Having been the first console to ever grace my memory, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System holds a special place in my heart. It introduced me to many gaming gems across multiple genres and sparked an interest in me that would hold true to this day. Because of this, any game created as either a sequel or prequel to one of those gems comes under my very close scrutiny, and with the release of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – a follow-up to A Link To The Past – it’s time once again to bring out the magnifying glass and see just how well this handheld title holds up to its SNES forefather.
A Link to the Past is considered, by some, to be the best piece of work in the franchise. Its colorful palette, engaging puzzles and nail-biting boss battles helped propel a series the NES built a framework for years earlier. It also gave gamers a different story line to follow and showcased Nintendo’s ability to put a fresh spin on the Zelda story, a trick Miyamoto and company would continue to use in order to breathe new life into the series for generations to come. With such a legendary launching point as a foundation, A Link Between Worlds has a lot to live up to. So does it deliver the goods, or does it fall flat on its face? Well, in all honesty, there hasn’t been a Zelda game to fall on its face since the CDi games. You know it, I know it and anybody slightly familiar with video games knows the Zelda series is known for its reliable quality. With that said, A Link Between Worlds is a great game, like most of its kind, but some small complaints will hold it back from being the memorable blockbusters a few titles in the franchise have been propelled to. That’s not to say this game isn’t worth a rent from casual gamers and an instant buy for fans of the guardian in green.
A Link Between Worlds starts off in a recognizable fashion with Link’s lazy, lovable butt being woken up and given a chore. For a guy who slays evil pigs and rescues princesses on the regular what else should we expect? The guy needs a rest from time to time. From there, bad stuff goes down and the land of Hyrule becomes compromised yet again. Everything in the Zelda checklist is neatly marked off and Link is again thrust into his role as the hero of time. Nothing new here. Until a colorful fellow named Ravio comes crashing into the picture and shakes things up before the first dungeon can be explored.
Ravio offers an interesting spin to the series as he allows Link to rent, and eventually buy all but one key weapon in the game, excluding the Master sword, (that would be a travesty) as soon as the adventure begins. This gives the player a sneak peak at the game’s arsenal early on, which adds a fun factor in that there are no limitations on Link, but it also takes away from the awesome feeling of opening up a dungeon’s treasure chest after defeating a mini boss and getting that new weapon shoved front and center into the camera’s face, adding wonder and excitement to the new possibilities opened up with that chest. The feeling that Link is growing throughout the game is also lost on this change because he can potentially have most of the answers to the game’s puzzles in the first hour of gameplay. It’s a give and take not seen in the series thus far, but I wouldn’t say it’s either a good or a bad thing, just a new feature – a facet critics of the series say is few and far between.
Gameplay is simplistic, yet rewarding and gives off that same Zelda vibe where even the tiniest action can help send Link one step closer to the final battle. Puzzles can be a bit too easy for most of the game but offer a decent level of challenge in some of the final dungeons. A new mechanic that adds to the puzzle solving is one the game has become known as, and that’s Link’s newfound ability to merge into walls as a painting and move from place to place in a side scrolling manner. When the protagonist is in this state he is portrayed as a painting and can only move where there is a fully unobstructed wall. This doesn’t play as vital of a role as sailing did in Wind Waker, but it is important in not only the game’s puzzle solving aspect, but the final battle, which gives way to a fairly imaginative fight and story line ending.
The story itself is somewhat forgettable and revolves around a new villain, Yuga, who hails from the bizarre alter world of Lorule and wants to resurrect Ganon from the prison he was placed in after the events of A Link to the Past. Lorule is a dark version of Hyrule and contains alter egos for the latter’s inhabitants. Link is also charged with the duty to travel to Lorule in order to save the seven sages Yuga has trapped and brought to Lorule in order to resurrect Ganon. As a whole, I ended up wanting more background on Yuga and Lorule and felt some aspects deserved more coverage than the little explanations they were given toward the game’s end. The nature of A Link Between Worlds has Link frequently travelling between the two worlds much the same way he did in A Link to the Past except instead of using an item to do so he uses cracks in the foundations of both worlds that connect the two. Although the story is enjoyable while playing, it just doesn’t leave as much of a lasting impression as some of the other titles.
A Link Between Worlds’ audio and visual presentation is where the newest installment hits its high point as rich colors saturate both Lorule and Hyrule in an extremely striking way. Bright, popping tones make Hyrule appear to be a bustling vista full of life and excitement whereas Lorule consists of dark shades of purples, greens and grays that leave a sense of death and decay lingering in the air. The feel of Lorule is very comparable to the feeling players get when they initially leave the Temple of Time in Ocarina of Time. This is masterfully complemented by the game’s music library that consists of tracks new to the series and ones revisited and remixed for the sake of the new installment. The remixed songs are done so beautifully and are great treats for anybody who played A Link to the Past. It has been several years since I have touched A Link to the Past, but as soon as I heard many of the songs I was immediately taken back to when I was a young kid eagerly watching my big brother battle his way to Ganon on the SNES. The music and look is as good as it gets even with the transfer from 2D to 3D. That is all.
A 100 percent completion of A Link Between Worlds (full hearts and weapon upgrades) takes anywhere from 17-22 hours depending on the player and the frequency at which he/she plays. As with most Zelda games, it is addictive and lends itself well to long sessions of boss battles and heart container hunting, and veterans who want a challenge can play the game after the first run through on Hero mode where Link will take four times the damage with each hit from enemies. Streetpass will also play a role in this game as every time you are out with your 3DS and pass a fellow Zelda player, you can then challenge that players shadow Link to an in-game battle where you can be awarded rupees, a resource more useful in this installment than most.
Although A Link Between Worlds most likely won’t go on anybody’s top 3 Zelda games list, it is still a successful installment that adds to the series while staying true to the feel of the game it was based around. Great music, good looks and the same old feeling of Zelda boss beating accomplishment comes with A Link Between Worlds. This is a must buy for all of you diehards out there and a rent at the very least for the casual gamers in the house as it is a much appreciated addition to the already impressive 3DS library.