Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

If you were to ask me what one of my favourite games of all time would be, the Super Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past would be right up there. So when I heard there was a sequel (of sorts) being produced, my excitement was palpable. But I was worried; it was to appear on the 3DS, and the two Zelda games that had appeared on the original DS had failed to excite me. Their tacked on touch controls made them less enjoyable to play, and I was worried that this new Zelda game would be equally below-par.

If you’re a fan of A Link to the Past, you absolutely must play A Link Between Worlds. It takes everything that made A Link to the Past so great and improves upon it, adding pretty 3D graphics and tighter controls that make it a joy to play. Indeed, if A Link Between Worlds has any flaw, it is that it will make it harder for you to go back and enjoy A Link to the Past. More on that later.

Like most Zelda games, A Link Between Worlds doesn’t bother too much with a compelling story. The story is serviceable; interesting enough to make you want to play it, but not exactly filled with twists and turns. Instead, it focuses on being a great action-adventure game, which the best Zelda games always are. The controls in A Link Between Worlds are fluid and fast. Link will respond to your commands without interruption, allowing you to navigate the world and perform precision strikes against your enemies with ease. Part of this is because the game runs at 60 frames per second, which makes the animation run more fluidly. It’s also because the control system is perfectly set up. Later, when I loaded A Link to the Past up on my Wii U’s virtual console, that games Link felt slow and cumbersome. It’s a marvel that I had never felt that way until I played A Link Between Worlds. It has literally managed to take something that always felt right and improve on it to such a degree that the old way now feels wrong.

The graphics in A Link Between Worlds are also incredible, at least insofar as you would expect to find on the 3DS. It does make use of the 3D features, but it’s never truly necessary to use the 3D effect, so if you’re not a fan of the 3D, you can happily play with it off. The animation of Link and the enemies he’ll face are fluid, the world is pretty and colourful. It also helps that it looks a lot like the original A Link to the Past, but subtly improved somehow.

The audio in this game is also a master effort. If you play this game without headphones, you probably won’t appreciate it as much as you should; the 3DS’s poor speakers basically demand you play it with headphones. If you do put on a set of headphones though, you’ll be blown away by how great the tunes in this game are. Like everything else, Nintendo has taken the original melodies of A Link to the Past, which are so ingrained in our minds and improved them for today. Some of the new melodies are a bit of a let down, but overall the sounds and music of A Link Between Worlds will help immerse you in an already highly immersible world.

All of this would make you think that Nintendo has just thrown a new coat of paint in top of A Link to the Past and called it a day. You’d be very wrong, if that’s what you thought. A Link Between Worlds presents perhaps the greatest shake up to the Zelda formulae since A Link to the Past itself. In most Zelda games, the story follows a very tried and true path; enter a bunch of dungeons in a very linear, set order, where you’ll get an item you need to beat that dungeon, repeat several times, finish the game. In A Link Between Worlds, you still enter dungeons but in most cases, it’s up to you to decide what order you tackle those dungeons in. To do this, you’re able to “rent” certain items from a shop. So rather than finding, say, the Boomerang inside Dungeon 1 before proceeding onto Dungeon 2, you can now rent the boomerang and go straight to Dungeon 2, or 3, or 4. This may sound chaotic, but it actually works really well, and helps to take out a lot of the linearity from a series that has started to stagnate over the years. Similarly you can now collect as many rupees as you want from the get go, so arbitrary limits and purchases, like bigger wallets, are gone now.

Being a hand held title, it also employs certain features that help to make the game mobile; namely shorter dungeons. This might seem silly at first; Zelda fans have always revelled in the complex puzzles and dungeons that the series presents them with. But here its designed with the knowledge that people may play the game in short busts on public transport or on the toilet. If nothing else, it takes into account the 3 hour battery life of the 3DS. By making the dungeons shorter, it allows you to get more done in less time, which mobile gaming is all about.

A Link Between Worlds also makes interesting use of the 3DS’ Streetpass feature. If you pass someone who also owns A Link Between Worldsyour Link will cross over to the other player’s 3DS, and their Link will cross over to yours. The Link you get from the other player will be a “Shadow” Link, and you can fight them to get treasure or special items. It’s not a necessary aspect to the game, but a fun one nonetheless.

Overall, A Link Between Worlds is a must own title for fans of the Zelda series, if not all 3DS owners. It’s one of the best games on the system, and possibly the finest Zelda adventure in years. You could probably complete it in about a week of dedicated playing, as I did, but people who want all the hearts and secrets or get enjoyment out of the street pass features will enjoy it for much longer than that.

Final Score: 9.8 out of 10.

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