Medium: 3DS Game Card/Digital
Nintendo really excels at tugging on the nostalgic heart-strings of their fans. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is certainly one of those occasions. Its ability to flawlessly echo my original love of the Super Nintendo classic A Link to the Past is pretty extraordinary, because there are very few games that I remember as fondly as Link’s 16-bit adventure.
Just like the SNES classic, A Link Between Worlds approaches gameplay from a top-down perspective, complete with an overworld map of Hyrule that nearly mirrors A Link to the Past. You’ll guide Link through a series of dungeons spread across Hyrule and the new dark doppelganger world of Lorule, taking on a mixture of enemies, bosses, and puzzles in an attempt to thwart a new form of evil.
All of this may sound pretty formulaic for the series, but there are certainly some significant changes in store for fans with A Link Between Worlds. The biggest, and most publicized, is the overhaul of the weapon and item system that’s remained pretty much the same since the NES original. This time out, instead of discovering items like the Boomerang and Hookshot while exploring dungeons, you’ll be able to either purchase or rent these items outright.
A new vendor, dubbed Ravio, will allow Link to select from a host of tools from a pretty early point in the game. Getting access to these items early on makes for a more exciting adventure, allowing you the option to tackle most dungeons in whatever order you choose. It also makes discovering the various secrets inhabiting both overworld locations feel like less of a chore to uncover, as you’ll rarely be stuck at an impasse due to being ill-equipped.
Another big bonus here is the use of a fast-travel system, which makes access between Ravio’s shop and the various locations on the overworld maps a breeze to move between. Even if you opt to only rent or buy a few items at a time, you’ll only need to spend a few minutes of travel time back and forth to pick up the item you need within a particular dungeon. It’s also completely viable to go everywhere with all available items, as the rental prices are cheap enough, and rubies plentiful enough, that even losing access to those items at death isn’t a huge pitfall. Buying items can be a bit of a money-sink, but you’ll be swimming in cash without any wallet size restrictions found in previous Zelda titles.
The best thing about the new item system has to be the way it impacts the design of the different dungeons. There’s roughly 11 significant dungeons found in A Link Between Worlds, and while some offer up familiar themes for series fans (Water, Ice, Fire) there’s a lot of new locales and concepts throughout. Not having to locate a particular tool or weapon within a dungeon allows the design to adopt tool specific puzzles right from the start, giving the dungeons a more compact design perfect for portable play while avoiding filler rooms with single switches or a simple locked door to overcome.
The soundtrack to A Link Between Worlds is also pretty exceptional, even for the series. The remixed overworld themes for both Hyrule and Lorule are excellent representations of previous soundtracks, and there’s plenty of new material scattered across the various dungeons that will become instant classics for most. I’ll say that I wasn’t entirely sold on the visual style of the game through screenshots and video, but having spent an extensive amount of hands on time with the title now, the 3D character models really grew on me. The game has a very distinct visual style that might not appeal to everyone, but even if it’s not a look you find appealing, I’d highly urge you to not stay away from this for that reason alone.
Essentially everything about The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a step in the right direction for the series. Fans have been clamoring for some changes for a number of years, and it’s great to see Nintendo start to implement some new ideas that really seems to breathe new life into the franchise without abandoning the series identity. I also enjoyed the fact that despite being a lengthy adventure, the game is really tailored around the quick pick up and play style that benefits a handheld experience.
While 11/22 is a pretty stacked day for releases in the world of video games, the first title I’d suggest tearing the cellophane off of would definitely be this one. It’s easily the best original Legend of Zelda release since the N64 days, and I think you’ll find it’s something you don’t want to miss.