The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

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When rumors started swirling around regarding a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, I couldn’t have been more excited. I doubted the rumors like I do with most rumors, though tiny hints of a possible sequel kept sneaking their way into Nintendo interviews. I nearly went through the roof when it was finally announced. A sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was officially on its way to the Nintendo 3DS, and I had to have that game. So, on that epic day, November 22, 2013 – the same day Super Mario 3D World was released – The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds found its way to my Flame Red 3DS.

As a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the past, I expected to find a familiar story with little depth, but was greeted with one a little different, and a tad bit deeper. Sure, Zelda still needs saving and the collect these three things, then those seven things structure still exists, but a new villain causing trouble in the land of Hyrule made things much more interesting. This new villain, Yuga, has the ability to transform people into paintings, a tactic which is used to kidnap Princess Zelda. Of course, it’s up to Link to save the day by recovering three pendants and rescuing all seven of the trapped sages.

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In The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, a lot more emphasis is placed on the land parallel to Hyrule, Lorule. Lorule is essentially the “Dark World” and has a lot in common with Hyrule, including its very own Triforce and princess. I personally like this world having a more fleshed out backstory when compared to the Dark World from A Link to the Past. The game eventually culminates in a beautiful and unexpected ending, but I’d like to keep a lot of the second half a surprise.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds takes place in the same universe as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which is to be expected from a sequel. Both Hyrule and Lorule are wonderfully crafted to give the player a sense of familiarity by placing a lot of elements in familiar places, though a lot has been changed ensuring that players still feel a sense of exploration throughout the game. Of course, much like A Link to the Past, Link can travel between these worlds by going through special portals.

Link controls nearly identical to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and veteran Zelda players won’t have much trouble diving into the game. Some differences include the ability to – eventually – hold two items and some touchscreen features that make swapping out items a breeze. Though, you’ll be glad to hear that the game sails away from the entirely touchscreen controlled Wind Waker sequels.

Finally, we come to perhaps the biggest change in A Link Between Worlds; of course, I’m talking about the item rental system. To my surprise, the item rental system didn’t ruin the game. I was initially worried that it would make fully exploring dungeons a thing of the past, though I couldn’t have been more wrong. You can rent items – and eventually buy them for keeps – as soon as they become available. A trusty merchant known as Rovio sets up shop in Link’s house and will rent out any item Link desires. Rentals are fairly cheap, though there is a catch: when you die, Rovio will loot the rented items and leave Link stranded without a care in the world. This is remedied by buying the items for keeps, though buying them is a much more expensive route to take. Regardless, I would buy the items when I could and rented those I needed next.

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This item rental system gives the player a lot of choice: players are free to explore the world as they please, including being able to tackle the dungeons in whichever order they wish. Classic Zelda items like the Bow and Arrow can be rented here, as well as A Link to the Past items like the Hookshot and Fire Rod, plus new items like my new favourite, the Sand Rod. There are a few limits such as needing specific items to reach new areas, and Lorule not being open from the beginning, though this is definitely the least linear Zelda game in a long time.

The other big mechanic in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the ability to merge with, and move along walls in Link’s painting form. I was also a little worried that Nintendo wouldn’t be able to do this gimmick justice, though again, I was wrong. This ability forces you to think about the world in a different manner, which makes the puzzles much more interesting. Never does this gimmick feel unnecessarily implemented as you will be using it a lot, often in ways that are hard to imagine without having the game in your hands.

There are twelve dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, counting your visit to the inside of Hyrule Castle. I am happy to report that A Link Between Worlds contains some of the best dungeons in the series. Like many other Zelda games, you will need to have a certain item to open and navigate some of the dungeons, though the item rental system gives you the choice of which ones you’d like to visit first. The dungeons do still have classic items like keys and the compass, plus there are plenty of treasures and equipment to find within each dungeon; the equipment and various items replace the items you would have found in other Zelda games. It’s hard to pick just one favourite dungeon as they are all well-designed, though some personal favourites of mine are the Dark Palace, Desert Palace, and Ice Ruins.

One thing that hasn’t really changed from previous Zelda games is the fact that each dungeon still ends in a boss battle. Most bosses will require you to use your rented items to defeat them, which I don’t view as an issue, though there are still a few that aren’t as obvious as they may seem. With that being said, most of the bosses don’t pose much of a threat, though there are a few creative ones that make up for their lack of strength. My personal favourite is the battle with Zaganaga, a boss that you must fight in a pit of sand. You have to be swift with the Sand Rod to create platforms that lead to Zaganaga, making this one of the more enjoyable battles in the entire series.

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Before wrapping up this review, I’d like to comment on the game’s graphics and soundtrack. I was always a fan of the style going into the game, so I never had a problem with the game’s colorful look. The style itself is reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which ultimately ties both games together. As this is a 3DS game, Nintendo heavily developed this game to look great in 3D and I can happily say that they achieved this effect. I continually say things similar to “this is the best game I’ve seen in 3D,” and A Link Between Worlds is no different. Lastly, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds has a glorious soundtrack composed of many delightfully remixed songs from past Zelda titles – most of which come from A Link to the Past. Thankfully, there are a few new tunes in here, all of which are worthy of being included in a Zelda game.

Final Thoughts:

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is, in my opinion the best video game available for Nintendo 3DS. Of course, the game does have some stiff competition in Fire Emblem Awakening and Super Mario 3D Land. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds not only gives gamers a satisfying Zelda adventure, it also gives them replay value in optional sidequests and what seems to be becoming a series staple in the much more difficult Hero mode. This game is a must buy for fans of classic The Legend of Zelda gameplay, especially for those that have fond memories of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

10/10 – Masterpiece

Purchased at retail

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