Not many games feel quite as surreal as The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. In my time playing the game, I was captivated by the sense of familiarity and freshness that shone brightly from the upcoming 3DS title. Nintendo intended to do a sort of sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past from the Super Nintendo, and they have done just that in the most splendid way.
I first chose to explore the field of A Link Between Worlds, starting in front of some locked house. Your standard Legend of Zelda controls were all there with Link swinging his sword, charging it up to unleash a spinning attack, and using other weapons with their designated face buttons. One thing I did notice in my rampant swinging, was that occasionally, a burst of energy would shoot out of the sword, as in some previous games. While it exhausted some of my stamina/power, visible as a purple bar on the left of the screen, I wasn’t sure what was causing it. Still, sword combat remains mostly unchanged from the rest of series, especially A Link to the Past.
Right off the bat, the biggest difference from A Link to the Past is how Link now has 360 degrees of movement, which means more accuracy for projectiles, such as the bow and arrow. It feels much more comfortable to be able to face in any direction and then strafe with a ready arrow, getting rid of a bit more of those instances when you had to face in any of the four possible directions and just let a well-timed shot do the talking. This new range of movement feels more natural, especially with the 3DS’ concave circle pad.
The field looked as if Nintendo worked some sort of virtual wizardry to just instantaneously transform A Link to the Past into truly three-dimensional game, simply replacing every pixel with a polygon. The colors, music, and art style remains faithful to the original title. Even Link is donning his old garb and slightly darker hair. The enemies littering the field looked exactly like their Super Nintendo counterparts, although they were a little easier to defeat for some reason. Just as in the old days, it was fairly easy to get lost amid the greenery without looking at your map constantly. Moving from one area to the next made the world scroll just as it did before. While the field may be great nostalgia fuel, the real new and fresh concepts arrive in the dungeons.
I had the chance to play through one dungeon that seemed to play with the 3-D effects very nicely. Rather than hallways that run up, down, and side-to-side through, A Link Between Worlds employs a much more vertical approach to dungeon design, which turned the building into what felt like a towering spire. With a swing of my hammer, I could pound these red and blue button-looking objects to catapult myself to higher locations. Many of the floors I landed on where made like chain-link fences, so as I moved up multiple floors, I could still see the first floor below. The 3-D made it seem as though the level was sinking deeper and deeper into the 3DS. Surprisingly, everything still looked very clear, especially with the 3-D effects on, which gave the game a very lovely sense of depth without hurting your eyes.
The next updated feature was the “Merge” ability with allowed Link to turn into a drawing with the press of a button while touching any wall and essentially walk along the wall like a drawing. In this mode, you may only move by the constraints of the wall, restricting movement to simply left and right, but it’s still an interesting mechanic that allows you to reach places that would have otherwise been unreachable in previous LoZ games. “Merging” also uses up some of your power, giving you an allotted amount of time to figure out where to take your new flat self. Its simplicity and originality ought to offer a comfortable feeling of satisfaction to both casual gamers and veterans to the series alike. While you may have played through A Link to the Past 800 times, here’s a fresh new mechanic to test your problem-solving skills, effectively changing the way you will look at Legend of Zelda dungeons for a long time.
The demo I played did not offer any details about the story, but it’s probably safe to assume that A Link Between Worlds takes place in Hyrule once again, although I could not tell whether or not it was the same exact map. Similarly, there’s no saying just where this game will lie on the Legend of Zelda timeline as of now. Even then, that’s usually one of the last things the developers at Nintendo implement into the game, as core gameplay usually takes precedence over story inconsistencies in the development process.
In all, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is shaping up to be another excellent addition to the franchise. With a satisfying blend of new and old, I am sure it will be a rewarding experience for both those ready for more changes to the series to freshen up the gameplay and those dying for some good ol’ heart-warming nostalgia.
You can look forward to The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds being released sometime this November exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS.