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A Spiritual Successor To The Past: A Link Between Worlds Review
on January 12, 2014
Game: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Released: November 22nd, 2013
When A Link Between Worlds was announced, we all knew it was going to be one huge homage to the classic SNES title A Link To The Past. And let’s face it, it totally is. I’ll admit, I haven’t played much of A Link to the Past, mostly because it was a bit before my time, but I’m very familiar with top-down Zelda games, and I was excited to be getting a new one. While playing through A Link Between Worlds (LBW), I felt a great sense of adventure and exploration that I’ve come to expect from top-down Zeldas. Unfortunately, the game was severely limited by its difficulty, or lack thereof.
You play as Link, a kid who lives in Hyrule, wears green, has some connection to a blacksmith, etc. Everything’s nice and happy in Hyrule, until one day a guy named Yuga shows up and turns a priestess named Seres into a painting and abducts her. Link goes to save her, but gets turned into a painting himself. In the process, Link gains the power to turn into a painting to traverse obstacles, sneak past enemies, and more. Along the way, you learn of the mysterious Lorule, a dark counterpart to Hyrule. Now the fate of both kingdoms rides on Link’s shoulders.
The story in this game was rather interesting. I liked how Lorule was like a darker copy of Hyrule, however I would have liked to see more connections between the two worlds. I really liked some of the new characters, especially Princess Hilda of Lorule. There were a few plot twists at the end that I saw coming a mile off, but I wasn’t really expecting to be surprised by this game.
The basic controls in this game should be familiar to anyone who’s ever played a top-down Zelda. You move with the circle pad, swing your sword with B, pick stuff up with A, and use X and Y for items. I liked how LBW used the shoulder buttons for your shield and Pegasus Boots instead of making them standalone items. It really helped cut down on the time spent changing items. There was also a cool feature where you could tap an item slot on the touch screen to bring up a quick item change menu for swapping items on the fly. Nintendo seems very conscious of the fact that it takes a while to switch items, and they’ve made some good efforts to reduce this.
Most of the items in the game can be obtained very near the beginning of the game. You can rent most of the items for a small fee from an item salesman, however the items are returned to him when you die. Later on in the game you can buy the items for a higher fee, but you get to keep them forever. I really wasn’t too fond of this feature. In every other Zelda game, you get items from dungeons, and as such they usually require a lot of effort to obtain, making them valuable. However, in LBW, as long as you have enough rupees, you can grab all the game’s items in no time. I think Nintendo wanted to simulate the gradual accretion of items by making you spend money on them. However, the game practically drowns you in rupees. Pick up a rock? 20 rupees. Find a cave? 100 rupees. Open a chest? 300 rupees. There was almost nothing in this game that I couldn’t afford. As such, the items have little value, since the game pretty much just gives them all to you, which is a shame, since there are a few really cool items. You have your standard bombs, bow, and boomerang, but there are a few new items, such as the Flame Rod, which casts a pillar of fire in front of you, which is handy for large groups of enemies, and the Ice Rod, which drops a icicle in front of you, handy for hitting switches that are on ledges. Also, all items draw from your magic gauge in this game, including the bow, bombs, etc. This means that you never have to worry about how many bombs or arrows you have, but your magic gauge can run out fast, meaning there’s often a long cooldown attached to these items. It’s really just another way of simplifying the game.
Combat in this game is the simple kind of combat that you would expect from a top-down Zelda, and that’s a good thing. Many of the 3D Zeldas have tried really hard to complicate the combat (I’m looking at you, Skyward Sword), which usually only serves to distract the player from the rest of the game. Since the combat is relatively simple, 2D Zeldas in the past have compensated by having dungeons and sidequests that require some serious critical thinking to pass. However, LBW seems almost wholly uninterested in making players think, for fear of losing their target 6-year-old demographic. Many of the dungeons in the game are mind-numbingly linear and simple. There are a few that require you to solve some simple puzzles, but mostly the game prefers to spoon-feed you an easy-to-digest cottage cheese of boring dungeons. Also, since the game can’t force you to have more than one specific item at a time, most of the dungeons are based on the item that you used to access the dungeon, meaning there’s little to stop you from just walking straight through the dungeon. The bosses are equally as easy, and I managed to beat a few of them on the first try without taking damage. Fortunately, some of the later dungeons have some hidden items that are well worth the effort to find them, such as tunics that reduce damage, and Master Ore, with which you can strengthen your sword. I actually really liked these hidden items. Mostly it was because it meant that there was actually something in the game that I needed to think to obtain, but also because they were some of the only items that actually had a value, since you had to work to get them.
One of the main mechanics in the game was the ability to turn into a painting. It seemed kind of gimmicky at first, but I actually found it to be rather interesting. You can use the ability to cross chasms, go through bars, and more. It felt a lot like Paper Mario to be honest, but I enjoyed it. However, since this ability could in theory allow you to go anywhere, there are lots of ways the game limits this ability. The ability draws on your magic meter. If it runs out, you’re ejected from the wall and have to wait for it to recharge. There are also certain walls that you can’t cross, meaning that there are only certain places you can use your ability. It’s rather sad, as you can very quickly identify which walls you’re supposed to cross and which you are not, taking a lot of the challenge out of the game.
Now I know I’ve been rather critical of this game, but I have to admit, I did really enjoy just running around Hyrule and Lorule looking for secrets, even if most of the secrets were just chests of rupees. There were a few sidequests that were pretty fun, but I wish there had been more. There were a few minigames, including Octorok Baseball, which were a cool distraction, but not something I would want to come back to.
Most of this game’s presentation is geared towards making it look like A Link to the Past. Again, I’ve only played a little bit of aLttP, so I’m familiar enough with it to recognize the resemblance, but not familiar enough to care. The graphics were pretty good for the 3DS, although I noticed that a lot of the objects in the world appeared to stand upright, such as tall grass, but when you affixed yourself to the wall you could see that they were actually flat on the ground. I’m not sure if the forced perspective was meant to be noticeable in this manner, but it was interesting to see. I played this game entirely without the 3D effect, so I can’t say how meaningful it is.
The music in the game is actually really good. There’s a full orchestral score for most of the songs, and it sounds really impressive. The sound effects are in good quality as well, however the effect for the sword swing started to bother me after a while.
A Link Between Worlds is an ambitious title that falls flat by trying to make everything as easy as possible for the player. It has some fun worlds to explore, but the dungeons are only slightly more stimulating than watching reality TV. I would only recommend getting this game if you’re a huge Link to the Past fan, or if you’re under the age of 10.
-Fun and vibrant environments
-Old-school 2D Zelda controls
-Entirely too easy
Final Score: 6/10