A Link Between Worlds was announced rather unexpectedly last summer, as Nintendo showed of a line up of 3DS title after 3DS title. As much as it was a surprise, it was certainly welcome, with Skyward Sword not getting the same scores or sales numbers of Zelda titles of the past Nintendo needed a hit to ensure that Zelda was still known and remembered for being one of the best action/adventure games of all time.
You start A Link Between Worlds in Links house, just the same as the original A Link To the Past. Having slept in and late for work, a friend comes in and wakes you up, setting you on course to get to the blacksmiths house as you (Link) are his apprentice. From here, you are set with delivering a new sword to a knight at the sanctuary, where your true adventure will start. It’s at the sanctuary that a new villain is found, someone who is imprisoning seemingly ordinary people in the world in paintings, making them 2D and not able to move. It’s here that you are able to use the sword you were tasked with delivering, and its here that the adventure truly starts.
You’re able to explore most of the world of Hyrule from the offset as soon as you get the sword, with only a few areas being locked until you receive the appropriate item to bypass the obstacles in your path. Link doesn’t level up, but you can find rupees and items in the world before progressing through the story and going to hyrule castle to meet Princess Zelda.
The Land of Hyrule is fantastically detailed, with Nintendo easily toying with your nostalgia of the original by making most things the same, but others tweaked for better replayability and interaction. Dungeons are similar, whilst also taking advantage of your new unique abilities and items to give a interesting puzzle to pass. The world feels alive at the start of the game, but as it progresses you’ll start to get the same conversations happening time and time again. It feels fantastic when you find a new secret or person to talk to after accidentally wondering down a new path that you haven’t seen before.
Like the previous Zelda for the Snes, you’re able to travel between two worlds, one which is lovely and normal (Hyrule), and another that is destroyed and the opposite of Hyrule: Lorule. You travel to this new location by using one of Link’s new control mechanics, which turns Link 2D against any flat walls or surfaces as a drawing/painting. This allows you to navigate pass boulders or enemies without getting hurt, or allows or very clever puzzles.
Lorule is like the dark parts of a Link to the Past, and takes all the enemies that were easy to kill, making them stronger and harder to beat. Lorule is also hard to navigate, with huge swaths of land missing so you have to teleport between worlds in order to get the the correct location. It makes navigating a puzzle in itself, which certainly adds extra hours of gameplay to your experience.
One of the biggest talking points of A Link Between Worlds was the way you got your new equipment. Traditionally, you’d have to navigate dungeons and defeat bosses in a set pattern, always giving you new equipment which helps you unlock the next dungeon along your quest. (E.g. in one dungeon you’ll unlock the ability to throw bombs, then the next dungeon will require this to enter the dungeon itself, allowing nintendo to set you down a one way path through completing the game). In a Link Between Worlds though, you have access to almost all of the equipment throughout the whole game from the offset, for a small fee of renting the items. You keep these items until the next time you die or fall, meaning you could potentially never have to buy out the items throughout the whole campaign. It’s certainly a nice feature, and makes the game more accessible to those who haven’t played Zelda games before, but not a feature I’d recommend for hardcore players, as items that are bought can then be upgraded to become more powerful and devastating to enemies. To also buck trends in this long running franchise, Nintendo have also allowed you to upgrade the master sword, something that has never been done before. By the end of the game, I was killing most enemies in one hit, and felt truly over-powered.
A Link Between Worlds is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in recent memory. Nintendo managed to take my nostalgia for the original, put it into a machine, mess around with it, and spit it back out shinier than ever. Everything in the game feels refreshingly original, whilst you know it’s all based on a template so tried and tested. I played the game to completion, collecting every collectible in the game and upgrading everything I possibly could, just to treasure every moment I could. Nintendo has made yet another classic, and you owe it to yourself to play it. I look forward to the next time I start this adventure again.