Saturday, 21 December 2013

Review: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

The Zelda franchise may not sell as well as Mario games do, but that's partly because the games are directed at a more hardcore audience. Where Mario is accessible and enjoyable to all ages, Zelda games are more intense (and arguably more violent) and require a different kind of attention. With the Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Nintendo is trying to attract a more well-rounded audience that skews to a younger crowd on the 3DS. In doing so, they have made a game that appeals to those familiar with the franchise and those just stepping in for the first time.
A sequel to 1992s "The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past", A Link Between Worlds presents a familiar world and yet introduces many new elements into the gameplay including 3D via the top screen of the 3DS. In various interviews, the creators have indicated that the game is certainly playable in 2D but many puzzles and elements are more easily dealt with when a true 3D perspective is used.

Having played the first game is not a prerequisite (which is also true of all other Zelda games) because the overall story carries many similar themes throughout the versions. Your character, Link, is the chosen one who must save the world from imminent danger. Princess Zelda must be saved somehow, and there are many dungeons for you to explore. Conquering each one results in an increased health meter and the acquisition of something that helps propel the story forward. Usually progressing through each dungeon results in you acquiring an item that must be used to defeat the boss at the end. Later bosses sometimes require the use of multiple items.

This is where A Link Between Worlds begins to differ from its predecessors. Ravio is a merchant that ends up setting up his shop at your home in the game, and allows you buy or rent virtually any item you might need in the game. Instead of having to work to acquire it, you simply rent it (at a lower cost) or purchase it (at a higher cost) and there you have it. The downside is that if you rent and die part way through the game (which you likely will), all rented items are returned to Ravio and you must rent them again. Purchased items, however, are yours for good but you can't even buy items until later in the storyline.

A downside to not acquiring an item in the dungeon where you might need it is that you might not know what to equip yourself with going in. Fortunately, the game helps out by leaving visual clues and sometimes even barriers to getting into areas that prevent you from going too far without being properly equipped. For example, some entrance ways might have larger wood stump areas you can walk or jump over. The hammer, however, will pound them into the ground. Once you realize this, you are good to go.

Another major new gameplay element that is evident by the marketing materials of the game is the ability to turn link into a 2D painting and merge with walls. By doing so, he can reach areas that were previously inaccessible and like most Zelda games this element is cleverly woven into the entire experience. There are spots where it's tricky and the timing is tight to get out of tough spots, but you'll appreciate this element as time goes on and wonder why they didn't have anything like it before.

The music, as usual, is amazing and you will hear a mixture of tunes you will remember and ones you likely have not. I recommend playing with headphones so you can truly experience the sound fidelity. It's also quite interesting to be playing the game normally, then turn into a painting and have the sound muted as you are flattened into a pancake. It's quite effective.

There are optional side quests and missions for you to perform should you choose to, and why wouldn't you? Having to finish this game is truly one of its weak points as it seems like it's over more quickly than you would like. Overall, this world is one you are not going to want to miss and I highly recommend it.

- Syd Bolton

The Good:
- A worthy sequel to one of the best video games of all time
- New gameplay elements work well and old elements feel refreshed and well executed
- A true Zelda experience in handheld form

The Bad:
- A little on the short side compared to other Zelda adventures
- Hardcore fans might think the rental / purchase system makes the game too easy

Score: 10 / 10

Syd Bolton surrounds himself in thousands of classic video games as Canada's top video game collector at the Personal Computer Museum ( in Brantford, Ontario, Canada.