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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

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No matter how things change, some things always stay the same. The Zelda series, for all its continued innovations and original ideas in moving forward has always retained a comforting air of familiarity. The first new Zelda since Skyward Sword, A Link Between Worlds is actually a sequel to the revered SNES classic A Link to the Past. Does this new title manage to push the series forward in exciting new directions, or is it bogged down by dewy eyed nostalgia?

Thankfully, the game achieves the former with just a healthy dose of the latter. This game oozes innovation and a sense of freedom I’ve not felt since the first Zelda. Longtime fans will have a blast seeing what’s changed and what’s remained in this loving recreation of the SNES Hyrule while we also get to explore the entirely new world of Lorule. Both worlds are filled with fiendishly clever puzzles, moody dungeons and all manner of secrets and collectibles to keep the completists happy.

The story leaves a little to be desired, with your standard Zelda collect X amount of this then X amount of that quest. However, the game does have a truly surprising twist up its sleeve and is peppered with likeable and charming characters throughout. The most prominent of these is Ravio, the salesman who sets up shop in your gaff and is responsible for the games biggest shake up: The item rental system.

The rental system is designed to allow players the aforementioned freedom to move around as they wish. Technically, you could run off with all the items within the first few hours and buy them to keep soon after that-at a price. For the most part, this system works and being able to go anywhere and do anything after previous game’s increasingly restricting hand holding is truly liberating.

Sadly, stumping up the rupees to get all the items is far too easy and the idea that if you die, you lose any rented items just doesn’t work. This is because the game is really, very easy and with a few fairies you can blitz through without ever dying. The only incentive to buy the items and not just rent is so you can upgrade them later on.

What the game lacks in actual challenge from death by enemies, it makes up for with some of the series’ most ingenious puzzles. A lot of this is down to Link’s new ability to merge into a wall and become a painting, Paper Mario style. This system actually turns everything you know about Zelda on its head and more than a few times, I was staring at a chasm or conundrum for minutes, only to realize all I needed to do was jump into the wall.

Each dungeon has it’s own unique feel and atmospheric music. In fact, all the music in this game is outstanding, be it a remix of an old classic or a completely new score, your ears are always in for a treat.

Graphically, the game looks just OK. When you slide up the 3D, it really pops but if you’re playing on a 2DS don’t expect anything too special.

My biggest problem with A Link Between Worlds is that it just doesn’t go far enough with the changes it’s begun to implement. It’s as if Nintendo didn’t want to go any further in case it started to feel too different to what’s come before. Despite this, it’s a short, sharp, charming adventure that easily sits among the best of Zelda and is undisputably the finest of the handheld titles. If Nintendo take what they’ve started here and keep pushing, Zelda should be in very safe hands.

Why A Link Between Worlds Could Be the Best Zelda Yet

 

After seeing the awesome new trailer for Link Between Worlds, I was moved to download A Link to the Past from the Wii Shop and relive the 16 bit glory of one of my favorite Zelda titles.

This got me thinking about how the upcoming 3DS Zelda title has the potential to be something truly special. For a start, I realized what a powerful (perhaps even somewhat manipulative) tool nostalgia is.

For example, I think one of the reasons so many people cite Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal as their favorite gen is because of the nostalgia fueled return trip Kanto from the first game. Everything was very much the same but… different. There was a joy in traversing the familiar locales and spotting what had changed over time.

And so as I play through LTTP again (for probably the hundredth time) I breeze through because I know it like the back of my hand. I know every secret, every nook and every cranny in such detail that the chance to revisit that same over world, but slightly altered over the years excites me beyond measure. I suspect that I am not alone in this.

On top of this, we can no doubt expect dozens of references to LTTP, be it characters, items, dungeons or music. Anyone who played the SNES classic will doubtless be smitten just on the fact that LBW is a sequel.

Of course, trying to make a good gaming experience through nostalgia and references alone would not make for a satisfactory game. Fortunately, Link Between Worlds looks set to shake up the Zelda formula in the biggest way since, well, since A Link to the Past.

Not only does it have a completely new Dark World in Lorule (no one strained any brain cells at Nintendo there) to complement the familiar Hyrule, we have new items (always a standard but welcome addition to a new Zelda), intriguing new characters (hopefully, one of them won’t turn out to be Ganon).

But above all, what has me so excited about this new game is shake up of the age old Zelda formula; That you have to complete dungeons in a certain order. While I have never had a problem with the series’ formulaic approach, I will welcome this change with open arms, for the level of freedom and challenge this shake up will bring.

It’s for these reasons that I think A Link Between Worlds absolutely has the potential to be the best Zelda ever. While it promises to completely reinvent decades old aspects of the franchise, it also looks to have an unrivaled air of familiarity,ensuring that no matter how different things get, it will be unmistakably, The Legend of Zelda.