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.
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.
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.
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.
One 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.
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.
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.