On November 22nd, 2013 Nintendo released 'The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.' Set in the familiar world from 'The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past,' this will be the first Zelda game made solely for the 3DS. 27 years into the series, Between Worlds does something amazing. This game will bring back warm, fuzzy memories to any Zelda fan. Despite the largely nostalgic feel it is an excellent, entertaining game, full of challenging puzzles, that rivals some of the best Zelda games out there.
In previous games items like the bows and boomerangs were obtained by crawling through dungeons and searching through the chests found there. Dungeons had to be played through in order, and the items obtained only through playing the next available area. A Link Between Worlds offers the items up at very nearly the beginning of the game. This small change allows the players to venture into whichever area they choose, granting a larger sense of freedom.
How Does It Look?
Unfortunately, Nintendos attempt to blend the appearance of the older games, that fans loved, with the new 3D-style graphics, is not as effective as one would hope. While it is nice to feel as if you are looking at a 3D version of A Link to the Past visually, the wonder does wear off. Between Worlds does make very good use of the 3D world, however. It is well integrated into the game.
Walk Like An Egyptian
The visual blending of the old 2D and new 3D is also very befitting in this particular game of the series because of Links ability to become a drawing on walls and move around them in 2D like a shadow. Constantly being able to switch from 3D Link to 2D drawing Link opens up a world of possibilities. This adds a huge strategic factor to solving puzzles and moving throughout the different dungeons of the game. Expect to find new ways to use this ability throughout the game.
Unfortunately, a lot has remained the same. The story, the setting, and Link himself are all very classically Zelda. There is not a whole lot here to set it apart from other games in the series. There have been some greats in the 27 years of Zelda games that offered up real personality. This particular addition to the series seems to be along the safe route, however. There is very little but nostalgia to appeal to the long-standing Zelda fan. Perhaps the developers thought they had to stay on the safer, already traveled path in these areas if they were to challenge the visuals?
Hyrule and Lorule
As mentioned in the name, A Link Between Worlds has two worlds to travel between. Hyrule has been the setting in many of the Zelda games. It is the land covered in areas like forests, mountains, deserts, and a variety of places to explore and adventure. This chapter of the series also includes Hyrules dark mirror, Lorule. This will remind experienced Zelda players of Link to the Pasts Dark World. Traveling from one dimension to the other adds more complexity and possibilities to solving the games many excellent puzzles. It also adds further to the sense of less linear freedom.
Some dungeons or secrets do require the use of specific items that the player may not have with them. Between Worlds differs from some other Zelda games in that the player can simply fast travel back to the store to purchase the needed item. No longer must we wait for the moment the game decides to give us the item.
The puzzles in Between Worlds will absolutely not disappoint any fan of any Nintendo game, period. The dungeons all have their own themes with their own ways to solve problems and challenges within. Some will seem familiar to the veteran Zelda players, but are made with fresh ideas and new ways to solve them. Some will be new to anyone who plays them in every way.
Unlike in other games of the series the challenges are just that, challenging. Help is not blatantly displayed around every corner. An item is given early on that allows the player to trade one 3DS Play Coin for hints, but it is only mentioned once in the beginning of the game.
Item renting is a new idea introduced in this game. Dying can strongly affect the course of the game. Die too many times, and the rented items are sent back to the store. This can leave the player in the middle of a dungeon without the items they were using to get out. Most dungeons can still be solved without the items, but it does require more mind power to solve the puzzles instead.
With dying being of more consequence, it is important to note that this game can and will kill even the most experienced Zelda players. It is not easy by any means. Dying in a dungeon results in starting at the entrance without having to redo any completed rooms or puzzles. Out in the world dying causes the player to have to redo anything done up to that point to get back to where they died.
This game could easily have cashed in on past success. Nintendo could have copied the winning recipe and made money. Instead, they took the chance to change it for the better. It is not a total revolution of the Zelda series, but it is an excellent start. The nostalgic visuals, breaking from the linear path, and the astounding puzzles make this a great beginning to a new and improved way to play The Legend of Zelda.