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on November 22, 2013
A link to the past is one of those games regarded as a masterpiece that still stands the test of time. Its widely regarded as one of the best games ever made and with good reason. It was a bold step forward for the Zelda series and its impact is still being felt in the series today. Nintendo has decided to create this sequel in the form of “A Link Between Worlds” for the 3Ds and it measures up well to its predecessor. The visuals are amazing and whether you are playing on the 3DS where you can see amazing 3D effects in this game, or the 2DS which doesn’t have the 3D but is still an amazing system (affordable and comfortable and won’t have hinges that break) you will get an amazing experience. The overhead view calls back to A Link To The Past but also creates its own style. So to with the music, which calls back to A Link To The Past but also creates its own thing and is awesome for it. The new game mechanics are fun and there are amazing new things you can do. The ability to become a painting on a wall to move around in new ways is innovative and changes the gameplay immensely.
But there is something more that must be said. A Link Between Worlds does something that so many have wanted. It brings back a nonlinear approach to the series. You are given the option to rent items ( or later buy the items) instead of finding them in dungeons ( which can still be done) but there is also a risk. If you die while holding rented items then you lose them which can create problems if in a dungeon but that just adds to the challenge.
And challenge is a good word to say because this is a game that does not hold your hand, there is a hint system but it is optional and the game is better for it. There is also a hero mode available that drastically ups the difficulty of the game and its very much worth trying out
There is a detailed story in the game I don’t want to spoil here which involves a villain named Yuga and Hyrule’s twin world Lorule, which Link must journey between ( hence the title). There are cut scenes in the game that are well done and the story is great.
This game is a huge step forward for the series but there are also cameos and shoutouts to past games like Majora’s mask ( you might see a familiar location reappear)

This seems like a working blueprint for the new Wii U Zelda and if this is any indication of what that game will be, then I am very excited!
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on November 23, 2013
Disclaimer: no major spoilers.

For over 20 years I've been waiting for a Zelda like this. My favorite game in the series is A Link to the Past, and this newest release is like that excellent game on steroids. In my opinion, the last great Zelda game was Wind Waker. The previous two home console games, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, were very good but lacked the magic that gave me any motivation to play through them again, and the two DS games were average. Boredom kept me from even finishing Phantom Hourglass.

This one is different though. I like the fact that the item acquisition and usage system has changed. You have access to pretty much everything from the beginning of the game, so no waiting until the midpoint of your adventure to acquire the hookshot like in all the other games in the series. All items are used and replenished through a magic-type meter that automatically replenishes itself, so no more need to roam around the overworld slicing down bushes to replenish your arrows and bombs. These two significant changes are a drastic departure from the typical Zelda formula, and it's a welcome change because it allows the player to focus more on the one thing that I always felt was one of the best parts of playing any Zelda game: exploration. Since you have access to most of the essential items from the start, the quest is not nearly as linear as it has been in the previous games, and this encourages one to just walk around shooting and blowing up stuff and seeing what happens. Even more so than A Link to the Past, the heart and soul of this game is very reminiscent of the original NES Legend of Zelda where you just walk around exploring and discovering things as you go along.

One drawback that I hope Nintendo addresses in the future: I wish there were an option to turn off the hint system. At times, there's a little too much hand holding in the game, and while this may be necessary for a novice, if you're a seasoned Zelda veteran, it really does detract from the experience.

I'm a little over halfway into the game, and I can say with confidence that A Link Between Worlds is at least in my top 3 favorite Zelda games of all time. Until I finish the entire game, I can't say for sure if this one will stand the test of time and beat out Zelda III for my number one spot. But either way, this game is a spectacular masterpiece, and if you have a 3DS you should go out and get this right now.
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on February 16, 2015
This game is a long time in coming. Having originally picked up A Link Between Worlds upon release and wanting to do nothing more than play the sequel to my favorite Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, life got in the way. Fast forward three months and I decided to pick it back up and restart from the beginning while heading out on a trip. The result was a bit of a sun burn and a hugely satisfying journey.

Once again taking up the role of Link in one of his many reincarnations, The player sets out to deliver the captain of the guard’s sword because Link overslept for work yet again and are in a heap of trouble. This is where A Link Between Worlds starts off story wise while doing something different in the way of a sequel in this series. Instead of a new location like Termina or different seas like Phantom Hourglass, players of A Link to the Past will find themselves at home, revisiting the same Hyrule once again as they head off on their delivery.

A Link Between worlds bring a new feature by attempting to create an “open-world” Legend of Zelda. Typically there is an order as to which dungeon has to be completed before moving on, but this time around the order that players wish to take is entirely up to them, as long as they have the tools available to open up the ways. This was fun because it meant that if I was getting my trousers handed to me in one dungeon, another could always be attempted.

In the game's spirit of doing something differently, Link does not find the required adventuring tools through the various large chests in the dungeons scatters throughout Hyrule. He instead finds them right at home with a man named Rovio who sets up shop to rent them to you (apparently even adventuring is becoming subscription based). I’ll be honest and say that I did not like this man setting up shop in my home and making me pay to rent equipment from him. Staying for free he should have been going out of his way to hand over the tools when they were required. The equipment is yours until the moment when the last segment of your hearts goes out. Once that final breath of life has been snuffed out and there are no more bottled fairies to bring you back to your feet, Rovio’s bird comes to reclaim what belongs to the shop.

After a certain point in the adventure, Rovio changes his tune slightly. Now, as well as the option to rent out a Bow, a Hookshot, or an Ice Wand, Link can outright buy them for what may see like a fairly steep price by that point in the adventure. Thankfully, within the various chests are lots and lots of money making it fairly accessibly by the end of the adventure to own all of the equipment available.

To boost the incentive on owning the equipment is Mother Momai, a large octopus like worried mother who was separated from her one-hundred children. By finding and returning to her ten of her children, like the fairy in the original A Link to the Past, she will grant an upgrade to any weapon currently possessed. Worry not, she will hold on to the upgrades for weapons you don’t yet own until you arrive with the rights to that weapon.

Exploration between the worlds of Hyrule and Lorule follow along the same principles. Look, lift, swim, jump, and blend yourself into the wall and run across it to fit through cracks in the walls or just over onto another platform. The ability to merge into the wall as a painting has multiple uses in which can be used at any time to either do the following, or even to dodge a bosses attack or an enemy's projectile. Using this magically ability is key if you wish to reach the boss room of each dungeon that can be found between the two lands.

There is however one catch. Then again when is there not? This magically ability has a magic bar as is pretty standard by now. The catch? For the first time ever, each weapon and tool that Link has access to requires a portion of the magic meter to be used. Need to shoot an arrow? Need to remove a boulder from your way? Each of these actions depletes the magic meter instead of actually requiring to have a quiver or a bomb bag that needs to be upgraded later. Between merging into walls and using the tools, keeping an eye on that meter is going to be extremely important. Now it can see like a bit of a drawback that these items are no longer in stock but honestly with how fast the meter regenerates, I thought it worked out even better than having to worry about inventory numbers.

A Link Between Worlds is a solid Legend of Zelda entry on the Nintendo 3DS that was a joy to play all on its own before even considering that it was the sequel to one of my beloved classic Zelda entries. If this is a test as to what Nintendo can do with a Zelda in regards to thinking in an open world like scenario, then we should be in for an an interesting and awesome time once The Legend of Zelda Wii U is released later this year.
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on June 2, 2015
Alright - I am 41 years old, mother of 2 - who never owned a nintendo console - but had to get the golden 3ds xl edition when it came out. At first I was hesitant to play the game as I am older. But - oh boy - since I have started playing with it - I can assure the readers that this is the best fun I have had in a long long time. This is my me time, my relaxation - and the puzzles clear my mind. Beautiful game, intricate story, gorgeous graphics - I love it (Even though really this is the first nintendo game I am playing). Give this game a shot - if you have not played it already.
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on April 7, 2015
This is a very fun game. If you are expecting this to be a remake of a link to the past, it isn't. While the worlds have a very similar layout, most of the dungeons, characters, and a good amount of the enemies have changed. This is a great game to play through and have some fun with, but it is so incredibly easy. It's the same old swing your sword around to easily kill every enemy. Even the bosses don't put up much of a challenge if you know what you're doing. They are still fun to fight, but don't pose much of a threat. My biggest complaint about this game, is that you have access to nearly every single item right off the start. Instead of getting your items in dungeons, you can rent and then buy everything from the start of the game. This took away some of the fun for me. I would always look forward to seeing what item i would get in a dungeon. There is also a lack of new items in the game. The new item they did put in isn't all that fascinating either. The game also has a childish feel to it. On the plus side, they've added some new mini games which are pretty fun. The graphics are great and the controls are very easy. While the bosses may be easy, they are pretty cool looking. Overall, this is a great game with lots to explore. Its definitely worth a play through or two, but it doesn't hold up to the classic zelda games everyone loves.
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on November 22, 2013
GENERAL OVERVIEW: “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” is the first top down Zelda game since the 2005's Gameboy Advance title, “The Minish Cap”. This game is also first new handheld title in the Zelda franchise that Nintendo has released for one of their flagship products, the 3DS. The game is a direct sequel to the 1991 SNES title, “A Link to the Past”, which is one of the most highly acclaimed games in Nintendo’s bountiful back catalogue, featuring all new dungeons.

Make no mistake. “A Link Between Worlds” is the best Zelda game since “Ocarina of Time” or, barring that, “A Link to the Past” itself. For longtime Zelda players, “Link Between Worlds” may first initially lull you with its emotionally powerful, highly nostalgic rendering of Hyrule circa 1992, only to discover how deeply Nintendo is rearranging the Zelda template. “A Link Between Worlds” casts off series conventions (while still retaining its identity as a Zelda title).

To compare notes with another franchise, Hideo Kojima is radically restructuring the inherent design of the Metal Gear universe by making “Metal Gear Solid 5" an open world game rather than a tightly controlled stealth game. In order to ease players into the radical shift and new reinvention of Metal Gear’s signature stealth play, as adapted for an open world environment, Konami is releasing “Ground Zero”, which is a prologue to the main game, as a separate, introductory primer for “Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain”.

“A Link Between Worlds” is a reshuffling of the deck, a “Ground Zero” if you will for Zelda. Unlike the Metal Gear comparison, this game isn’t about charting new territory though - it’s about returning to the very roots that made the series so special in the first place. Before we get into the ramifications and what this game may mean for Zelda in general, here are some pros and cons.

Link navigating via merging into walls as a painting is both highly imagitive and drastically opens up new ways of solving puzzles and transvering Hyrule, breathing much needed life into Zelda's [intellectual side] cerebral side.
Excellent level design almost goes without saying. Nintendo has always excelled at level design.
-No farming for items. All usable items are manna-based, with a meter that regenerates over time. You never have to worry about running out of bombs or arrows again! (We so needed that in the original 1987 Zelda!
-Mini-games, including baseball (!!!) and chicken dodging
-Has a dual world setup (Hyrule and Lorule), like the original SNES game.


-Borrows the overworld map of its SNES predecessor almost to the pixel. For veterans of the series, this borrowing will be highly nostalgic, though others may complain they are just rehashing “Link to the Past”. One benefit of using the same map is that it helps provide continuity for a series renowned for how disconnected each game appears in relation to others. (In 2011, Nintendo finally published an official timeline in “Hyrule Historia”. Guess what! There are THREE SEPARATE OFFICIAL TIME LINES, and all three branch off from “Ocarina of Time”.)
-The story is pretty simple. While some may think that detracts from the overall experience, I am fine with a simplified story. Nintendo has never been about story, and when they do get tangled into in-depth story-telling, you end up with three timelines and soap opera disasters like “Metroid: Other M” which by the end you lose almost all respect for Samus. There’s a reason why they keep narrative out of Mario games (though to be fair, the Mario RPGs have some good stories).

-Visually feels little more than an upgrade to “Link to the Past”, rather than a distinct artistic style.
-The Overworld, while expansive in 1991, feels a little small by today’s standards.
-Lorule (as opposed to Hyrule) just sounds like an idiotic linguist pun. This is just a minor personal complaint though.

THE MORE PROBLEMATIC ELEMENTS OF MODERN ZELDA: It’s not a secret to everybody (to lightly misquote a certain Mobin) that Zelda has grown increasingly stagnant in recent years.

“Skyward Sword” is by far the most devise of the mainstream “Zelda” installments, even more so than initial responses to the art style of “Wind Waker” circa 2003. The more flawed elements of that game are all game design decisions that became codified in the sacrosanct “Ocarina of Time” and over the years finally met their logical conclusion in “Skyward Sword”.Eiji Anouma, the main overseer of the series, has even stated in post ‘Skyward Sword’ interviews that Nintendo is rethinking Zelda conventions in order to keep the series fresh and relevant due to lackluster response by players to recent titles.

Tevis Thompson has written a great, lengthy essay regarding the issues he believes is plaguing modern Zelda games. (The title is “Zelda Just Keeps Getting Worse. But It Isn't Beyond Saving”. It is well worth reading). Thompson is discussing “Skyward Sword”, the 2011 Wii game. “Skyward Sword” is by far the most devise of the mainstream “Zelda” installments, even more so than “Wind Waker”. While far too long to address Thompson point by point for an Amazon review, the essential summary of his complaints are three fold:

1. Zelda has gone from a vast, overworld experience to an increasingly narrowed, mechanical by rote design, rather than organic gameplay which invites multiple methods of play. Key quote: “Modern Zeldas do not offer worlds. They offer elaborate contraptions reskinned with a nature theme, a giant nest of interconnected locks.” Thompson describes “Skyward Sword” as a culmination of “reducing the world into a series of bottlenecks”. In other worlds, Zelda games have become so mechanical in nature that they have lot their sense of wonder and adventure and even (or perhaps especially) danger. The worlds also feel empty, a complaint I first voiced against “Ocarina of Time”. For all the grandeur of “Hyrule Field”, save for some Stalfos knights that appear after sunset and an occasional Peahat or too, it’s a pretty empty field. The sky in Skyward Sword is also notoriously void of any real exploratory content worth mentioning.

2. Lack of Difficulty. The two NES Zelda games (especially “The Adventure of Link”) can be brutal at times. Beginning with “A Link to the Past”, the difficulty of the Zelda franchise has been on a steep downward slope. Saturo Iwata, Nintendo’s President, has directly addressed this decrease in difficulty in Nintendo products.

3. No respect for the player. By design of bottle-neck environmental roadblocks (first heavily featured in “Zelda II”* and culminating in “Skyward Sword”), greatly reduced difficulty, and extemly intrusive “journey companions” that hold your hand every step of the way, Zelda feels more like a guided tour of Hyrule than a daring adventure with real danger at every turn. The puzzle elements have been greatly minimized due to constant direction.

RESTORING ADVENTURE TO ZELDA: “A Link Between Worlds” largely addresses Thompson’s concerns. These are the practical, concrete game play mechanics in which A Link Between Worlds” is reinvigorating Zelda.

-Death has consequences. When renting your items, you are able to keep said items for as long as you stay alive. However, if you die you lose your items.
-Challenge: Directly ties to the first point. The overworld isn’t the grandiose, but almost entirely devoid of enemies, Hyrule Field. Instead, there are well armored foes intent on killing Link and LOTS OF THEM. Likewise, the dungeon bosses are more difficult than we’ve seen in a long time. They take skill and cunning to beat as well as figuring out how to best exploit their weak spot. The dungeon enemies themselves are no pushover either.
-Enemies are used as boundary markers. From Thompson’s essay: “Link must be allowed to enter areas he's not ready for. He must be allowed to be defeated, not blocked, by the world and its inhabitants.” You can get into some areas that will push you to your max to escape alive, let alone in stunning victory.
-“A Link Between Worlds” returns to the open world feel of the original NES title, albeit in the confines of Hyrule as shown in “A Link to the Past”. Due to renting items, dungeons are largely (but not entirely) completeable in any order, rather than a pre-defined set path that must be followed at all costs.
-Item renting restores some of the wonder and adventure to the series, because this time around you are truly interested in the contents of treasure chests, knowing that they will hold something other than series trope items such as boomerangs, bows, etc.
-Fast Travelling: If you find yourself without necessary items for a dungeon, you can quickly get to the shop to get said item via warp points without excessive backtracking.
-No more “Hey, Listen!” For the first time in years, Link is on his own, left to figure out what he must do without constant rejoinders from the game helper of the week. To compensate, if you need assistance there is the very unintrusive Hint Glasses which are mentioned briefly and then never forced upon the player, or visiting fortune tellers, which is entirely at the player’s discretion. Just like the statue in the 1st palace of the Dark World where you must shoot an arrow in its eye to proceed or the backtracking in the Ice Palace, there will be moments you are left puzzling what to do.

WHAT “A LINK BETWEEN WORLDS” MEANS FOR THE ZELDA FRANCHISE: There are two main camps in Zelda Fandom: those who think “Ocarina of Time” is the best and those who think “Link to the Past” is best. While predictions are a dangerous venture at the best of times, “A Link Between Worlds” clearly indicates that Nintendo is not above radically rewriting conventions for one of its most successful IPs, returning them to earlier times. To return to the Metal Gear comparison with “Ground Zero”, “A Link Between Worlds” is laying the groundwork for the still unnamed (at the time of writing) Wii U Zelda game which we know is in development.

Appropriately enough for a series with three time lines, developmentally and in game design “A Link Between Worlds” has effectively ignored the last twenty years of its own franchise. Nintendo has returned to the original ethos and game philosophy of the first Zelda titles and have created an alternate point of development in which Aonuma has indicated he is fully intent upon pursuing. Anouma has confessed to never completing the original Zelda title and wanting to never make a game like that. Before this game, this attitude would explain why there is such a disconnect between the recent games and the trail-blazing originals.

When the game was first pitched to Miyamoto (before it was a “Link to the Past” sequel or even featured the painting), he declined, saying that it "sounds like an idea that's 20 years old!”. While the context is not exactly the same, Anouma and his team are finally returning to the hallmarks of Zelda that so captivated us in the first place (at least, gamers of my generation), returning to the older ideas of the series.

“A Link Between Worlds” is a course correction LONG OVER DUE, and if this game is any clear indication, not only have Anouma and his team learned from their mistakes with “Skyward Sword”, but are going all the way back to the very foundational elements of the series before “Ocarina”.

Aonuma has stated based on user feed back (now so readifuly plentiful via the Internet and Miiverse) that the new Wii U Zelda game will focus much more on the open-world feel so pioneered by the original NES classic that has been largely untouched by the series since then. Games such as the The Elder Scrolls and the Grand Theft Autos are more closely kin to the original “Zelda” than “Skyward Sword” If Anouma is to be believed, then the Wii U Zelda will be a reinvention of modern 3D Zelda titles. If Nintendo follows the direction established in “Link Between Worlds”, then the Wii U Zelda will be a grand reinvention indeed!

While Miyamoto is ultimately responsible for Zelda, the last fifteen years have largely been spearheaded by Anouma, and for the first time I feel that we are seeing how Nintendo would develop the series based on the original four games. We are returning to Miyamoto’s original vision for the series at long last!

*Whereas almost the entirety of Hyrule in “The Legend of Zelda” is open to the player, in each successive game the ability to explore became increasingly more and more confined either by necessity of the plot or that to progess to Dungeon 2, you must have an item from Dungeon 1, etc. Thompson points to “A Link to the Past” as the starting point of this mechanical trend in Zelda games (“Oh, there’s a wall with weird rocks. Use a bomb.”), which is not wholly accurate. While minimally present in the original NES game, “Zelda II” is the first game that really locked you into a defined order of dungeons and locked off worlds. While ‘Link to the Past’‘s Dark World dungeons are tremendously flexible in the order in which you complete them in “A Link to the Past”, there is absolutely no possible way for extensive sequence-breaking in “Zelda II”. Want to go to the Island Palace? You have to have the Faerie Spell, which can only be obtained by use of the hammer. Want to go to Maze Palace? Have to have the Raft from the Island Palace in order to cross over into eastern Hyrule. Want to go to the Sea Palace? Have to have the boots from the Maze Palace. To get into Three Rock Palace (or even access the southern portion of Hyrule in which that palace is located), you have to have the Flute from the Sea Palace to get by the River Devil guarding the bridge.
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on March 31, 2015
A Link Between Worlds is fantastic! One of the best games I’ve played.

-Gameplay is great! With its non-linear structure, A Link Between Worlds is a blast to play. There are many side-quests and additional challenges to undertake, which I very much enjoyed doing. The wall merging ability rocks!

-Well, it’s your typical Zelda plot structure, bit with a few twists and turns along the way. You’re Link, tasked with finding the seven sages and defeating Yuga, an insane art lover who’s turning everybody into paintings . . .

-The Graphics are crisp and clean. Animations are good, and cut-scenes are well done. The game runs at 60 FPS, which is a big plus for me. The 3D effect has been implemented very well, though I personally don't use it much.

-The music is very good and is also fully orchestrated. The orchestra can sound bland occasionally.

-I love it. Very polished and well done. Definitely worth your gaming time if you have a 3DS.

Gameplay - 5 out of 5
Story - 4.6 out of 5
Graphics - 4.8 out of 5
Music - 4.5 out out 5

My overall score - 4.8 out of 5
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This is NOT a simple remake. Don't expect it to be. What this game is better described as would be a nostalgic game set partly in the world that was made for Zelda (3) A Link to the Past. The overworld is similar but not carbon copy. Even some dungeons have slight similarities, but I feel this was for the sake of nostalgia and not any bit of laziness on Nintendo's part.

My biggest compliment to Nintendo? NO MORE STYLUS!!! If you played the previous DS Zelda games, you probably got sick of controlling the entire game with the stylus. In this game you use the circle pad to move and the D-pad moves the camera slightly.

The music is based on LTTP and Ocarina of Time (OOT) but it is slightly tweaked and improved. Control is amazingly fluid. Much improved over the old SNES and DS versions. It really feels like you have good control. You don't really stop on a dime, instead there is a bit of momentum. It makes the game tough at times because you WILL fall off ledges. And you do have a bit of bounce back if you strike things with your sword!

Other great changes/improvements? Well the fact that after the first big dungeon, the game is wide open (for the most part) is really interesting. You rent or buy the items such as the bow and mallet. It's expensive and you lose them if you rent them then die, but it makes for a decent challenge. Oh, and rupees are easier to find - but you still have to balance your budget! There is a lot of backtracking due to treasure chests and pieces of heart that require certain tools or multiple tools, but with the witchy warp system, it's a breeze.

Also with the item system - gone is the inventory of arrows and such. Instead you have a magic meter which depletes when you use tools (or turn into a painting - more on that in a sec!). It refills slowly, or with little magic vials found in jars.

The most interesting little facet of this game is the ability of Link to turn into a 2-D wall painting. It opens up a lot of areas and allows you to travel to Lorule - the reverse world (not the same as the dark world in LTTP). Magic slowly depletes when using this power, so you can run out of magic, pop out and fall to your demise. True story.

Speaking of story! A lot of game magazines said there isn't much story, but I would say that the story is on par with Ocarina. Not too fleshed out, just a little overview. Early on you are privy to a lot of the history and story line, and since the game is more or less non-linear, a bit more is filled in along the way. Interactions with other characters are quite fun and add a little comedy or drama. I won't spoil anything, but it seems that this game is set after LTTP since early on in the game, Impa tells you about the history of the last hero that sealed Ganon and found the Triforce of Courage. Again, nothing you don't know 5 minutes into the game.

I only have one little qualm and that is that the maps in dungeons are provided when you enter them. Of course you need the compass to see the chests, but also that makes it easier to find all of the hidden items.

Difficulty is variable. At times I feel I'm just powering along, other times I just get my rear end handed to me. All part of the more open nature of the game I guess. But with the open structure I felt that maybe a bit of a difficulty reading would help, something saying that particular dungeons would be tougher, so you might want more heart containers... Nitpicking though!

What Nintendo just did though was cement the fact that the 3DS is THE Nintendo system to buy - not Wii U - at least not yet. And if you own a 3DS (or 2DS) you MUST buy this game. It is the golden stamp on a terrific year for this system!
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VINE VOICEon November 26, 2013
Over 20 years ago, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past came out on the Super Nintendo. It has been hailed by several gamers as arguably the greatest Zelda title of them all (definitely the best of the 2D Zelda games, at least). Most everything about the core series formula was pretty much established in A Link to the Past. As such it's often seen as the most influential of the Zelda titles. For over two decades A Link to the Past has retained a cult following. For me personally, A Link to the Past was my personal favorite. So when I heard about A Link Between Worlds I was filled with joy and worry. It's the sequel to my favorite Zelda... and the potential for it not to live up to its predecessor was there. Luckily this isn't the case. Instead A Link Between Worlds is the best Zelda to be released in a long time.

Set years after A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds focuses on Yuga. A villain with the ability to turn the denizens of Hyrule into paintings. It's up to Link to stop this fiend, and to do so he'll first need to gather three pendants. It more or less borrows the formula from A Link to the Past. Once you've obtained these three pendants, you'll then need to do seven more dungeons in order to save Hyrule for good. This time going between two worlds. The world of Hyrule and the world of Lorule. As with A Link to the Past, you'll get the three pendants first and then go onto a bigger quest. Once you've conquered the first portion of the game, however, A Link Between Worlds turns you lose and you're free to explore as much (or as little) as you want. The seven proceeding dungeons can be tackled in any order you see fit. This level of freedom hasn't been seen since the first Zelda.

Make no mistake the dungeons themselves are challenging, with a lot of challenging puzzles. The approach A Link Between Worlds takes is slightly different than that of other Zelda titles. In previous games you often found the most helpful items within the dungeon you were currently exploring and then having to use said item constantly. Here, you'll rent items and hold onto them pretty much until you fall in battle. If you die you'll have to go and rent items again. If that doesn't work for you you will eventually be able to buy everything you need at a more expensive price and you'll have the ability to upgrade it. Some items are obtained by other means as well. Often partaking in a small side quest. The game is not always going to point this stuff out. This helps to let players truly explore the worlds of Hyrule and Lorule. Like the Light world and Dark world of A Link to the Past you'll also find yourself jumping between them constantly.

The dungeons are no cakewalk. The game itself is also no cakewalk. Many of the puzzles are challenging. Though there are hints the game is perfectly content to let you figure things out on your own. There aren't a lot of handholding tutorials or anything of the sort. A Link Between Worlds has little qualms cutting you loose and letting you figure out the dungeons and where to go on your own. And make no mistake, the game is challenging. If you're not ready to explore or to talk to ever denizen you meet it'll be easy to feel lost in A Link Between Worlds. There's definitely a classic Zelda feel here. The game rarely points you in any one direction. Not only that, there are plenty of things to do off the beaten path. There are always extra items to find, pieces of heart and mini-games to keep you busy for hours on end. Thanks to the heavily non-linear feel of the game you'll feel like the in game world is bigger than it actually is. But you'll rarely (if ever) feel like you're wasting time and when you uncover something new it always feels rewarding to do so. The player is free to tackle the game at their own pace. And should you ever get stuck, you can bet that there's an item you've missed that will allow you to explore the game deeper.

Perhaps the best part is that A Link Between Worlds is almost always surprising you. The dungeons themselves feel unique. No dungeon ever feels like the previous one. They all offer up their own unique challenges. Just when you think you fully understand everything there is to know about A Link Between Worlds it's willing to add on another layer that not only forces you to rethink that which you've learned, but to try different approaches to each new challenge. As I said, this is not a game that will hold your hand. And you'll probably fail quite a few times (it is most certainly not an easy game) but you'll always feel a sense of accomplishment and wonder as you traverse the game.

Graphically, A Link Between Worlds is a beautiful looking game. It retains the feeling of a A Link to the Past. The enemies themselves look familiar and so does the land of Hyrule. This isn't a sequel that takes the world it is in lightly. If you remember the layout of Hyrule in A Link to the Past the world pretty much looks the same here. It's been given a nice coat of paint. That's not to say there aren't new things to explore. It's only to say that it's truly a sequel. There's much more that'll pop out at you in Lorule. Either way, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Often times with a 3DS game I tend to put the 3D slider down. Many games don't have a reason to play in 3D. On rare occasions, however (such as Super Mario 3D Land) the 3D is worth cranking up. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is such a game. When you get a chance you'll want to explore some dungeons in 3D. It's not the gimmicky "pop-out," kind of 3D but rather the kind that lets you see more depth to the world around you. From a technical standpoint, there are few 3DS games that look this good and utilize the hardware this well. The soundtrack is even better. It remixes quite a bit from previous Zelda titles but has a lot of new things as well.

The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds beautifully recreates and enhances the best of the older Zelda games. You can explore without feeling like you're lost. You can meet any challenge without feeling like the game is leading you through it. But best of all, it's a rewarding experience all around. It's lengthy, filled with lots of things to do off the beaten path and will ultimately have you coming back for more. This is the best Zelda title to be released in a long time and any fan will be happy to enjoy it.
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on November 22, 2013
No matter what angle you look at it from, this is a special game. What started out as a 3DS remake of one of the greatest video games ever made, has quickly taken on a life of its own. Now, it's a spiritual successor/sequel to one of the greatest games of all time, something that fans have waited over 20 years for. If I'm not mistaken, it's also the first *traditionally-controlled*, top-down, 2-D Zelda game made exclusively by Nintendo since Link's Awakening (my 2nd favorite Zelda game). The big question, then, is can The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds stand up to the hyperbolic hype and expectations that it released to? To put it simply, yes, it absolutely can. I have a strong feeling this one will be up there in the consciousness of most gamers in the long term. Not only is ALBW a nostalgic throwback for fans of classic Zelda games, it is a huge step forward for the series and full of brand new, pretty groundbreaking changes to the traditional Zelda formula. I will try to be concise and avoid overlong exposition, but this will be a long, detailed review, as I want to be as informative and helpful as possible; you've been warned. As of 11/24, I've beaten the game, having been playing this ever since picking it up at a midnight release party, unable to put it down unless I had to because of adult responsibilities and blah blah blah. I can confidently say that this game gives Zelda fans a cause for rejoicing. This is a true masterpiece!

The story in ALBW may seem at first to be a retread of A Link to the Past. It takes place in Hyrule several generations after the events of ALttP. A new villain, named Yuga, has arrived on the scene. He plays a similar role to Agahnim from ALttP, turning the descendants of the seven sages into still paintings with his magic paintbrush staff, presumably with some nefarious purpose relating to Ganon. He himself can turn into a living painting as well. Very quickly, however, the story turns into something much bigger than you may expect. The Dark World concept returns in ALBW, but has been expanded to new depths. In fact, this game's Dark World feels much closer to the Twilight Realm from Twilight Princess, and especially Termina from Majora's Mask. This game's dark world is actually an alternate version of Link's world, with its own inverted Tri-force, a once brilliant but now forsaken kingdom named Lorule, and its own wise princess named Hilda. Of course, Link will set out to save both Hyrule and Lorule, and by the game's end, he will have met with many twists and turns, as well as encountered many interesting and likable characters. I absolutely love stories that incorporate alternate dimensions/worlds that have their own different version of the same characters, and ALBW uses that plot device to great effect, in my opinion.

The storytelling is exceptionally well done in this game, with cutscenes showcasing great writing and localization. New characters are really enjoyable, and the returning characters that are a staple of the series (Zelda, Impa, etc) all have interesting traits that make this game's version of them unique. Hilda is mysterious and has a cunning wisdom, which is a nice contrast to Zelda's warmth and sagely wisdom. As a villain, Yuga is a great balance between psychotic/creepy and silly. He is what you'd get if you put Lord Ghirahim, Agahnim, and Kefka into a pot and then threw in a dash of Ganondorf. Believe it or not, in terms of plot and the way the story unfolds, this felt more along the lines of the darker, moodier Twilight Princess and Majora's Mask, and I love it. The ending is incredible. If you're expecting "just another Zelda story," you'll be pleasantly surprised by how deep and interesting this one is.

The visuals are something that may polarize some folks. The gorgeous concept art looks like Skyward Sword's painterly style meeting the Oracle of Seasons/Ages design, but the actual in-game graphics looks more like A Link to the Past meets The Wind Waker. Character models have the "Toon" proportions of WW, whereas everything else, from scenery to character details, all has an undeniable LttP design. Personally, I think the game looks gorgeous (The Wind Waker is my personal favorite Zelda game). It's quite detailed in places and very colorful, and there's a ton of variety in the different locales. Rather than just being a recolor, Lorule actually looks quite different than Hyrule. Many landmarks are in the same place, but Lorule's version are almost always startlingly different and fresh, and I really enjoyed that. Dungeons all have unique designs as well. There's fantastic variety and attention to detail in this game visually. ALBW does an exceptional job of delivering that sense of discovery and adventure Zelda games are known for. It all runs at a smooth 60 fps too, which is great. When it comes to the 3-D visual effect, I didn't think I'd use it much with this game but I love it! As gimmicky as it may sound, the 3-D effect really makes it feel like you're getting a bird's eye view into a living, breathing world. The dungeons feature more vertical designs, full of things that utilize the 3-D in very cool ways. You'll see what I mean when you play. Overall, this is a splendidly beautiful game with many nods to Zelda's past and a meticulous attention to detail.

The audio is equally wonderful. Sound effects are very nostalgic, even down to the sound scrolling text makes. The biggest stand out with the sound, however, is the soundtrack. I don't know what it is about 3DS games having exceptional soundtracks, but ALBW is no exception. Many classic tunes get a huge overhaul and sound stupendous. Rather than be the more string symphony you'd expect from a Zelda game, there's quite a few brassy big band orchestra type songs, and I love it. Overall, though, the whimsical music sounds like it was played by a roaming band of skilled Minstrels, and I mean that in the best way possible. New songs fit in with the old perfectly and are just as good in their compositions. I LOVE Hilda's theme, and it stands proud alongside other great modern Zelda character themes like "Midna's Lament" and "Follow Fi." Overall, the soundtrack is absolutely amazing, maybe the best Zelda soundtrack in terms of pure composition bliss since Wind Waker.

The gameplay in ALBW can be divided into two categories: the nostalgic, traditional Zelda aspects, and the groundbreaking, new changes to the Zelda series' formula. Let's start with the traditional aspects first: The game undeniably feels like a true-to-form classical Zelda adventure. You'll be exploring a huge, fantastical world, with memorable temples and dungeons interspersed throughout. These temples are filled with unique, engaging puzzles centered around special items, with excellent (brand new) boss fights that are thrilling and challenging. You'll be going to various towns, meeting the memorable characters living in Hyrule/Lorule, and undertaking interesting side-quests. All of these core concepts in Zelda are intact and at the top of their game in ALBW. Much of the overworld in the game is very, very similar to ALttP. The temples are in the same locations, for example, but the temple/dungeons are brand new on the inside, as are their awesome bosses. Some features of the overworld are quite different as well. Treasure chests, pieces of heart, etc. are all in new locations. So while the overworld map may make the game feel more like a remake than a sequel at first, you'll find both Hyrule and the very different Lorule to be surprisingly fresh to adventure through. Again, this game feels like a true Zelda game, and all of the core aspects I've discussed here are wonderfully executed.

So what is different, you may ask? For one thing, all special items are available from the get-go via a shop run by a new character named Ravio. These items range from series' staples such as the bow and arrow, to new items never seen before but that fit the series perfectly. They're too expensive to buy early in the game, however, so you'll be forced to rent one item at a time until you acquire enough rupees to buy them outright. If you die with a rented item in your possession, it will merely reset and you'll have to go rent the item again. By the end of the game, you'll own every item. Under this system, rupees take on a much more important role. Whereas in past games, I rarely ever used my rupees for much, acruing massive amounts for Link's retirement instead, ALBW makes rupees a very valuable commodity indeed. I really like that. This new item system also means that the game is much less linear than past Zelda games. In theory, you can go to whatever temple you want in whatever order, as long as you know which item(s) will be needed for that dungeon so you can rent it. Some dungeons can't be accessed until you have multiple items, but the game features a very nice fast-travel system that alleviates any tedium and frustration from trying to enter a temple, only to find out you don't have the prerequisite gear yet. For the most part, I love this new item system. It allows for a lot of choice when playing the game, ditching the characteristic linearity past Zelda titles have had.

The biggest addition to Link's repertoire is the new ability of Link to become a living painting. At any point, you can go up to a wall, press A, and Link will go into the wall, depicted in a style very reminiscent of Wind Waker's prologue. This ability is really neat by itself, but the way the developers designed puzzles around it is nothing short of brilliant. This game features some of the most clever, mind-bending level/puzzle design for a Zelda game in years. No joke. There are so many great examples of that, but I don't want to spoil it, so I'll just leave it up to you to discover the ingenious examples of this for yourself. Even bosses require you to take full advantage of this ability, and it is so amazing! This painting ability is also the only way to transport between Hyrule and Lorule, by way of thin slivers of teleporation in various walls in the overworld. Needless to say, there have been many times I've been incredibly impressed by the plethora of ways the living-painting mechanic is utilized. You truly have to think outside the box and I really love that. The painting idea is fresh, it's engaging, and it's absolutely brilliant. Bravo Nintendo!

So the item-based system and the painting concept are the biggest new ideas in the game, but there are several others worth mentioning as well. All special items can be upgraded by finding and bringing the children of a massive squid-like alien (?) called Maiamai to their mama. Using this upgrade/collectible system, a bow that could shoot only one arrow can be upgraded to shoot three at once, for example. Very cool. It takes Skyward Sword's concept of upgrading gear to the next level. The streetpass feature in this game is amazing. When exchanging streetpass with someone who also has this game, their uniquely designed DARK LINK will appear in your world to fight you. Approach him and you can enter a battle with him. If you win, you'll win a certain number of rupees as a bounty. You get to design your own Dark Link for others to fight as well, determining which items he'll have when other players fight him. The better stocked a Dark Link is and the harder he is to beat, the bigger the bounty you'll win. I absolutely love this feature. It encourages people to use streetpass, and it does so in a meaningful way that doesn't feel at all like a gimmick. I love that.

So are there any issues with the game? Objectively, this game is about as close to perfect as they come, but there are some nitpicky things I noticed that I'll voice for the sake of objectivity. For one thing, the game is pretty short by modern Zelda standards. If you play this through for the story alone, it'll easily take you about 15-16 hours, and if you're a completionist, 20 at most. After playing for roughly 17.5 hours, I had done and seen everything in the game, every Maiamai found, every piece of heart discovered, every special item and upgrade acquired, etc. Is that a huge problem? Not really. After all, the original ALttP has a comparable amount of content, but ALBW is so fun, this amount of time flies by. Another issue I had was with totally unbalanced difficulty. Since the new item system allows you to tackle the dungeons in virtually any order, there can be a rather uneven experience when it comes to difficulty. When I played, I went from the incredibly easy early dungeons straight into a water temple that gives OoT's Water Temple a run for its money. Then I went to the equivalent of OoT's Spirit Temple, another challenging dungeon. After that, I went to a temple that was super easy by comparison. Granted, this isn't really a huge flaw, but I imagine a lot of people's first time playing this game will be somewhat chaotic because of that, so I figured I'd give you fair warning. Finally, one more nitpicky thing: Link's voice is kind of strange at first. At times it's deeper like a young man's voice, at others he sounds like a kid, and sometimes he almost sounds like a gremlin (lol). It took me a little while to get used to it, but I eventually warmed up to it and enjoyed it. It grew on me. Really, those are the only "complaints" I have with the game, and none of them are bullet points you'd use to knock the game's score down, but it is good to keep these things in mind so you can know what you're getting with the game.

All in all, this is a truly special Zelda game. While it is a very nostalgic experience full of nods to the legendary ALttP and several other Zelda games, I actually find the exciting new elements and design choices to be what makes ALBW such a special game. To play a Zelda game with such an overhauled item system with massively increased level of freedom and openness, the brilliantly conceived/executed painting idea, as well as a plethora of other unique elements, has been a genuine delight. I love the Legend of Zelda series, it is my favorite in all video games, but ALBW truly feels special. Its changes to the traditional Zelda formula ultimately are much better and more meaningful than the ones in Skyward Sword are, and truly makes me excited for the direction the series will go from here. So do I recommend it? Absolutely. I enjoyed the game so much that I couldn't put it down until I beat it once I started it (I did stop for food and sleep though, lol). After beating it for the first time, I wanted to jump right back in and start a new game, and that is incredibly rare for me to do. I've always been a 3-D Zelda guy (even though Link's Awakening is one of my favorite Zelda titles), but ALBW has seriously won me over and I'd place it in my top five Zelda games, easily. I'd even go so far as to say it is another flawless Zelda masterpiece that stands proud right alongside its 20-year-old legendary predecessor. So buy it, get ready for an awesome new adventure between worlds, and go save, not one, but two magical kingdoms in need of a true hero of courage!
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