The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review
By: Brad VanCleave
I know I’m almost a year late on reviewing this game. But it has left such an impression on me that I have no choice but to give my final thoughts on the game.
While I have a few nitpicky things about A Link Between Worlds (ALBW from this point out… It’s a lot to type over and over again don’t judge!!!) these little annoyances pale in comparison to what ALBW has to offer.
To start things off, the game is full of nostalgia, which is for the most part, a good thing. The game takes place in the same world that the events from A Link to the Past (ALTTP, last one I promise) took place in. Dungeons are even located in the same areas so that even more nostalgia is poured on. Don’t let me fool you; there is still plenty of new content to make this Hyrule feel fresh and distinct. The nostalgia does a great job of bringing back the glorious memories (for me they were) that came from ALTTP. The graphics are even designed to add to the nostalgia. They aren’t technically advanced by any means nor are they pushing the 3DS to the limit which means I’m pretty sure that is why these graphics were chosen, though I won’t deny the style works quite well.
Let us move on from the nostalgia trip and focus on ALBW shall we, starting with the story. Anyone familiar with the Legend of Zelda knows that the plot will usually focus around Princess Zelda and Link, the silent protagonist in every Zelda game. The villain usually is Ganon but on rare occasions it isn’t. I will do my best to avoid any major spoilers for this game so I will be leaving out a few things. My main goal is to give a general understanding as to what the games plot is about. So, let us be brief and concise. Link, our green tunic wearing hero, starts out as the apprentice to the blacksmith of Hyrule and is tasked with delivering a sword to the captain of the Hylian Guard. However, during this task Link meets the wizard Yuga who is out to imprison the seven sages within paintings for what can only be foul play. During this first engagement link is knocked unconscious and wakes up to an unfamiliar face, Ravio. He gives link a bracelet and then explains to him what happened to Princess Zelda and thus the adventure begins. After some time Link’s newly acquired bracelet proves to be a magical one as it allows him to merge into walls where he can move around and access areas he might not normally be able. This power also allows him to enter “tares” located around the world which allows him to venture into the world of Lorule, a different version of Hyrule. It is here he meets someone who gives him the lowdown on what Yuga plans to do and how to stop him. Let’s go ahead and leave our story analysis at that. It is a rather enjoyable story that allows for plenty of speculation as the game progresses. I will leave you with this; there is a nice little twist that reveals Nintendo might be willing to shake up the Zelda franchise more than previously believed.
I must explain a few more details about the game before I can give my impressions on the story so I will proceed to do so now. As I mentioned earlier there is a man named Ravio that Link befriends, he turns out to be very important to the success of our hero. Ravio sets up shop in Link’s house and rents & sells equipment to Link. Renting items is far cheaper than purchasing them but this feature comes with it’s on risk, for if Link falls in battle all of the rented items will be recollected by Ravio and Link must either rerent them or attempt to continue on without them. For the first few dungeons only a few items will be available for rent & eventual purchase, but after that the rest of the arsenal will become available. One of my few annoyances with the game is the equipment list. I felt that some of the items weren't given as much usefulness as others. Don’t get me wrong, most weapons have a dungeon they shine in so they are useful, just outside of dungeons of them aren't as useful.
The ability to merge into walls becomes a central mechanic to the game as it allows Link to transfer between Hyrule and Lorule. It also becomes a very useful tool for solving various puzzles and allows for some creative game play. I spent alot of time merging with random walls just to see if I could be led to some secret spot. It is a welcomed addition as it is more seamless than say transforming into a wolf or riding a bird around.
Speaking of dungeons, once the first initial batch of them has been conquered, Link will be allowed to tackle the rest of them in any order he sees fit. The dungeons design in ALBW is some of the best in the series, if not the best. They are challenging and clever and at one point left me completely baffled on how to continue. They require the utmost attention in order to be conquered and this makes them amazing. I have already said that I love the Zelda series but I will admit, the past few Zelda entries never challenged me with what they had to offer from their dungeons. I guess what I’m trying to say is I am happy to see that Nintendo hasn’t lost its ability to be clever. The boss battles are very well done as well. The arenas are as well thought out as the bosses themselves and some of them will require a strategic approach in order to be bested.
Now for my impressions on how the story is told and why I think it works to a certain degree. As you probably could guess, because of the open nature of the way Lorule can be conquered, the story feels heavily segmented. Instead of having set pieces like in the 3D Zelda games there are only bits and pieces of story told as each dungeon is completed. To an extent this works for ALBW because most of the time Link is just on his own, requiring to find his own way to the next dungeon. This gives an incredible sense of freedom and every time something new is discovered or a new dungeon is found it feels like a real accomplishment rather than the game pointing a finger and saying go here. Which brings me to my next point, the FREEEEEDOM offered by the game. ALBW treats the player like they have a brain, giving them the freedom to find their own way, chart their own path, and most importantly beat the game on their own mettle! It seems to be the standard in today’s video games that your hand has to be held around every corner. ALBW goes away from this and I hope the trend stays that way. I hope we are all in agreement when I say that after the 300th time Fi randomly pops up to point out something (that we most likely already knew!) I was ready to strangle her. Nintendo needs to put a patch in to disable her and then Skyward Sword would be 10 times better.
I’ve started to ramble so it is time to wrap up. I really, REALLY like where Nintendo is headed after playing through this game. Many steps in the right direction were taken in A Link Between Worlds and as long as Nintendo realizes this; which I am sure they do given how many of the issues with Skyward Sword were fixed here, then Zelda fans have a lot to look forward to when the next new Zelda game is released.
I wish I could have been more in-depth with this review but alas I have been far to busy with work and everything else to devote the time that these reviews deserve.
I won't give my perspective on the 3D for this game. I do not use the 3D since I can never seem to find the sweet spot long enough to play with it on.
All photos were taken from various sources on the web. I do not own them, I am using to give the audience a visual sample of the game.