Game review by Steve Cullum
Game – The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Version – Nintendo 3DS
Rating – E for Everyone
Original MSRP – $39.99
Obtained – Review Copy from Nintendo of America
Link is back in a new adventure. This time, the setting is a familiar one, as you revisit the world from Super NES classic, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Link must not only save Hyrule, but he also needs to go to work in the darker parallel world of Lorule. So, does this new direction and dimension help, or does Link need to hang up his sword and tunic?
Story and Plot
One of the toughest things for a Zelda game review is to cover the basic storyline and plot without spoiling anything. With that being said, the basic story involves Link saving two parallel dimensions of Hyrule. One is the one we know and love, while the other is quite a bit darker. This might sound similar to Twilight Princess, but it is not really the same. Instead, he travels between the worlds in order to save them both. This alternate world of Hyrule, called Lorule, has its own princess too — Hilda.
You might wonder if this is the same Link that was the protagonist in A Link to the Past. No, Nintendo has stated this game takes place six generations after the SNES title. In the chronology, you can place this game between Link’s Awakening (GB/GBC) and The Legend of Zelda (NES), though. There are also parts of the world from A Link to the Past that have been changed for this title, but the overall world will feel very familiar.
You may wonder if this works for the game. I have played most of the Zelda games, but I still feel unbiased, meaning that I do not always like a game just because it is Zelda. With that being said, I really enjoy this story. I think it is both familiar and new. It has a touch of the past, but it takes the franchise in new directions, as well. Similarly, it is a good plot that will draw in old fans and new gamers alike.
Gameplay and Controls
As opposed to the previously released Nintendo DS games, which focused on touch-screen controls, A Link Between Worlds takes a more traditional approach, which is a good thing in my book. You control Link in a top-down view of the world. This might sound archaic when thinking of modern games, but they have done a great job of making it feel nostalgic, but also adding new elements. One of these new elements involve moving in 3D space. If playing on a 3DS, the effect really comes to life as Link flies higher (closer to you) or falls (further from you). Another element involves Link’s ability to become a wall-drawing. Each time he does this, the camera shifts to a side-view, and Link is able to move along the walls to reach areas previously unattainable by traditional methods. This creates a brand new way of moving around levels, fighting enemies, and exploring new worlds.
One other gameplay element worthy of mentioning is that this Zelda game is less linear. You are more free to explore and do things at your own pace this time around, which fits the modern style of adventure game. Along those lines, the focus on rupees is higher in this game, because you will be purchasing or renting items along the way for each dungeon. Similarly, something that might seem new, but it isn’t, is the use of a magic meter. The reason it may seem new is because it now refills on its own, and it is used in new ways — such as replacing the ammunition system and powering special items and abilities. This might take long-time Zelda fans a bit to get use to, but it ends up being a good change.
The majority of the time, you will control Link with the buttons and Circle-Pad. This works extremely well. Other things take place on the touch-screen, like weapon and item switching. This allows for much faster inventory management too. Coming from someone who did not care for the touch-screen control of Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, I am very glad to see they went more traditional. With this “new” control method, the game itself becomes much faster. Not only are you moving around the world faster, but you must always be thinking on your feet. In fact, this might be one of the most action-packed Zelda games I have played, and luckily, the controls hold up.
Graphics and Sound
What do you get when you take one of the most beautiful 16-bit Zelda worlds and update it with modern 3D visuals running at 60 frames per second? You get the absolutely beautiful world of A Link Between Worlds. Not only does it look gorgeous, but it also runs incredibly smooth. In fact, even though you may want to get on to the next dungeon and save the kingdoms, it would benefit you to take some time to explore and check out the detail they placed on even the small things. It is clearly one of the best looking 3DS games. Taking the majority of the “HUD” off of the top screen also helps, because you are left with seeing more of this great looking world.
One of the areas Zelda games have always excelled was in the music category. A Link Between Worlds is no different. Each song is beautifully composed, and it sounds great. In fact, I highly recommend playing with headphones to fully appreciate it, as the 3DS speakers do not often give it justice. It is worth mentioning, however, that there are very few brand new tunes. Most are remixed or reworked from previous Zelda games. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though, as those are great songs, but it is interesting that they did not write many new songs. Maybe this was because the song catalog is already great, or maybe it was because they were revisiting a world with which we were already familiar. Like I said, it is not really a huge negative, but it is worth mentioning.
A Link Between Worlds features several other elements that did not fit cleanly in our pre-defined areas of review, so I felt it necessary to add them in an “other” section.
The Nintendo 3DS StreetPass functionality comes into play within A Link Between Worlds in the form of Shadow Link. When you pass someone, who also has the game, your Shadow Link will visit their game, and visa versa, and allow you to battle. This is a fun concept, but because I got the game before it was released, I have not been able to fully test this.
The game looks really great in both 2D and 3D, but to get the full enjoyment, I believe it needs to be played in 3D. This will drain your battery much quicker, though, so make sure you have an extra battery or sit beside a power outlet for periods of long play. The good thing, however, is that there are many save points. The game is meant for both short bursts and playing for hours.
Shifting between different dimensions, both in the gameplay and visuals help the game from becoming static. As stated before, this is a fast-paced Zelda game. Link moves quick. Enemies move quick. The camera moves quick. If you are looking to take your time, might want to look to another game in the series.
Final Score: 10 out of 10
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is not only one of the best Zelda games, it is one of the best Nintendo 3DS games to date. I do not know if I would go as far to say it is the best game of all time, but I will say it ranks up there with some of the best. The gorgeous world, the innovative gameplay, and the new story all combine for a high quality adventure. If you have been craving more Zelda, look no further than A Link Between Worlds.
+ Beautiful graphics running at 60 fps.
+ Innovative gameplay with wall-drawings.
+ Good for both quick bursts and long hours of play.
+ Story and plot draws you in, as you want to know what is next.
+ Less linear gameplay adds new elements for longtime fans.
- Lack of many brand new songs and sounds.
- Less linear gameplay may create more challenge for new gamers.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds will be available via retail stores and the Nintendo 3DS eShop on November 22, 2013.