The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds


By: Reagan Morris    On: Nintendo 3DS
Published: Wednesday 11 Dec 2013 8:00 AM
 
 
What you see at the start of the game is as tough as it gets Reagan Morris
 
 
 
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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is being touted as the best Zelda game in 20 years. That’s a huge call. While many of the more recent Zelda titles haven’t managed to wow in the same ways that A Link to the Past did, dismissing the likes of Ocarina of Time, Phantom Hourglass, and The Minish Cap so easily is a brave, brave thing to do.

So does A Link Between Worlds manage to hit the highest highs of the series, or does it merely sit comfortably alongside the best?

Every fan of A Link to the Past (LttP) will immediately be at home once they see the world that A Link Between Worlds is set in. It’s the same land of Hyrule that you would have spent numerous hours in 20 years ago. Very little has changed as far as the layout goes, so if you knew your way around the original world, you’ll most definitely know the shortcuts and the location of specific structures. In fact, A Link Between Worlds is so similar to LttP, that it’d be easy to mistake it for a modern remake.

Set six generations after A Link to the Past, the new Link (the Zelda protagonist is always named Link) is awoken by the local Blacksmith’s son and told to get to work. Despite being late and in trouble with his boss, Link is given the important task of returning a sword to Hyrule’s Captain; in doing so, he manages to witness a kidnapping…. of sorts. With previous baddie Ganon long defeated and sealed away, a new evil - Yuga - manages to transform the seven sages of Hyrule into paintings, whereupon he uses them to bring about the destruction of the world.

Not before turning Link, too, into a painting.

Unlike the Sages, Link manages to utilise the curse placed on him, and - upon finding dark cracks scattered around Hyrule - stumbles upon the A Link Between Worlds version of “the dark world”: Lorule. The formula seen in A Link to the Past is also deployed here, and the first few dungeons serve mainly as tutorials before you go on to rescue the seven Sages that have been scattered about Lorule.

Similarities aside, A Link Between Worlds brings something new to the franchise as far as item collecting goes. Usually, dungeons introduce new items before finishing off with a boss fight that can only be defeated with said item. This time, a character by the name of Rovio sets up shop in Link’s home town and you can rent any of the game's items from him at any point. If you have the rupees (the game currency you collect on your journeys), you can even stock up on every single item from the get-go. Should you die, the items simply move back to Rovio’s shop, and you’ll have to rent them once more.

While it’s nice to have access to all of Link's signature equipment early on, there is very little use for the gear outside of the dungeons that are designed around each of the various items (a design conceit the game otherwise still conforms to); you still need the hookshot to get into and around the hookshot temple, for example. It’s an interesting system that allows you to get into some secret areas earlier than you would normally be able to, but it comes with one major downside.

Having the items accessible on demand means that the dungeons can be done in any order you'd like. To fully allow players to go where they want, and complete the game however they choose, Nintendo had to make sure you couldn’t stumble upon the hardest area straight away. They did this by getting rid of any difficulty ramp or learning curve. What you see at the start of the game is as tough as it gets - with the exception of the final boss fight. This is a huge blow to the flow of the game, and you’d be forgiven for expecting more from a franchise with such a deep history.

It’s hard to get too down on the game when it looks as amazing as it does. Nintendo have really managed to recapture A Link to the Past’s version of Hyrule with considerable finesse. The 3D is great, and, quite honestly, necessary in parts. It runs at a solid 60 frames per second and I’m fairly certain that most (if not all) of the music is orchestrated or re-orchestrated from LttP. Unfortunately, all this pizazz also helps highlight where things are missing.

There are moments where the camera zooms in and gets personal with the characters in the game, except there’s very little character there. The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks showed us how much character Link and the people of Hyrule could have, and A Link Between Worlds shows us how bland the characters from 20 years ago actually were.

Some may enjoy the blank slate that Link sets out to be this time, but if he's going to be an empty shell of a character, the designers should stop dropping him into situations where gamers will expect him to react. Also, continuously progressing characters in a loved franchise, only to scale them right back again, is a noticeable and undesirable element in Link's latest chapter. I know what you’re doing, Nintendo, but you can’t shy away from giving these characters voices forever.

A Link Between Worlds is a remake of A Link to the Past without actually being a remake. It sits so painfully close to the source material that it almost feels like Nintendo have taken a step backwards from more recent adventures. A Link Between Worlds isn’t a bad Zelda game, but it’s far from being the “best in the last 20 years”. There’s no difficulty curve, there’s no personality to the characters, and it’s all over a little too quickly - but I'm damned if I didn’t enjoy every minute of it nonetheless.


The Score

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
"It's not even the best Zelda game in the last five years"
8.0
Great
Rating: G   Difficulty: Easy   Learning Curve: 5 Min

 

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Comments (9)

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Wozza
On Wednesday 11 Dec 2013 10:00 AM Posted by Wozza NZGamer.com VIP
Zelda 1 got me into gaming. It took me years to beat the game as a kid because the difficulty was so high. However, I loved it. Some things were very hard to find and dungeons like the 6th one were simply a nightmare.

However most recent Zelda games I haven't finished. Not from difficulty, but lack of it. The beauty of earlier games is that they constantly teased you. You could see parts of the map, but obviously didn't have the tools to get there. And when you did unlock a new part of the map or game, it was a huge reward.

Now I find I trudge along with no interest in the world, there is no challenge and no incentive.

Great review which highlights the difference between a lot of new games in Nintendo's franchises against old ones. At least some of the newer Mario games have some challenging levels and evil, evil level design.
 
 
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OrkMischief
On Wednesday 11 Dec 2013 10:27 AM Posted by OrkMischief NZGamer.com VIP
11 December 2013, 10:00 AM Reply to Wozza
Zelda 1 got me into gaming. It took me years to beat the game as a kid because the difficulty was so high. However, I loved it. Some things were very hard to find and dungeons like the 6th one were simply a nightmare.

However most recent Zelda games I haven't finished. Not from difficulty, but lack of it. The beauty of earlier games is that they constantly teased you. You could see parts of the map, but obviously didn't have the tools to get there. And when you did unlock a new part of the map or game, it was a huge reward.

Now I find I trudge along with no interest in the world, there is no challenge and no incentive.

Great review which highlights the difference between a lot of new games in Nintendo's franchises against old ones. At least some of the newer Mario games have some challenging levels and evil, evil level design.
I agree fully on the need for more difficulty in Zelda games. In saying that though, in no way have I played a game in the series and ever said that it was just meh.

I found Skyward Sword a little tedious to start with but by the end I came out absolutely loving it.

Nintendo are certainly capable of ramping up the difficulty, but I believe because of Nintendo's family image now, they are making these games more accessible to the younger audience. This isn't good for players like you and me that demand more from a game in terms of difficulty, but the so called hardcore audience left Nintendo a long time ago and this leaves Nintendo in a difficult position to please a wider audience.

I can handle Zelda ALBW being not so difficult, but I really hope Zelda for Wii U is taken in a darker direction with more emphasise on challenging the player. I love frustrating difficult moments in games. I hate the thought of being beaten by a game, so I will try until I overcome all the obstacles presented.
 
 
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Newsboy
On Wednesday 11 Dec 2013 11:06 AM Posted by Newsboy
The problem isn't that it's easy, it's that it never increases in difficulty. Anyone who makes it through the first dungeon will be able to make it through the rest without trouble. I would much rather them have stuck to the Zelda formula and allowed the difficulty to ramp at least a little instead of making every dungeon feel the same.
I loved playing through the game thanks to the style, music, and environmental puzzles, but I never felt challenged. I just floated through the game.
 
 
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woollywol
On Wednesday 11 Dec 2013 11:26 AM Posted by woollywol NZGamer.com VIP
Wow, a really tough and honest review. There are points made here I haven't seen in any other reviews so far, and they are crucial points to boot. I'll be playing this game over Xmas with special attention to those areas Reagan pinpointed as weak. I know it won't stop me enjoying the game; but one of the aspects I look for especially in any game is progression of levels & difficulty, coupled with character development.
 
 
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Newsboy
On Wednesday 11 Dec 2013 2:04 PM Posted by Newsboy
Yeah, I kinda felt like a bit of a bully writing some of the things I did. Unfortunately for Nintendo, having the Zelda title attached to your software won't get an instant pass from me. 8 is still a good score, and honestly, I was fighting over whether it even deserved that.
 
 
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OrkMischief
On Wednesday 11 Dec 2013 4:12 PM Posted by OrkMischief NZGamer.com VIP
11 December 2013, 02:04 PM Reply to Newsboy
Yeah, I kinda felt like a bit of a bully writing some of the things I did. Unfortunately for Nintendo, having the Zelda title attached to your software won't get an instant pass from me. 8 is still a good score, and honestly, I was fighting over whether it even deserved that.
I agree with your review in almost every way.

I know it must be hard to review Zelda games, because there really hasn't been a bad one. 8 for me is a very respectable score and so far through my play through I find the 8 to be very fitting.
The only way Zelda will change for the better is if reviewers and critics be honest in their approach to games in the series, nostalgia can be blinding if you're a fan of a series and therefore making it harder to critique its flaws. Zelda definitely has its flaws. One thing for me is they always deliver by taking the "safe approach" to Zelda games, when a little more ambition could make it infinitely better.

I love the franchise, but openly admit Nintendo needs to rework certain things to give the series a well deserved change. Zelda games are always unmistakably good, but I know they could be better if Nintendo worked a little harder and trusted in their ability to turn a good quality Nintendo game into a Nintendo masterpiece like they have done in the past.
 
 
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reavers
On Thursday 12 Dec 2013 1:02 AM Posted by reavers NZGamer.com VIP
Love the honesty in the reviews. I do remember playing Zelda on a console (can't remember which one now) and it was pretty challenging to say the least. As a kid perhaps it was hard but it was an enjoyable game with heaps of personality in it. If I do get the chance to I will be playing this
 
 
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CloudAxel16
On Thursday 12 Dec 2013 11:07 PM Posted by CloudAxel16 NZGamer.com VIP
I'm wondering if I should get Luigi's mansion or this? What do you guys recommend?
 
 
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OrkMischief
On Saturday 14 Dec 2013 11:26 AM Posted by OrkMischief NZGamer.com VIP
12 December 2013, 11:07 PM Reply to CloudAxel16
I'm wondering if I should get Luigi's mansion or this? What do you guys recommend?
Both are awesome and I'd bet you'd be happy with either.
 
 
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