I’ve got to admit up front, I’m a sucker for the original overhead view style of game play. A Link to the Past is still my favorite Zelda title of all time… so, going in to my review of A Link Between Worlds, I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy the game a lot. Thankfully, I was right. A Link Between Worlds takes place in the same world as A Link To The Past, but let’s not get side-tracked trying to wade through the myriad worlds of the Zelda-verse, because we’ll be stuck here all day.
A Link Between Worlds begins as so many Zelda games before it: A young Link wakes up from a nap, and in this case is horribly late for his job at the blacksmith’s. We arrive and get berated for our laziness, and then are sent out to deliver the newly forged sword for the captain of the palace guard (how convenient!). I don’t want to give away too much of the story, as this is definitely a game you should take the time to enjoy yourself, but needless to say, it’s at this point that things go horribly wrong. Naturally, young Link is once again forced to take on the heavy mantle of “The Great Hero.” which has been thrust on him so many, many times before.
A Link Between Worlds doesn’t quite reach the level of ingenuity that Phantom Hourglass did (the first Zelda game on the original DS, if you’re not familiar) in terms of puzzles and incorporating the unique controls and hardware of the system, but it is a great game with a lot of interesting and tricky puzzles. If you’re a Zelda veteran, it won’t have you scratching your head for days—in fact, none of the puzzles really gave me more than a few moments pause. Even the bosses and battles are relatively easy once you have the right gear… but despite the lack of difficulty, I found myself enjoying the game immensely. There is a lot to do in the main game story, as well as many optional side quests to explore in the fairly large game world.
It plays like a traditional top-down Zelda game. If you’re familiar with the series, all the tropes are here (which isn’t a bad thing), along with quite a few new twists. The controls are responsive and I never felt frustrated from not being able to get Link to do what I wanted him to do on screen. The game follows the traditional method of a number of dungeons that need to be cleared in order to progress in the story. In some cases, you need to gain access to certain equipment before being able to access particular dungeons, though unlike previous Zelda games, the required progression to gain these items isn’t as linear in A Link Between Worlds. For the most part, it’s pretty free-form in terms of the order in which you need to clear the dungeons.
The ability to fast travel between locations you have previously visited mostly saves you from any needless back-tracking as well, which was definitely a relief. One complaint that commonly gets leveled against first party Nintendo titles is that they tend to stick to the tried and true (but sometimes tired) formula they always have. A Link Between Worlds feels like the perfect mix of “how it’s always been” plus innovations that enhance the game rather than hinder it. For example, the majority of items are now rented (or bought) from a vendor rather than found on your journeys, letting you tackle the world in the order you want to… for the most part. What’s the difference between a rented item and a purchased item, other than a whole lot of Rupees, you ask? Well, when you die, any rented items are returned to the shop and need to be rented again, whereas purchased items stick with you. There is also a clever optional item upgrade mechanic that is a nice side diversion while you travel throughout Hyrule.
Graphics and Sound:
A link between worlds is beautiful on the 3DS, and while I typically don’t like to play my games in 3D, the 3D implementation for the game is really well done. You can also expect the small touches that really add polish a game most of us have come to expect from a first party Nintendo title. They’ve found the prefect balance from the nostalgia inducing graphics many of us remember from A Link to the Past and the capabilities of the 3DS platform (including 3D!)
I thoroughly enjoyed A Link Between Worlds, and it is a MUST play for anyone who considers themselves a Zelda fan. Even if you aren’t a fan, this is a game that you can play and enjoy without having a deep knowledge of what’s come before. So, if you’re a Zelda fan, go out and buy this now if you haven’t already, and if you’re not a Zelda fan, but looking for a game that you will enjoy, this is it.