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New Zelda adventure offers worlds of fun

Dec 10, 2013

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between WorldsWith The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Nintendo has created a game in the acclaimed series that may not be perfect, but is a perfect fit for the 3DS. It lightly treads outside of the typical Legend of Zelda tropes, while still very much offering enough fan service to keep series devotees plenty happy.

A Link Between Worlds is, for all intents and purposes, a spiritual successor to the Super NES masterpiece A Link to the Past. Both games are set in the same world, both look very similar, and both share key gameplay elements, not the least of which is the ability to travel between two different versions of Hyrule.

Anyone who played the 1991 SNES game will be instantly familiar with the plot of A Link Between Worlds. It involves Princess Zelda being held captive and the hero in green clothing being called upon to free seven sages and defeat Ganon.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between WorldsWhere A Link Between Worlds sets itself apart is in Link's new ability to change himself into a painting and travel along walls throughout Hyrule and the dark world known as Lorule. In fact, this is also how he travels between the two worlds, as he can fit himself into cracks found throughout the map that serve as portals.

Every Zelda game has its own unique twist, and the ability to change into a painting - and all the possibilities for puzzles this opens up - is one that Nintendo clearly had a lot of fun with.

There are two other big changes for the series in A Link Between Worlds - the ability to rent out key items, and the opportunity to tackle dungeons in any order the player chooses. These changes actually aren't nearly as significant as you might expect, but they prove Nintendo is at least somewhat willing to alter the series' formula. It's a formula that was very much showing its age in the last two original handheld Zelda games, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.

In most Zelda titles, you travel to a dungeon, find an item such as a bow, grappling hook, or lantern, and claim victory over a boss by using said item. In A Link Between Worlds, virtually every item becomes available early on via a rental store that's set up in your house. You can rent everything for cheap, and keep it all for as long as you're alive, but the moment you fall in battle, everything you've rented goes back to the store.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between WorldsItems can eventually be bought - and kept indefinitely - for a lot more rupees. At first I felt like this new money-based way of acquiring things cheapened the Zelda experience, but I quickly realized that there are still plenty of other important items to be found in just about every dungeon. The challenge is still there, but it's presented in a slightly different way.

The way dungeons are set up is absolutely brilliant. Most of them do require you rent (or buy) a particular item to complete it, but the game ensures you have the required piece of equipment before entering. For instance, if you need a bow, the only way you can actually get in the dungeon in the first place is by shooting two gems that can only be hit with an arrow.

Once inside though, the brilliance makes itself clear, because there are multiple ways to acquire all the optional goodies you can find in treasure boxes scattered throughout.

For example, you may need to reveal an opening in a wall by bombing it, but you may not have rented bombs before entering the dungeon. The beauty in A Link Between Worlds is that there's always an alternate solution. In the case of the wall that needs to be bombed, you could grab that nearby enemy that explodes soon after being attacked.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between WorldsAs well-designed as these levels are, it's clear that just about every dungeon has been truncated a bit in order to better fit the life of a gamer using a handheld system. Although each temple has all sorts of neat puzzles, you typically won't be traversing more than three or four floors.

Many previous Zelda games feature massive dungeons that can take a fair bit of time and concentration to finish; I can't imagine being close to completing a dungeon while on a train or bus, and having to stop because I've reached my destination, or worse yet, the "low battery" light comes on. In A Link Between Worlds, you aren't likely to encounter those issues very often.

As is the case with many modern era Zelda games, hints are offered in abundance for players who are particularly stumped. In A Link Between Worlds, ghosts are found floating throughout Hyrule, and they'll offer advice in return for Play Coins. Although I rarely needed to use their services, the times I did, I found the advice given was often not nearly as helpful as I hoped. Newcomers to the series may find themselves feeling a little ripped off by these spectres.

This actually may be the shortest Zelda adventure yet, but for completionists, there are still plenty of side quests, from completing smaller puzzles inside caves found throughout the map for more riches, to finding 100 creatures hidden throughout Hyrule and Lorule.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between WorldsAnd while A Link Between Worlds undoubtedly moves at a very brisk pace, it's in the best interests of long-time fans of the series to take a closer look at the game world. Hyrule is packed with nods to past titles in the series, and it's definitely not just A Link to the Past that gets all the love in terms of references.

Nintendo also included a StreetPass feature that allows you to battle a Shadow Link version of whoever you tagged. Winning means you earn whatever bounty was on your enemy's head - the more experienced and powerful the character, the higher the reward - while falling in battle results in no loss on your part. There's no risk, and the possibility of a high reward, but besides the awesome Zelda II music playing while you battle Shadow Link, it's not a particularly compelling feature.

You may plow through A Link Between Worlds faster than any Zelda game you've ever played, but that doesn't mean the superb level design, copious fan service, and extreme attention to detail isn't on full display here.

 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Format: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Official Site: http://www.zelda.com/link-between-worlds/

Rating: 9 / 10

 
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