The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past
Release: Out Now
The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is very much a game of two sides: Hyrule and Lorule, the 3D world and the 2D world, and those who are willing to engage with a new traditional Zelda and those who aren’t. In all honesty, when we first started playing, we were leaning a little bit towards the latter group. It’s easy to get a bit grumpy about things not quite being the same as A Link To The Past, seeing as it’s set in the same world, as many elements are just different enough to be noticeable and feel a bit off. When we got swallowed up by a Like Like, the bouncing animation was different.
Yes, it’s that level of petty, but we played A Link To The Past a lot.
But it wasn’t just minor things; the larger changes also at first seemed out of place. So we’re supposed to rent things now instead of find/trade/win them along the way? And all the items are available almost right from the start? What kind of hand-holding pandering is this? I can’t attack enemies properly, what’s with all this circling? It’s almost inevitable that it’s going to get compared unfavourably to A Link To The Past on account of these differences, but it really shouldn’t. A Link Between Worlds is just that: it’s not worse, it’s just different. As soon as we got over the fact that this is, despite initial appearances, a new Zelda with new mechanics, these annoyances just melted away.
Combat now requires a little more technical skill – such as using the hookshot to remove an enemy’s shield and stunning them before attacking – than it ever really did in A Link To The Past, where you could pretty much stand at the right angle and swipe your sword endlessly. The renting items aspect, while initially contentious, is a great way to make the world seem more open, and there is eventually the option to buy everything. To put it into perspective, we had bought everything in the shop by the fourth Lorule dungeon, making it feel much more quest-like. Though your rented items do return to the shop if you die, we died three times in our entire playthrough, and only once in a dungeon. It’s the sort of thing you do once and then you really don’t do it again, vowing to save more often.
The overworld of A Link Between Worlds is heart-warmingly familiar, while the dungeons are all refreshingly new. It’s clear that it’s been handled with real love; it would have been easy to slap in a few new textures and bosses and give us more of what we’ve already seen, but the dungeons have a brilliant range of puzzles, often working on multiple levels, with Link gaining the ability to become a painting and travel on a 2D plane. It adds a surprising level of depth to a dungeon, with ‘Oh! I can travel across that wall!’ moments striking frequently.
The only thing that really disappointed was the difficulty of the bosses. With renting equipment, Nintendo has realised it’s unfair to expect a difficult boss to suddenly come out of nowhere for you to try and fail against a number of times before you figure out what to do. So bosses are a little easy, when we would have preferred that trial and error element that Zelda often has of running through equipment. Bombs? No… Arrows? No… Aha! Lantern!
A Link Between Worlds will only ever punish you for not taking it seriously; running into a dungeon without a good range of equipment and a couple of bottled fairies, for example, or thinking you can just charge in without having saved in an hour. The world is still pretty linear up until the discovery of Lorule, and then it becomes a lot more open. We wish we’d stayed a little closer to home for our first dungeon, but again, it’s more like a real adventure to have the option of starting anywhere. Besides, it always plays fair; there are either signifiers outside the dungeon that show you what you need inside, or you won’t be able to get in at all without a particular tool. It’s classic Zelda in that respect, dungeons are still linked with a primary item, only now it isn’t just random items you handily acquired just before you happened to come across the appropriate dungeon, it’s ones you planned out first like a proper adventurer.
Another issue with two sides is the look of it. Again, we were wary at first, dismissing it unfairly as shiny and soulless in comparison to A Link To The Past, but like The Wind Waker, it’s an art style that grows on you. It allows for a lot more detail, homes feeling personal to the individual characters and adding to the immersion that’s so vital in returning to a place we know this well, while the 3D not only works but has been used brilliantly to explore layers within dungeons.
Aside from the main quest, there are loads of mini-games to play, upgrades to your equipment to find and lots of little creatures to discover, hidden throughout the world in inventive places. Also, getting all those heart containers will take you a good long while, and there’s a battle arena in Lorule for when you’ve racked up Rupees. So first impressions aren’t always accurate; we’re happy to say we were wrong about this one. A Link Between Worlds is a brilliant Zelda game, and worthy of its heritage.