Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD Group No 3 & Monolith Soft
Publisher – Nintendo
Director – Hiromasa Shikata
Producer – Eiji Aonuma
A throwback to the SNES classic, A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds revisited a very similar landscape to that imagined by Nintendo back in 1991, and had arrived with a newer coat of paint in terms of visuals as well as having a modified approach to gameplay with a few new mechanics and features. Whilst it doesn’t come very close to matching the same quality as A Link to the Past in my opinion, I still found it to be a very decent game, and an exciting new take on the Legend of Zelda universe.
Graphics – 8.5/10
The newly polished setting from A Link to the Past looks spectacular, with classic locations of the series, such as Death Mountain and Kakariko Village, but throughout the game, the standout feature in terms of visuals was the new dungeons added. They’re almost as elaborate and intriguing than the ones found in A Link to the Past, but whilst one of the two early dungeons has a unique boss, the other has a recycled boss. In the later half of the game, however, the scenery gets much better, when the constant switching between the worlds of Hyrule and Lorule becomes necessary. The dungeons in Lorule are a lot more elaborate and original with more unique-looking bosses, which do well do differentiate it as much from A Link to the Past as possible. The main problem I have with the game’s graphics is the general enemy design. Most are simply recycled 3D versions of the enemies found in A Link to the Past. It would’ve been a good idea to throw one or two more new enemies in for good measure, but the game lacks in uniqueness in that respect. With most entries in the title, different enemies always seem to be added, but with A Link Between Worlds, the developers seem to have taken a small step back. Nevertheless, the game’s overall style does present a mostly even balance between classic and new. Mostly with the new dungeons designed.
Gameplay – 8/10
For me, this game took some getting into at first. For the opening hour or so, it just seemed like I was playing nothing more than a glorified version of A Link to the Past, as it uses virtually the same game mechanics as the 1991 classic. But when I first entered Lorule, that was when I found that the game really started to come into it’s own. It is certainly worth persevering through to experience the positive change of gameplay that’s lasts throughout the rest of the game. There is a gameplay mechanic new to the series that allows the player to merge Link into walls and traverse along them to reach certain areas. This was actually inspired by the Phantom Ganon boss fight from Ocarina of time. It’s incorporated early on into the game, but it’s put to better use in the second half, having to be used to solve more elaborate puzzles within more intricate dungeons; it’s use is even necessitated to fight certain bosses as well. There was one other gameplay mechanic that I didn’t like at first, but I grew used to. To get the in-game items that are typically found in dungeons, instead, they are found in a shop, which at first, the player has to rent, and that are taken away every time the player dies in the game. At first, I struggled to see the point of it, but after advancing further into the game, I found they could be bought outright for a higher price. I realized it was simply to better incorporate the need for the game’s currency, which is fair enough. These new mechanics present players with positive changes from the normal features typically found in Zelda games. They make for a very decent game, overall.
Controls – 10/10
As someone who played through A Link to the Past back at the game’s commercial apex, I was never going to have a problem getting to grips with how it plays out, as it uses a control scheme virtually identical to the old Super Nintendo game. But that’s not to say that newcomers to the series or to this in particular style of play will experience any problems with it. The controls are straightforward with the only new outstanding control element being the wall-merging ability, which, again, no player would have problems with.
Lifespan – 7/10
Although it does take a fair bit of time to play through the main story, in lieu of Zelda tradition, there was also a surprising lack of side quests. Normally, Zelda games have a fair amount of them, but I was bewildered to find how few of them there are in this instalment. There’s a side quest to do which involves collecting ore to enhance the power of the master sword at the blacksmiths and another involving a witch who provides a fast-travel gameplay mechanic (again, reminiscent of the one found in A Link to the Past), but for me, the amount of side quests falls well short of the normal amount usually found in a lot of other Zelda games. This game could’ve done with a few more, in my opinion. But A Link Between Worlds will make for around 10-12 hours of gameplay, which isn’t too bad.
Storyline – 8/10
Whilst not being a huge departure from other titles in the series, the game’s story is still very engrossing nonetheless. In A Link Between Worlds, Link is out to save the land of Hyrule, Princess Zelda and seven sages from a priest called Yuga. After gaining the three pendants of courage, power and wisdom and retrieving the master sword, Link travels to Hyrule castle to confront Yuga, but he finds he is too late, and Yuga has imprisoned Zelda and the sages inside portraits, which he uses to manifest into the franchise’s iconic villain, Ganon. Before he transforms, Link follows Yuga into alternate darker version of Hyrule called Lorule, and is asked by the princess of Lorule, Hilda, to save both worlds and defeat Ganon. The story unfolds into something much more elaborate with a few excellent plot twists along the way. Whilst the lack of side quests was a letdown for me personally, I found this game’s story to be very enthralling indeed, which with the inclusion of Lorule; I believe could potentially present new possibilities for where the franchise could go in the future. It may all make for an even further departure from normal Zelda story elements, and bring more new things to the table.
Originality – 8/10
I think that although many elements are undeniably recycled from A Link to the Past, there is indeed enough in this title to make it stand out from other games of its kind as well as other entries in the series. For me, this is the best DS Zelda game by some distance, as I wasn’t very impressed with either The Phantom Hourglass or Spirit Tracks. The control scheme incorporated in both those games thoroughly annoyed me. Undoubtedly, the most unique aspect of this game is the design of the dungeons and bosses. It’s elements like that, which have kept this franchise fresh, and will continue to do so for years to come.
Overall, this game made for a very well designed and enjoyable experience. It is definitely not only one of the standout titles for the 3DS, but it is indeed one of the standout titles of last year. I said in a previous article that I would revisit last year’s game releases to see if any games are worth playing, and this one definitely is.
8/10 (Very Good)