The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review – An Exercise in Timelessness

Timelessness is often the main ingredient in many of Nintendo’s masterpieces. For over 40 years, video games have reached varying audiences through multiple systems, inciting different reactions, sentiments, and bouts of excitement, and for some, it’s gotten harder to find what they were looking for. Nowadays, there is no greater feeling than experiencing a game that, no matter how old or cynical you get, leaves you in utter astonishment at its supremacy. Some people love to talk about that one game years ago that could never be bested, but it’s so satisfying to encounter something that rivals the best, when the unthinkable happens. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds accomplishes this feat with finesse, as one of the best games for the Nintendo 3DS, and quite frankly, one of the greatest entries in the Legend of Zelda series to date.

The Legend of Zelda games have always had big shoes to fill after 1998’s Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64, but one thing that is usually expected of any entry is excellence (except for the CD-i games; those do not exist). Zelda games often stand the test of time with even its oldest entries aging surprisingly well amid today’s market of much prettier and sophisticated games. Still, it was such a pleasure to find that the newest entry, A Link Between Worlds continues to retain the magic and quality associated with the series by being what may be the best Zelda game of the past decade.

"Long ago, sometime in the 80s or 90s probably when hopscotch was still a thing..."

“Long ago, sometime in the 80s or 90s probably when hopscotch was still a thing…”

While every entry of the series is usually in a completely different space, A Link Between Worlds takes place in the same variant of Hyrule as in 1991’s A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo, as a successor to the now classic title. The land to be explored is then nearly identical to its predecessor’s, but this game is far from a remake. In fact, the whole game feels both old and completely new. It may take place in the same area, but one big mechanic changes everything, making this game wholly its own. The resemblance is purely cosmetic, as A Link Between Worlds strays from the usual tried-and-true formula by ditching linearity altogether and incorporating a new ability that allows the player Link to turn into a painting and walk along walls to reach spaces that would have been impossible to reach in any other entry.

At its core, this is another Legend of Zelda, but the new two-dimensional painting mechanic actually adds a whole new dimension to the game, by forcing newcomers and veterans to the series to think way outside the box very often. Even those who have been playing these games for years will have to approach puzzles and dungeons with a different mindset. It’s simple, it’s easy to use, and it changes up the gameplay in all the best ways.

A glory most flat.

A glory most flat.

A Link Between Worlds isn’t the most difficult game, but it can be if you’d like. The main game maintains a nice, hearty challenge all throughout; I never really got stuck for very long. Although, if that’s not enough for you, there is a Hero Mode that you can unlock after you beat the game that has enemies packing a much greater punch. Nevertheless, the main game is as satisfying as ever. Because dungeons can be tackled in whatever order you please this time around, they’re all at a consistent difficulty, for the most part (although, a couple are pretty intimidating).

The overworld may not be completely new, but the dungeons are. Each one remains as clever as ever, and the new mechanics keep everything even fresher. Obstacles and puzzles are all solved with a respective item, such as a lantern, ice rod, fire rod, etc. and newer ones such as the hookshot and sand rod, which is so awesome by the way. Likewise, the game’s accompanying music and visuals are also an eclectic blend of old and new. Hyrule and Lorule look splendid in 3-D, and they sound even better. Once again, Nintendo brings an impressive quality to every part of the whole package.

A package that Zelda obviously did not read the cover of. The name is right there, lady.

A package that Zelda obviously did not read the cover of. The name is right there, lady.

As a 3DS title, you can expect that there would be some StreetPass functionality. This comes in the form of exchanging data in the form of Shadow Links that appear in your game. For example, if you pass by me on the street, you’ll pick up my Shadow Link, and you’ll be able to challenge “me” in a one-on-one ghost battle. You can select what items your Link will be facing other players with. If you’ve got 20 hearts, the best sword and equipment, you can bet that whoever faces off against your ghost data is going to have one hell of a hard time. If anything, the only downside is that there is no actual multiplayer aspect to this, you can only challenge computers using ghost data.

Battles are still really intense though. In addition, the stronger your Shadow Link is, the greater the bounty will be that is rewarded to whoever can defeat you and vice versa. It’s a neat little feature that serves as a nice distraction from the main quest at hand. Also, it’s creepy as hell. The Shadow Links just sort of stand there in random, unexpected locations waiting for your challenge. I thought they would all appear at some designated location, so it actually kind of scared me the first time.

Of course, Link would have balls of titanium and actually make eye contact with that thing.

Of course, Link would have balls of titanium and actually make eye contact with that thing.

The plot of A Link Between Worlds is something very special as well, as it brings a surprisingly deep story to an otherwise adorable game. It goes beyond the ordinary story of good versus evil to include something much more complex, but not convoluted at all. I had previously tried to predict the plot based on the trailer, and I got a good number of things wrong, like that that villain with the crazy clown face was a woman. I was right, however, in noticing that there was something very different that would separate this from the norm and predictability of most Legend of Zelda narratives.

The LoZ formula has not been rewritten by any means, but rather just been augmented. ALBW has just enough nostalgia pumped into it the satisfy veterans of the series without feeling like a cheap remake. Newcomers to the series will likely become enthralled and entranced more easily than ever. Anyone and everyone with whatever level of experience will find something very lovely. At a retail price of $39.99, the adventure is well worth it, considering the journey, amount of content, and the overall quality of the product on every aspect.

A Link Between Worlds captures the imagination and pulls you in like you’re playing a Legend of Zelda game for the first time again, even if it’s your hundredth time. The excellence of it in its entirety makes it not just a game, but a marvel. The developers at Nintendo are once again at the top of their game and, if this title is any indication, we can expect more tales of courage, wisdom, and power to grab hold of us and fuel our love of the game like never before. Like the many preceding it, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a triumph.

Final Breakdown

[+Fresh new mechanics change the way the obstacles are approached] [+Excellent dungeon design] [+Colorful arsenal at your disposal] [+Hearty challenge] [+Something for veterans and newcomers alike] [+Surprisingly deep narrative] [+Hyrule and Lorule are a blast to explore] [+Splendid accompanying visuals and audio] [+Intense Shadow Link StreetPass battles] [+Hero Mode for brave souls] [+Lets you tackle dungeons in any order] [-No multiplayer Shadow Link battles]


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