January 15, 2014
To start off, it should be noted that whether or not you have played A Link To The Past will affect your feeling towards this latest title. You are still playing as Link (a brand new one this time) and the story is not reinventing the wheel in terms of originality, but does a good job at throwing in a few surprises. The first is that Link will have to save Hyrule as well as Lorule this time around. Hyrule is pretty much the same world from A Link To The Past, but Lorule is a brand new place to explore. So for anyone worried that it might just end up being a copy of the dark world have no reason to worry.
It is hard not to compare A Link Between Worlds and A Link To The Past because in many ways they have almost too much in common. While the game touts itself as a sequel, A Link Between Worlds comes off as more of a remake of the SNES classic that’s been put in 3D for the 3DS. Both games have the same overhead view, same world design, and even the same sound clips and this just furthers the similarities. While none of this will ruin the novelty for newcomers or people who missed out on A Link To The Past, people who remember the classic fondly might be disappointed in what this sequel really is after waiting 22 years.
While many of the recent Zelda titles have felt overly simple in terms of telling the player what to do and how to do it, A Link Between Worlds doesn’t mess around from the get go. As soon as you start your new game you will have a sword and be inside your first dungeon in the first 15 minutes. That may not sound like a big deal at first, but is a welcome change of pace that the series hopefully keeps.
Another new change to the Zelda formula is the order in which you decide to tackle the game’s dungeon, as well as what items you use. After your first dungeon, you can now not only pick which dungeon you would like to tackle, but also what items you have at your disposal. That is, if you can afford to rent them out from your new shop keeper/roommate Ravio. Ravio takes over your house and turns it into an item rental shop early on in the game. He allows you to rent any of your standard items you might find by simply going through a dungeon, but there is a catch. If you rent an item and lose all your life, all of your rented items go back to Ravio with no refund of your precious rupees.
You are able to save up your money and flat out just buy an item, but buying all of them will take time so you will find yourself renting items late into the game. The item rental method gives a great reason to actually collect large amounts of money because in past games the economy was worthless outside of a few special items. The game even plays a bit with the notion of risk/reward with the fact that you earn a lot more money in Lorule, but the enemies are stronger. Despite this, the default difficult level rarely leads to any moments of death for anyone familiar with these kind of Zelda games.
This may be seen as quite a big negative, as it feels as though Nintendo has continued to water down the whole Zelda experience. Throughout the game’s duration, it’s uncommon to see a game over screen and it highlights the real lack of challenge.
To digress, being able to tackle any of the game’s major dungeons in whatever order you choose is a positive for numerous reasons. For starters the game shows you the location of each dungeon, but Lorule is not as easy to explore as Hyrule. This will lead to you having to find the entrance to each dungeon, which is often hidden by interesting puzzles. Dungeons also feature some great new designs and that is all thanks to Link’s new ability to become a 2D painting on most walls. Most of the extra chests in each dungeon are found by discovering a new/secret area using your new found powers.
Use of this new 2D power is governed by a brand new stamina meter, but this meter is also tied into every item now as well. It means there’s no more hunting for larger bags or magic potions because the stamina meter is used for every item. So the more stamina you have, the more bombs you can place and when you’re empty, you just wait for the bar to refill.
Coming back to a Hyrule you may have grown up with is a hard thing to improve upon, but the level designers at Nintendo deserve some credit for their achievements. The amount of detail hidden away in every level of Hyrule and Lorule is impressive and how it works with the 3D models is even more so. It is also great to see the introduction of a brand new art style to the Zelda series.
Music has always been something Zelda is known for and with this title, we get to experience a fully orchestrated score on a handheld system for the first time. These orchestrated songs range from brand new compositions to remastered pieces that appeared in A Link To The Past. It’s great to listen to, but it’s a shame there aren’t more original pieces. The remastered tracks are great, but we’ve heard them all before.
A Link Between Worlds does a good job on delivering a great Zelda experience in a new way. The only problem is the fact that roots to A Link To The Past almost seem to hold back A Link Between World’s true potential. However, if you have never played A Link To The Past and start with A Link Between Worlds you might just get more out of this title. The game rarely seems to challenge the player in normal mode and it is a bit on the short side for a Zelda title, but despite this, it still turns out to be solid entry into the franchise.