeons before you go to the dungeon. This is a great new mechanic for a few reasons. It allows you to be able to fully explore the map very early in your playthrough. It erases the linear gameplay that Zelda has seemed to have embraced in recent years. It also allows you, as a player, to really explore what tools of the trade you like the most and become comfortable at your own pace. This idea is undoubtedly the next step in the Zelda franchise.

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However, it doesn’t come without cost. When you rent an item, you lose it when you die. There were a couple times where I died back to back (for silly reasons) after re-renting those items. I cannot tell you how annoying it is to die within five minutes of renting a bunch of items. It essentially is throwing away a lot of rupees. Another, bigger, reason is that the dungeons seemed shorter, because there wasn’t a pre-item section of the dungeon.

This might just be me looking into it too much. Maybe the game is designed that way because it is, at the end of the day, a portable game. The dungeons could just be designed for an experienced player to easily tackle them in one sitting before class, or while on a lunch break. Most dungeons take about a half hour to an hour to complete once you get there. The most difficult sections of the dungeon are usually the bosses, which are just spectacular.

The bosses in this game are many times throwbacks, and many times completely original. The original bosses are exactly what you’d expect from an original boss. You jump in relatively blind and have to figure out their weakness as the fight goes on. The bosses that have a similar look to the old ones, on the other hand,  do not fight like the bosses of A Link to the Past, many times requiring a completely different item and strategy to conquer. It’s the perfect balance of nostalgia and new gameplay and I love it.

ImageOne thing I would like to see changed about this mechanic of buying/renting items is simple. Keep the idea for Zelda Wii U but instead of getting them from a shop, get them from mini-dungeons around the land of Hyrule that you will naturally come upon. Of course, some of the items should be acquired through a store or another NPC via a mini-quest, but I would love that feeling of discovery several mini-dungeons with real reward would give me.

The other huge mechanic to this game besides the item buying/renting is Link’s new ability to fuse with the walls around him to traverse environments. This mechanic alone is a huge deal. It forces you to rethink the game completely and overtime, it really becomes second nature to you. Whenever I would get stuck when I first started the game, it took me a minute or two to figure out what to do next. When I was nearing the end of the game, I was popping in and out of the walls like it was my birthright. It’s a wonderful mechanic and it helps to see the classic Link to the Past world from a very new perspective.

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A new addition, which isn’t really a new mechanic to the franchise, is the reformatted saving/fast travelling. It’s essentially what we had with Majora’s Mask where you can save at save point and fast travel between them. In the previous game, you would hit owl statues and play a song to teleport. In this game they are weather vanes, and you ring a bell that a friendly young witch gives you to have her swoop down and chauffeur you throughout Hyrule. Not bad!

Exploring this classic Hyrule has never been better. There are collectibles to find like the classic pieces of heart as well as the new family of Maiamais who will upgrade your items for every 10 baby Maiamai found! There are a bunch of minigames including cucco dodging, octorok baseball, footracing, an endless monster-slaying tower, rupee rush, and more, as well as a street pass distraction where you can fight against other player’s characters as a Shadow Link. The world features a fully orchestrated soundtrack remixing many classic songs and many secrets to uncover along the way, opening new paths or mini-dungeons leading you to treasure.

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The classic Zelda feel is still here though, and that’s what makes this game amazing. It has all these new features, yet seamlessly integrates them in the series we all know and love. It really feels like the next big step for the series and I’m excited to see where these new additions head in the next installment. Nintendo have been talking about mixing up the formula for a while now, and I can tell you they’ve definitely done it right this time.

This is the best Zelda game since the fabled Ocarina of Time.

I give The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds a 5/5.

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Miniview: New Super Mario Bros U

New Super Mario Bros U is a lot of fun. It’s a blast to play co-op, it has a very balanced difficulty level, and surprisingly hasn’t bored me yet. I love Super Mario games as much as the next guy, but there really is only so much you can take before you get bored, it happens naturally and it’s not the game’s fault. However it isn’t really anything more than your standard Super Mario game and you shouldn’t expect this package to bring you anything truly innovating. It’s a standard package with standard gameplay that will feature the solid presentation you’d expect from a Nintendo game.

In this game, instead of Bowser kidnapping Peach he invades the castle and throws you away with a giant mechanical hand. Other than that it’s the typical Bowser kidnap story. The Bros and Toads land in a new area that features Acorn Shrooms. This is one of the new Shrooms in the game which grants you Flying Squirrel powers (essentially the same as the tanooki tail or feather cape, slightly mutated). Other than that the game features new baby Yoshies that will eat up enemies on the level while you hold them and have a power to help you on your travels. An example being, purple baby Yoshies fill up with air like Kirby to help you float or yellow baby Yoshies lighting up dark areas like a lantern. The game also features the ability to have a fifth player control the Gamepad and place platforms to help… or hinder the heroes, as well as the HD graphics you’d expect in this day and age. Other than that New Super Mario Bros U is a very standard package similar to NSMB,
NSMB Wii and NSMB 2 before it.

Although this isn’t a bad game, I can’t out rightly recommend it to just anyone. Unless you really crave some classic side scrolling action or you can find it for less than the MSRP ($60) it’s not worth the investment. If this game was, say, $30, I could recommend it. It really is a solid game that I personally haven’t got bored of yet, but it’s truly more of the same. It is a great side-scrolling platformer, but we’ve all been there done that. If Nintendo brought some actual innovation to the NSMB franchise, I would be ecstatic, but until then, expect to see more games featuring slight mutations to the things we have already done and done.

 

Badges:

*Skippable

*Co-optimal

*Nostalgic

*More of the Same

I give New Super Mario Bros U a standard 3/5

Opinion: E3 Predictions/Wants

The Electronic Entertainment Expo is Christmas for Gamers. Well, actually, it’s more like Groundhog Day, but you get the picture. With it just around the corner, Microsoft, Sony, the Big N, and the big Publishers are all working as hard as they can to convince us they’re the best choice for gamers. It’s always loaded with fun, exciting announcements and I sure as hell can’t wait for it. This is how I predict E3 will go down this year.

-Predictions-

–Xbox One–

The Xbox One was received with approximately a 75% disappointment rate (statistics from IGN poll). The nearly always-online, required Kinect, mandatory game installs and lack of ability to allow friends to borrow games has limited what console gaming is usually preferred for. Generally, console gaming is convenient. It allows you to rent/borrow games easy, play offline, enjoy games privately, etc.

Sure, the Xbox One has been frowned upon at the reveal, but I have a theory. Microsoft was very ambiguous about many of these things. Hell, Major Nelson just denied the Used Game Fee that was spreading around from the other day. I think Microsoft was ambiguous on purpose to see how people would respond, that way when E3 rolled around they knew exactly what to say and when. Plus, who wouldn’t be completely happy to hear all these requirements are bullocks and that it’ll run just as freely as an Xbox 360? People would jump on board just because of their sudden agreeance. It’s their form of “made you look” because now everyone is watching, but it might not be as they say it is.

I think Microsoft will surprise at E3. I’m very happy with the console reveal. They cranked out all the bullshit we wouldn’t want to see at E3 so they can focus 100% on what truly matters; the games and software are what will drive us to purchase this device anyway. E3 will be all about the GOOD of the console for GAMERS and not about TV, Sports, Kinect and Call of Duty. Plus they have eight new IPs to share… yeah eight. I’m in.

 

–PlayStation 4–


Sony has a hole to fill. They’ve lost a lot of money the past few years, but I think they can get back on track. If the supposed requirements about the Xbox One are true, all Sony needs to do to win a large crowd over is NOT have these requirements. They are doing a great job right now keeping developers on their side and keeping a low key on the console until its true unveiling at E3.

Sony has been pretty quiet about the console for the most part. They’ve shown what it can do, given specs and shown the controller, but they haven’t said anything about the physical hardware. For all we know, it has the same shameful requirements the Xbox One may or may not have. However, Sony has a lot of loyal fans and great development teams on their side. All they need to do is blow us out of the water with a library of great games, unlocked shackles and a fresh PSN. I guarantee tons of people would jump on board if they demonstrated these ideas.

I think Sony will please at E3, but not in a surprising way. They’re taking a slow approach and making sure they satisfy fans before the mass crowd. After they have asserted their loyal base is on board, they’ll widen their net to grab up the stragglers.

–Wii U/3DS–

Nintendo knows what they want. They want to please their fans. They want to sell to families. They want to bring innovation to gaming. Even if you still deny that Nintendo innovates, I have a few recent things that can counter it. PS4 touchpad and Xbox Smartglass were both inspired by the Gamepad. Sony and Microsoft’s early console unveils were inspired by Nintendo Direct. The social aspects of the Xbox One and PS4 may even be inspired by the Miiverse. Either way, Nintendo likes to take the risks that Sony and Microsoft don’t.

One thing is for sure for Nintendo – they’re about to slamdunk a TON of great first party titles that will ignite the Wii U fire. It happened with the 3DS last year, and I believe it will happen with the Wii U this year. Critics everywhere weren’t too fond of the 3DS its first year, but now it’s the preferred handheld by most parties. We already know we’ll see a new Zelda, Mario AND Smash Bros at E3, plus Animal Crossing, Pikmin 3, A Link to the Past 2 and whatever else might be up their sleeve.

I think Nintendo is going to dominate at E3. I think that they’re going to crank their development divisions to show the world what they’ve been waiting for – HD Zelda, HD Mario, HD Smash. Hell, I would love to see a Star Fox, Metroid, or F-Zero all teased or confirmed as in development. I think Wii U’s will be selling at a much higher rate after E3, something that Nintendo really needs right now.

–The Others–

EA: Battlefront 3, Battlefield 4

Activision: Call of Duty, New IP

Ubisoft: Assassin’s Creed IV, Watch_Dogs, Rayman Legends, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Beyond Good & Evil 2

OUYA: Official list of full games available at launch. A few titles we haven’t heard of yet. Human Element.

 

-Wants-

Xbox One: No ridiculous requirements, New Non-FPS Halo, $400-$500

PS4: No ridiculous requirements, New IP, Reimagined PSN (constructed to capture XBL fans while retaining its trademark XMB)

Wii U/3DS: A ton of unannounced games besides Mario, Zelda and Smash. New Star Fox, Metroid, F-Zero. Improved Nintendo Network features.

OUYA: Strong First Party-Sponsored games.

Ubisoft: Less streamlined games, more creative games.

EA/Activision: An Apology.

 

Thanks for reading!

Opinion: Nintendo’s Ad Revenue

It’s no secret I’m a big Nintendo fan, but recently they’ve caused a bit of controversy. YouTube is littered with let’s plays, and of course, there are thousands of Nintendo themed ones to pick and choose from. Back in February, Nintendo became a YouTube partner and put into place some regulations with their copyrights policy. We’ve seen other companies, such as SEGA, force Let’s Players to completely remove the content of their games from YouTube. As you can imagine, this didn’t last long and they have since apologized for their behavior. Well, what Nintendo decided to do is not nearly as bad if you ask me, they are claiming ad revenue and placing Nintendo ads before Let’s Play videos with Nintendo games.

Now, let’s break this down a bit. Obviously the Let’s Players are very upset about this. Many of them claim that because they won’t get ad revenue they won’t do Nintendo Let’s Plays anymore. Nintendo, on the other hand, thinks that they are being completely reasonable with their approach. It’s true, they are completely and legally within their rights, after all, all the Mario and Zelda LP’s are technically infringing on their copyrights because a Let’s Play is not, as of now, protected under fair use. Nintendo spoke to GameFront about the matter and had this to say:

“As part of our on-going push to ensure Nintendo content is shared across social media channels in an appropriate and safe way, we became a YouTube partner and as such in February 2013 we registered our copyright content in the YouTube database. For most fan videos this will not result in any changes, however, for those videos featuring Nintendo-owned content, such as images or audio of a certain length, adverts will now appear at the beginning, next to or at the end of the clips. We continually want our fans to enjoy sharing Nintendo content on YouTube, and that is why, unlike other entertainment companies, we have chosen not to block people using our intellectual property.”

In all honesty, I think Nintendo is completely in the right to do what they’re doing… to an extent. Let’s be real here, how many Let’s Plays on YouTube are done on emulators with ROMs? Even if your favorite Let’s Player might not use piracy, I’m willing to bet money that the majority of Nintendo Let’s Plays are done via computer and ROMs. This is piracy. If a Let’s Player who posts this kind of content on their site tries to complain that Nintendo is taking their ad revenue, I would tell them to take a step back and look at what they’re doing. Nintendo made no money from these pirated their game, so why would a pirate deserve any money either? It’s a broken argument.

Then I hear the threats of many Let’s Players. “Oh, Nintendo, I won’t play your game then, and since it’s free advertising you’re losing a lot!” Okay, don’t. Nintendo was fine before YouTube and I’m positive they’d be fine now. In fact, I bet many people who regularly watch Let’s Plays won’t buy the game afterwards because they’ve already seen all there is to it. You not playing Nintendo games will only result in one thing; your subscriber base asking you to do Nintendo Let’s Plays. Unless you’re known for being an Xbox, Sony or PC Let’s Player, you’ll more than likely have Nintendo game requests, and when you don’t do that you’ll only be hurting yourself. To YouTube LPers who are mad about this, I ask one question: Are you seriously playing and uploading video game content just for the money? If so, you’re not a LPer I’ll ever be interested in watching or even supporting.

Nintendo can do this, it’s their intellectual property and they deserve to receive the ad revenue from their work, but that doesn’t mean the honest Let’s Player deserves absolutely nothing. They put a lot of hard work into their videos too, why shouldn’t they get something? If Nintendo wants to remain in good standing with the YouTube community, they need to take more action than just claiming ad revenue and being done with it. They need to show the Let’s Players they want them to continue doing it by rewarding them somehow. Offer them part of the ad revenue, hire them in some way, or even small things like Club Nintendo goodies and collectables.

One idea of mine I enjoy in particular – Nintendo as of recent has been extremely direct to the general public. They’re phasing right through the journalist crowd with their Nintendo Direct videos and give new information to the whole world at the same time. Why don’t they do this with Let’s Players? Right now, they ship out early copies to media for reviews. Why not ship out a few of their titles to their partnered Let’s Players to play early and allow them to share a limited amount of content before even Journalists are allowed to? This would benefit both crowds. Nintendo gets their free advertisements and Let’s Players get to release small amounts of footage before anyone else in the world is allowed to.

Maybe I’m just a dreamer, but I would definitely like to see both parties satisfied. While on one hand, I think Nintendo is in the right, I think Let’s Players deserve compensation for their work. Hopefully in the future they come to a peaceful agreement and can work together to bring us viewers a nice taste of gameplay footage. That’s really all there is to it.

Review: Injustice: Gods Among Us

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a wonderful new addition to the fighting game genre. I’ve been playing this game nearly non-stop since its release, and I can say it’s easily one of my favorite fighting games out right now. What Injustice brings to the table is fresh new gameplay on NetherRealm’s amazingly crafted MK 9 engine within the world of the DC Comic Universe. Pretty much what Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe should have been, DC by itself.

The following is not a spoiler, as it is not described in game. It’s how the story is told in the comics that lead up to the game. Injustice takes place in one of the alternate worlds of the DC Universe. In this Universe, the Joker poisoned Superman with Scarecrow’s gas which altered his mind, tricking him into killing a pregnant Lois Lane and blowing up Metropolis. Superman goes crazy and calls for a worldwide pause in violence and wars, justifying it as world peace. What actually ends up happening is Superman becomes a power hungry dictator and essentially enslaves the world, and will kill anyone who gets in his way, including other heroes.

Injustice is built on the Mortal Kombat 9 engine, but it actually feels very different from Mortal Kombat. The gameplay is designed to welcome new players as well as captivate veteran fighters and inspire some of the most intense fights we’ll see from the genre this year. The customization is fun and both the single and multiplayer features several different ways to play and modifiers to keep the game crisp and leave you wanting more.

The new gameplay elements are something I like quite a bit. The stages all feature interactive environments. Your hero of choice will be able to rip out a fire hydrant and throw it at the enemy, or jump off a ventilation system to make a quick escape. The characters are places in two types “Gadget” and “Power” which determines how they interact. Gadget characters will jump around and avoid while Power characters will pick up a car and throw it at them. As well as these normal interactables, there are stage transitions that let you knock the other player into another section of the stage, dealing heavy damage and altering the other interactables. Basically, it’s superheroes and villains destroying the world around them as they fight, and that makes for one hell of a show. All interactables can be turned off if preferred.

Accessibility is definitely something NetherRealm does better than any other fighter studio does. The tutorial is easy, well explained and contains enough details without it being too overwhelming. In the pause menu, it has the selected character’s special moves all laid out so you don’t have to pause for long if you need to reference. In offline fights you can tag up to six different combos, special moves or powers to assist you in practicing and helping new players actually stand a chance against veterans.

For veteran players, there are a variety of details and specialties for their crowd. Fight Sticks are much more welcomed compared to MK9 with the layout designed much more in tune with that kind of player, as well as hold-back blocking. Frame details are laid out in the move menu, which will help regulars discover new technology to use against their foes and determine exactly how a character should be played. On top of that we have the ability to switch on “Alternate Controls” that changes the scheme to play like Super Street Fighter IV and “Release Check” that turns off buffering and negative edge, leading to a different style of combo strings and detailed controls.

Customization is much better than MK9. You now have a player card (like most fighters out there nowadays) which features pictures and designed that you unlock through play. There are at least two costumes per character, which many of the popular ones having up to five! NetherRealm has also said that they will be releasing many costumes for free to help spice up the game once in a while. Controls are 100% customizable as all fighters are nowadays.

Singleplayer features a five hour story that is quite good for a Fighting Game, as well as many different kinds of single player arcade ladders to play through and over 240 STAR LABS missions to experience (essentially the battle Tower from MK9). This will add a lot of gameplay hours, but to be honest, not everyone will really be interested in doing those STAR missions; I mean after all, they’re really just a way to increase the amount of content without adding much to the actual game. Multiplayer is fun offline as well as online. Online features things like King of the Hill, Survival, Practice and regular Battle Mode.

I actually delayed this review because I wanted to see how it stood on the tournament scene. The Maine Fighting Gamers’ Alliance recently hosted a great tournament that featured Injustice, so I’ve seen how it plays in a tournament. I really like the idea of having some characters having a slight advantage on certain arenas, such as Gadget characters having a pipe to slide on or a power character having an extra barrel to chuck. One thing I have noticed is that character matchups MATTER in this game. Certain characters will have a very, very hard time fighting their polar opposites. For example, Solomon Grundy will stomp Shazam into the ground, but Deathstroke makes Solomon look like a baby. Obviously a lot of it is player skill, but there really is a heavy trench in the match up department.

Overall I really like Injustice. I think the elements it added to the fighting game genre are excellent and I’d love to see them in more games. I honestly would LOVE to see this turn into a series. The design of the game is very welcoming and fun to play. It has elements that both kind of player will enjoy, be it the interactive environments that puts on an excellent show or the deeply detailed frame data for those who like to tear the game apart. There is a wide variety of characters from the DC Universe, and everyone should be able to find a character to play and enjoy. There are no real problematic balance issues and the game offers enough gameplay to last for a long while. I really can’t wait to get together with friends again and pull another all-nighter duking it out. Injustice is a must play for any fan of the DCU or of the fighting game genre.

Badges:

*Recommended

*Hours of Content

*One Of A Kind

*Fan-must-play

I give Injustice: Gods Among Us a 5/5

Opinion: A Link to the Past 2

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of my favorite video games ever made, and for good reason. Back when it was released, it was the pinnacle of action/adventure games and is still wonderful to play today. During the Nintendo Direct earlier this week, I wasn’t expecting anything past the virtual console Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons information in terms of Zelda.

I was so, so wrong.

Nintendo surprised everybody by unveiling The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past 2 coming THIS YEAR for the Nintendo 3DS. The game takes place in the same Hyrule as ALttP did but will feature new dungeons and is indeed a new game with a new story. I am going to list my top three wants for what may be my most anticipated sequel of all time.

1. New Areas

A Link to the Past Hyrule is a wonderful land filled with secrets to discover, enemies to fight, and caves to explore, and truly the only way to improve upon it is by increasing the size. I want to see past the boarders, I want to adventure to the worlds beyond Hyrule that I dreamed about as a child. Introducing new locations outside or in an expanded Hyrule will make me completely and utterly ecstatic.

2. New Villain

I’ll be honest, I love Ganondorf. I love fighting him and always will, it never gets old for me (especially when they mix it up like in Wind Waker) but I would really love to see an entirely new villain. I mean, other than Skull Kid and Vaati, we still haven’t really passed Ganon as a villain. Demise was cool, but he was pretty much the preincarnate of Ganon, seeing as his entire speech in the end is saying that his hate will live on through another (Ganon). I want a fresh, new villain completely unrelated to Ganon in anyway.

3. Don’t forget about Link’s Awakening

A lot of people are seeming to forget that Link’s Awakening is a sequel to A Link to the Past. Formerly, this was the direct sequel to ALttP and according to the official Zelda timeline, the Oracle games come before that. I am very curious to hear whether this sequel comes before the Oracle games, after the Oracle games or after Link’s Awakening. I’ve love some throwbacks to those games in there if at all possible, Nintendo!
So as you can see, I am quite excited for A Link to the Past 2. I am still in shock from them announcing it. Be sure check back for a full review when it launches!