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Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: Review
My favorite game in the world is Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. That may make this review biased in a few ways. Because A Link Between Worlds is a direct sequel to my favorite game that was released over 20 years after it's prequel, I could be colored by nostalgia. This could cause me to sing it's praises because it pays homage to fuzzy childhood memories, or to hate it with every fiber of my being for the most minute of changes. It is difficult for someone who harbors as much love for A Link to the Past as I do to remain neutral when discussing a new game that has been building up in my head since my childhood. Please keep that in mind when reading my review, as I will try my best to prevent bias, but I don't think that it is completely possible. Consider this introductory paragraph similar to the practice journalists have when writing about a project completed by a loved one. I have a personal relationship with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Now, onto the meat of the review.
We all know that every few generations, roughly every 300 years, the evil sorcerer Gannondorf Dragmire has a window of opportunity to escape from the Sacred Realm/Dark World and seek revenge on the people who trapped him there: Princess Zelda Hyrule and the courageous but often low-status Link. Ever since Gannondorf originally touched the triforce, and was judged unworthy of it's full power, the bloodlines of these three individuals have become, well... linked. The goddesses will grant any person who touches the triforce their greatest wish, but only if it is benevolent. Gannondorf touched the triforce with anger in his heart, and as a result, was granted only access to the triforce of power. The others were split; with the triforce of wisdom bestowed upon Princess Zelda, and the triforce of courage bestowed upon Link. In A Link to the Past, Link defeats Gannondorf, and restores the triforce to full power, before touching it; and with his greatest desire being a pure drive to restore the kingdom of Hyrule and all it's occupants to happiness, the triforce granted his wish. The credits rolled.
A Link Between Worlds picks up a few generations after the events of that game, when the link between the “light word” of Hyrule and the “dark world” of Lorule became strong once again. With the barrier weakened, the wizard Yuga took advantage of the situation and invaded the peaceful land of Hyrule. He created a dimensional rift in Lorule castle, and tried to hunt down the current bearers of the triforce, as well as the descendants of the sages who imprisoned, and eventually lead to the death of, Gannondorf. It is never stated in-game, but these actions lead me to believe that Yuga is a descendant of Gannondorf, because he didn't really need the sages to find the triforce, that seems like an act of revenge. He used a magic staff to trap everyone he caught inside a 2-dimensional painting; including Link. However, through the intervention of the Triforce of courage, this curse became a blessing, allowing Link to slip in and out of the second dimension, allowing him to travel along any flat surface, like walls or shields, for a limited time. Link must set out to save the sages and keep Yuga from finding the triforce. It's never really stated what he'll wish for, beyond a vague mention of “remaking Lorule in his image”, but you just know that someone like that isn't going to wish for anything overwhelmingly positive.
When you pick up your 3DS, it's almost as if you've been transported back in time. This game plays exactly like it's predecessor, with a few additions, and most of the additions are positive. The controls are intuitive, and the game makes excellent use of the 3DS's three-dimensional capabilities. However, to simulate playing it on a 2DS, I did turn the 3D capabilities off several times to see if the gameplay changed dramatically, and I'm pleased to say it did not. However, when playing in 2D it does become a bit more difficult in multi-level dungeons to tell what level certain gameplay elements are, but honestly, I think that's just because I was used to playing in 3D, and my brain didn't adjust well to the switch. I changed over in the middle of a dungeon and spent a good 10 seconds slicing at a Keese flying around a floor below me, like an idiot.
The ability to merge into the wall to reach new areas or avoid enemies was a huge improvement. It added a new dimension to the gameplay that forced the player to think more in depth about their environment than in A Link to the Past. Merging into a wall would rotate the world around you, forcing you to think four dimensionally (remember that I said this ability was only able to be used for a finite amount of time) and was a necessary element for several of the game's puzzles.
Like all Zelda games, A Link Between Worlds also boasted a number of minigames with glorious prizes, like heart pieces, weapon upgrades or cold, hard cash. The game can be completed by just going to dungeon after dungeon, but both dimensions are really flushed out if the player takes the time to interact with NPCs and complete the minigames and sidequests. If you're a completionist or achievement hunter, there are tons of things to keep you occupied outside the main story.
But there was something that annoyed me to no end. In most Zelda games, you are awarded an item inside a dungeon, and that item is what the dungeon is focused around. If you have a dungeon where everything needs to be blown up, somewhere in that dungeon you'll find a bag full of bombs. If you have a dungeon where switches need to be flipped from across the room, or where the boss is defeated by long-range combat, you'll find a bow and a quiver of arrows in a chest, somewhere in that dungeon. That's how the games are supposed to work. It's a gameplay element that I like, and it gives the player a sense of pride when they find that big chest, and the “da-da-da-ding; you got that thing!” music plays. In fact, it's such a pick-me-p that if you were to send me a text message on my phone- I would hear that sound to let me know that someone I like has sent me something good. That's how central that aspect of the game is to me.
In this game, there's none of that. Instead, you buy your items from Ravio; a man in a bunny suit who claims to be a traveling merchant. That's it. You hand over the money, he hands over the item. No epic quest, no dungeon, none of that. You go to a store. Why? Why would they change something like that? You have the option to rent the items as well, but Ravio tells you that if you die, he will reclaim them and you'll have to rent them over again. As intuitive as the gameplay is, it's possible to play the entire game without dying once, but it's still a ridiculous gameplay mechanic. Every Zelda game has one part where you need to do something that costs a ton of money, causing you to run around, mowing down bushes and breaking pots for extra cash- and we as a gamer community have decided to grudgingly accept that tiny taste of realism in the world's best gaming franchise, but we also universally acknowledge that it is the WORST PART OF THE GAME. Why would you take the worst part of a great game and expand it? It makes no sense.
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Even with that negativity, A Link Between Worlds is an excellent game, even by Zelda standards. It's easily one of the best titles I've played for the 3DS, and the only original Zelda title in a sea of remakes. It has a lot of unique elements, and harbors the return of some classic Zelda things that you wouldn't necessarily expect (like a Hero Mode after beating the original difficulty). It has hours upon hours of content, and two worlds to explore. If you were a fan of the original A Link to the Past you don't have to worry that the creators might have killed your nostalgia. Everything that you love is still there, it's just prettier with added elements. Now, get out there and save Hyrule.
© 2015 blargablarga