Reviewed on: 3DS
Reviewed by Brady Ruiters
The Legend of Zelda series is a classic and very much like the first Mario games, in that it’s possibly one of the first game series ever played by people who grew up in the NES/Famicom era. Nearly 30 years since its inception, the series is still going strong. A spiritual successor of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the latest entry and does an amazing job at keeping the series alive and in the high ranks of video game history.
The story follows series protagonist, Link, a courageous boy who is tasked with saving Princess Zelda and the land of Hyrule after getting caught up in a series of events while performing a simple delivery. A sorcerer by the name of Yuga has some evil plans for the land and Link decides to stop him in his tracks. The story is interesting and will definitely keep the player hooked for long periods at a time. Unfortunately, while the plot is interesting enough, it still felt a little too familiar in its execution. However, the pacing is very good and things start getting exciting pretty early on.
Gameplay is viewed from a top-down perspective while playing like a hack and slash title. The top screen of the 3DS is the main screen where most of the action will take place while the bottoms screen will display the map, gear and items. The title plays really smoothly and is very easy to get into. Fans and newcomers alike will take to the gameplay very quickly. The game can also be very addictive, so much so that I had to force myself to put it down for a little while so that I could write this review. It’s just a pity that because of its addictiveness, players will end up immersed for prolonged periods at a time, resulting in the fun being over a little sooner than they expected.
The game is easy to get the hang of while still offering a suitable challenge most of the time. Enemies don’t scale as Link becomes more powerful so after the halfway point in the game, enemies are dispatched pretty easily. Clearing dungeons is a very big part of the game and each one has to be handled differently. Most of them require a specific item to be utilised throughout. Thanks to a particularly enthusiastic merchant in the game, these key items can now be rented for a small amount of Rupees, the in-game currency. The items can be bought as the game progresses but for the early stages of the title, item renting is convenient and gives the player more options as to which dungeon they’d like to tackle first. Renting items has a catch though; if Link falls in battle, those items are collected and taken back to the merchant, leaving the player in the dungeon without the necessary items for its completion. Backtracking to rent them again is costly and a little annoying. There’s also a benefit to buying the key items at some point and that’s because they can be upgraded once they’ve been purchased, making them so much more effective.
There is another downside to the item renting feature; previous Zelda games have given the player these items once they had cleared a dungeon and that feeling was rewarding. Because players can now get all the items so early on and without having to find them, it takes away that exciting feeling of obtaining a new item. Thankfully there are still a host of collectables to be found throughout the game and these can actually help the player on their quest as opposed to just being a distraction, so exploration is very important.
Puzzles have always been a big part of the series and this title is no different. Each dungeon has a set of puzzles that ultimately solve one big puzzle, which is opening the door to the dungeon’s boss. Even boss fights function as a sort of puzzle, with each one needing to be defeated in a certain way. After a certain point in the game, Link is actually able to transform into a painting by merging with nearly any wall. This really adds to the experience as it gives the puzzle more depth, making the player think just a little bit harder. The puzzle portions of the game are really well done and solving one always feels so satisfying.
Being able to turn into a 2D painting really adds a new dimension to gameplay. Even navigating certain areas will require the player to think outside of the box a little bit. Merging with walls also allows Link to slip through rifts in Hyrule, which will then transport him to Lorule, a sort of alternate version of the former. Lorule has its own set of enemies, dungeons and NPC’s. The two worlds are almost identical, save for a few geographical features.
Another good thing to report is that A Link Between Worlds is less “hand-holdy” than previous titles. Players are left to their own devices to solve the game’s many puzzles. There are ways to get hints in the game but I found that I never actually needed it.
Despite being displayed in a top-down perspective, the game looks great. Animations are smooth and some environments look like a visual upgrade from A Link to the Past while some of the new ones have been well designed. The game is also very colourful and it is simply a pleasure to look at. This is especially true when playing the game in 3D; it certainly is a feast for the eyes.
Audio is very much on par with the visuals. Sound effects of certain objects sound really good and really add to the experience. The soundtrack is comprised of remastered tracks from A Link to the Past in addition to some new tracks added specifically for this title. They work really well in delivering a score which actually makes you want to go out and have an adventure.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is an excellent game. It delivers a story that motivates the player to keep progressing but may come across as being just a tad too familiar and also just seems to be over a little too soon. Gameplay wise, this title is a treat. It’s very easy to get into and very hard to put down. Unfortunately enemies do become easier to dispatch after the halfway point because they don’t scale as Link gets stronger. Renting items is convenient in terms of options but takes away the feeling of finding a new item after clearing a dungeon and can be quite annoying when having to re-rent your items because Link fell in battle.
Visually, the game looks lovely. Animations are smooth, environments are a pleasure to explore and the game is just really nice to look at. Audio is also rather pleasurable and does especially well encouraging the player to enjoy their adventure in the game. A Link Between Worlds isn’t perfect but it certainly is a great addition to the series and possibly one of the best 3DS games to be released this year.