A Link to Awesome! Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review
For me personally A Link Between Worlds had a lot to live up to. It is essentially a sequel to A Link to the Past (despite being a couple of hundreds year further into the timeline) and promised to bring players back into the world of that early SNES game. For me A Link to the Past is very important in my Zelda fandom, as it is the very first Zelda game I ever played sparking my love for the series that has lasted for well over 10 years now, and still holds the coveted Number 2 position on my favourite Zelda games of all time. So it’s understandable that A Link Between Worlds would naturally spark a lot of excitement and hope in me for a return to that magical game and of course the question is: did it live up to these very high expectations.
In short: yes. In slightly longer: It went above and beyond.
Immediately starting up Zelda and beginning a new game, and as what seems to be a common place in many Zelda games, having Link wake up in bed already gave a spark of excitement. Waking up in the same house as a Link to the Past was even better. Straight off the bat the world is immediately and lovingly recreated to some of even the smallest details from A Link to the Past, immediately calling upon memories from the past (get it?) and the love for both the SNES classic and this 3DS title is apparent. The graphical style is highly reminiscent of LttP but lovingly rendered in the 3DS grade graphics and I loved exploring every part of this world and its dungeons.
The gameplay and controls in LBW is again almost identical to LttP with slight adjustments to obviously account for the 3DS abilities, such as using the joystick to move in all directions as opposed to only the D-Pad for 4 directions. Items are accessed by a quick touch on the screen and you can either drag the items to your desired button with the stylus or simply move over the item and hit the appropriate button. Even fighting rings true to the original and many enemies are lovingly recreated along with a few new ones. A small but somewhat significant change is the save mechanic as you now save ala Skyward Sword style by locating many weather vanes (in both the Hyrule and Lorule, the alternate world) instead of just going into the menu as the classic games did.
A major change is the new stamina gauge which pretty much runs for everything. Instead of having to gather up bombs and arrows, and gather precious magic jars to keep your magic meter full, everything now runs on a stamina gauge that lowers whenever you use any of your items or equipment and just takes time to recharge. This comes in handy for the special and exclusive ability in the game which is to phase into the wall and become a moving painting. It is a fun and welcome addition to the game and is effectively used all throughout the game in dungeons and in the world in interesting and fun ways.
The biggest and most significant change in the game is the item system. Replacing the usual system of unlocking and finding items in dungeons as you progress through the game, instead all items (bar a small few) can be rented and eventually bought through a character called Ravio, who takes up shop in Link’s house. Rental means if you die the items will be taken back but you can return the items when you don’t need them or buy them (usually for a much larger and heftier price) so you never lose them. What this means though is depending on what you hire, you can choose to tackle the dungeons in any order you like. Some dungeons require specific items to beat while others don’t have a requirement, though certain items like bombs and the bow are always good to have. It brings a whole new sense of freedom to the game instead of past games where you have a specific order, however partial that is needed to follow.
Storywise the game still excels but for me is probably the games only weak point purely because of its blaring and almost identical similarity to LttP. The story as always requires Link to save Hyrule and Princess Zelda, this time from the evil Yuga (Ganon may turn up as well but who didn’t see that coming) as well as saving Lorule, which serves as the alternate world in this game. Just like the classic LttP though, LBW requires you to complete 3 dungeons before discovering the alternate world (The Dark World in LttP and Lorule in LBW) where it is then required to complete 7 more dungeons before taking on the final one. The story isn’t bad by any means and I enjoyed myself every step of the way, however I kind of wished it had changed up the formula a bit in terms of how many dungeons and how many were needed to beat the game or even how many are in each world.
LBW has also had to fend issues of being too easy and unfortunately it is certainly easier than many Zelda titles, though it is understandable why. By allowing players to handle the dungeons in any order they want, it was difficult to give any sense of progression and gradual difficulty throughout the game. Certain dungeons certainly seemed somewhat more difficult than others but that may have been more from my own personal ability than any actual progression. All dungeons regardless of difficulty look beautiful and are very cleverly designed and use the levels the 3DS gives to great effect, but I missed the gradual rise in difficulty despite the fun of choosing which dungeon I handle next. Luckily the final dungeon raises the bar significantly and will create a fantastic challenge for all, especially the boss fight which uses the wall phase mechanic to amazing effect. Despite this the dungeons and game itself is still a good challenge and the Hero Mode which can be accessed after beating the game once will provide an extra challenge for future playthroughs.
As always there are many Heart Pieces to collect all throughout the world in different challenging ways to get to that coveted 20 full hearts as well as the Maiamai children, the collection of which go towards the upgrade of any weapons you own. So after this very long review and discussion, what does Zelda: A Link Between Worlds rate as? Well it comes in at a final (DRUM ROLL)….
9 out of 10
A Link Between Worlds is one of the greatest Zelda games I have ever played and is a more than a worthy entry into the series. It has secured its place as my 3rd all time favourite Zelda game (pushing Wind Waker out of the top 5, SCANDEL!) and after I play through it numerous more times I will decide if it is indeed better than A Link to the Past! With the talk that Zelda U will as well try to change and reinvent the Zelda formula, A Link Between Worlds has left me excited for this incredible franchise more than ever before.
by Shadow Vanguard
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