The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds Review
The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds Review
There were two reactions when The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was initially revealed. First, there was a group of fans that was elated with the news that Zelda will be revisting the same Hyrule in the A Link to the Past. On the other hand, there was the skeptics that felt that it would be a safe entry into the series. Admittedly, I was not impressed with A Link between Worlds since its initial reveal; the game looked too pedestrian and safe by Nintendo’s standards. Luckily, first impressions are often wrong and I will be the first to admit I was wrong. Boy was I wrong, despite the familiar setting, The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds is in my opinion the most forward thinking entry since Ocarina of Time.
My initial pessimism stems from how familiar A Link Between Worlds is to the all-time classic – A Link to the past. Understandably so, A Link Between Worlds is set in the same world (the exact Hyrule) in ALTTP, but a considerable years ahead in the future. But don’t let the familiar setting worry you, A Link Between Worlds is in an entirely new game complete with new dungeons, new story, new worlds (Lorule), new items and new characters. THIS IS A NEW GAME! Don’t make the mistake of thinking A Link Between Worlds as a cheap trip to the land of nostalgia. It isn’t! This game is a completely new beast!
I found the story a little disappointing as it doesn’t push the series forward in any meaningful way. It is the typical Zelda story with a villain causing trouble in Hyrule with link tasked to save the day. This time around, the antagonist Yuga has abducted the 7 sages to release Ganon from its seal. In my opinion, the story is a throwaway. By that I mean, that story has such a small role and presence in the game that you can pretty much forget about it. You will understand when you play – plot devices and events rarely pop up during the playthrough. It is uninvolved and forgettable – it is quite disappointing really especially following after Skyward Sword.
A Link Between World, unlike many Zelda games in the modern era, treats me like a gamer. It acknowledges that I have the capacity to overcome challenges, it understands that I can make my own decision and more importantly ALBW does it with respect. Link Between Worlds no longer holds your hand at every step of your adventure, it throws you into the deep end without remorse. This is most evident with the open nature structure of A Link Between Worlds. For the first time since the very first Zelda title, you can beat the dungeons in any order you desire, once you reach a certain point in the game. Yes you read that right – you can complete the dungeons in any order you desire. Surprisingly, the open nature structure works very well thanks to the item rent system. A far departure from series traditional, instead finding weapons in dungeons – they are now rented/bought through Ravio – a merchant taking refuge in your house. You can buy all the weapons very early in the game – granted that you have enough rupees. Since weapons are no longer found in dungeons and essentially available from the get go – Dungeons can be done in any order.
I discovered Zelda post A Link Between Worlds, so I have never experienced this much freedom in a Zelda game before. To my delight the open nature of A Link Between World is incredibly refreshing and it is a step in the right direction for the Zelda series. I hope Mr Aonuma uses a similar structure for Zelda Wii U.
I love how all the essential items are available so early in the game. Not only does it allow you to complete dungeon on the order of your choosing, it also encourages exploration. When I discovered a secret within Hyrule that I could not yet access with my current arsenal, I found myself more often than not going back to Ravio to get the item I needed. Often I would spend a good hour exploring Hyrule for Heart Pieces. Admittedly, it was counterproductive to what is needed to finish the game, however I just could not help myself.
In terms of Dungeons – Mr Aonuma’s and Co. genius is in full work in A Link Between Worlds. Much like in Skyward Swords, the dungeons in A Link Between Worlds are wonderfully crafted with creativity flowing throughout the game. Moving boxes over a switch and lighting torches are no longer commonly used. In fact some of the dungeons will be remembered as one of the best that the series has ever seen. Perhaps, this is due to the new gameplay mechanic in A Link Between Worlds. Unique to the game, Link can transform himself into a live wall painting which does lead to some delightful level designs. For the most part the transformation allows you to travel across walls and travel to Lorelei. However, later in the game the level design begins to compliment the ability well.
Most impressive is that the game provides a worthy challenge for the player. A Link between Worlds is a Dark Soulification of the Zelda Series. Regardless of the poor enemy AI, foes are plentiful and will attack you relentlessly. More excitingly, Dungeons are lurking with more traps and pitfalls – in fact you will be regularly looking for hearts in your playthrough. The anxiety levels rise at the possibility of because of the risk and the reward idea of the renting system – by that I mean you lose all the gear when you die. I salivate just thinking about Hero mode for A Link Between. It is a fantastic concept originating from Demon Souls – in my opinion Nintendo can lift up an extra level by providing more challenge and a greater risk and reward for the player.
For a handheld game A Link Between Worlds is a lengthy adventure with around 10 dungeons in the game. Like in typical Zelda fashion you can opt to complete the side quests to get more mileage from the game. Collecting all the Maiamai and heart pieces can be an addictive affair. Plus you can try your luck ( and skill) with Shadow Link battles.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a landmark achievement for the series. The game remains true to the Zelda formula. It looks, it feels and more importantly it plays like the Zelda we have always loved, but it pushes the boundaries of expectations. If A Link Between World is the testing ground for Zelda Wii U, then the series is moving in the right direction.