Review: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
It seems that Nintendo are trying to keep us Zelda fans entertained while they work on the next big release, not that I am complaining! With the release of the recently re-mastered games like Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker and now A Link Between Words, will this updated classic still be a classic or will it be a game to put a shelf and forget about?
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the most recent revamp in the Zelda series by Nintendo for the 3DS. For many Zelda fans it seems that the first game in the series you play is most probably your favourite. I have my favourites just like everyone but I did not expect to like A Link Between Worlds as much as I did, with a great feeling of playfulness with a massive variety of puzzles and secrets to keep you entertained for around fifteen hours. Bringing older games into focus is a great thing as it lets us younger games play the games our older brothers, sister and even parents play and also rejuvenates the whole franchise ahead of whatever Nintendo has up its sleeve for the Wii U.
For the whole of the 27 years Zelda has been around we have seen many variations of our little blond hero, however, A Link Between Worlds has chosen the classic Link, giving him a bobbing quiff, a green tunic and brown boots instead of a Link tailored to the occasion. If you know Zelda games then you know the theme, Princess Zelda is kidnapped and an unlikely hero has to rise up and save the world of Hyrule. That is the case too here but it does not feel old and it feels good to know the same roots can lead to so many amazing stories, and as usual it all builds up to a very big ending, leaving you basking in this beautiful tale.
There is a lot to tell about the way A Link Between Worlds plays but I feel the best way to describe it is to just say that it is one of the best puzzle games that Nintendo has to offer. Not only are the puzzles fun, inviting and inventive but they are also challenging. For some puzzles I would have to stop playing for a few hours to let my mind work on what task as been set for me but there is nothing better than hearing the clicks in your head when you finally set everything right. I even managed to get a few strange looks from people after I had my little celebration as reward to besting a particularly hard puzzle. My favourite aspect of the challenging nature was how things were sometimes turned on their heads, for instance using darkness to unveil things you could not see in the light, making you think about what you had to do but how you could do it. Would you use the walls to get around unseen? Would you suss out the lever system? Or would you just go on a rampage?
I was surprised to find that instead of finding the special weapons in order as you progress through the dungeons, you can just rent them to use when you like, untying you from your set path and giving you room to run for as long as you like. That being said, if you die with rented items they are taken back and you are left to struggle through dungeons or fight through woods until you can go back and rent the items you need again.
After you have been a given a little leg room by being allowed to rent essential items you are free to roam until your heart is content. This may take a while as even though Hyrule has its barriers you do not feel contained, there is always something new to find in the wildness, tunnels or even small towns. Plus there is even Hyrule’s alter ego, Lorule, full of darkness and yet more puzzles. With so much room to explore in such a large area, it is a great thing that A Link Between Worlds comes with fast travel to get you around quickly. With all the puzzles, all the open land and all the treacherous dungeons you are left, more than once, almost begging for help. One of the many differences between A Link Between Worlds and most of the other Zelda games is the guide, there is no Navi, no Midna and there is no Fi. There is the Hint Ghost, found by the Hint Glasses in specific places to give you a little help but sometimes said help is just a little too general or a puzzle in itself. Without a guide to hold your hand through the trials and tribulations on these two worlds you actually feel like an adult, discovering the world for all its beauty and all its horrors instead of having someone to hold your hand and boss you around.
Every Zelda game has its own style and I have to say that A Link Between Worlds has one of my top looks; it is retro yet modern and has its own beautiful gleam to it. I felt like I was back sitting crossed legged in front of a huge TV staring up wide eyed at all the pixels. Hyrule is only made up of grass on top of dirt with the occasional water breaking things up but it is so much more, with beautiful volcanoes, vast dessert, extensive grasslands and dank swamps.
The use of 3D is brilliant as its effects can been seen even in the littlest of things but it is not too much. Even though Link is both 3D and 2D it is still great be see the transformation when the slider goes up and you are thrown into a world of depth and beauty.
To sum up
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a game to give long term fans a sense of pride and nostalgia to play. It has some of the best puzzles I have played, some of the best hours I have had exploring and some of the best level designs I have seen yet. With challenges to stump and rewards to thrill, I did not expect this game to make me as happy as I was, it was thrown straight to my top three Zelda games list.
Version reviewed: 3DS
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is out now on Nintendo 3DS.