The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 95/100

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review
Developer / Publisher: Nintendo
Format: Nintendo 3DS
Reviewed by: Wencke Schuncken

Nostalgic Gamer searches for great title for the Nintendo 3DS. Don’t look any further as Zelda, A Link Between Worlds has been released! As a vivid fan of Zelda with its puzzles, fights, collecting features and environment / dungeon crawling, I wonder if a nostalgic gamer can be pleased … once again …

Over two decades ago, many gamers experienced a wonderful, adventurous gaming experience with the NES game The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It was highly praised and became a game icon for the future. Following its release, Nintendo came up with the wonderful idea to release a sequel for Nintendo 3DS. No more looking back with my heart pounding heavy, but looking forward, getting sucked into a new marvelous world and many hours of top gaming entertainment guaranteed.

A Link Between Worlds takes place a few generations following the events of the first game. Hyrule and the surrounding areas are so familiar to anyone who had the opportunity to play the original Zelda game. Again nostalgia all the way, except for the graphics of course. Story-wise it’s the same old “song”. For those who are new to the Zelda series, here’s a short explanation. The player takes control over a little fellow called Link, the new Hero of Hyrule. His task is to save Princess Zelda and the seven sages that have been kidnapped by an evil man called Yuga. Actually Yuga has the ability to imprisoning one by one through paintings in the world of Lorule. Even Link will be imprisoned, but he has this special item to free him self, and also gained the ability to transform into a painting. While being transformed Link can move along walls, for a certain amount of time. He looks like a moving painting, and it’s ideal to cross even water thanks to a wall or find special hidden treasures you normally wouldn’t be able to see / find. This new ability is also ideal to hide or run away from enemies for a short moment. In order to save Zelda and the seven sages, and live happily ever after (until a new game is being released), Link has to travel though two beautiful worlds; Hyrule and Lorule.

Nintendo tried to retain the style of the original game mixed with the 3D new graphics and they did a great job. I don’t know why, but whenever I think of the graphics, the first thing that pops-up in my mind are the somewhat ‘stuffed” colorful characters and especially Link’s waving blond lock of hair sticking out of his green hat. The layout of the game is similar to the previous title, but the sprites and landscapes have been improved. The colorful kingdom of Hyrule and the gloomy Lorule easily pop out and they look beautiful. It certainly won’t take long before full emotions of the character are perceptional to the player, especially when conversations or a cut scene takes place as it switch into 3D. Actually this is one of the first games which doesn’t make me dizzy while playing in full 3D.

As talked about the world Lorule already, a short explanation is in place as it’s a newly introduced world. It’s the alternate universe of Hyrule portrayed as a dark and gloomy world. Replacing Princess Zelda in Lorule is a priestess named Hilda who helps Link in his adventures as he saves the Seven Sages and Zelda. But whatever happens in Hyrule effects Lorule. As Link is travelling between both Hyrule and Lorule it’s possible to solve any issue or trouble in the other world. The two worlds are connected in a way you’ll find out while making progress, exploring and revealing secrets. Hope Zelda doesn’t keep anything hidden for me …

Gameplay is also similar to previous games, especially exploring dungeons to find a way to the “dungeon boss”, protected by a door with a huge lock. It’s up to you to solve puzzles, defeat enemies and collect keys to open small locked doors and the master key to find the dungeon boss. Of course it gives the player a fulfilling feeling whenever a key is found as it is a mark for being on the right track to fulfill your goal. It won’t take long before you’ve discovered a compass which makes dungeon crawling even easier. Along the way (also outside the dungeon) you can collect rupees (coins), hearts, and other items which are helpful during your adventure. With rupees you can buy and rent all kinds of equipment (renting a bow for example) and useful items such as empty bottles for multiple usage (potions, and even a bee to trade in for rupees). Collecting hearts is to keep Link healthy, especially after some battles. Special heart containers are scattered around the worlds. Collect four of them to create one extra heart in Link’s health bar. Whenever poor Link runs out of hearts, you can choose to re-spawn at Link’s home or at the beginning of a dungeon. Whenever equipment is rented, it’s recommendable to start from home again where you directly can rent equipment. So in the end “game over” is replaced by “try again but it probably will cost you rupees”.

Freedom in choosing which dungeon you want to explore is in place as long as you have the right equipment to enter a dungeon. But that won’t be a problem after clearing the first dungeon successfully. Equipment can be bought and rent, depending on the financial status. This freedom is quite new in the Zelda series. Travelling can be done by walking, but a faster way is to ring a bell and a witch drops you of at a savepoint (Weather Vane) which you activated in the past. Another new handy feature is to trade Play Coins in for hints in a dungeon. Play Coins can be obtained on the Nintendo 3ds by walking with the consoles. You earn one coin for every hundred steps taken. More and more Nintendo is integrating in-game features to trade Play Coins in. Great motivation to take the 3DS everywhere you go and perhaps even get the chance to get extra’s with the Streetpass functionality.

Note that A Link Between Worlds retains the classic gameplay of its predecessor, and there will be some moments that it becomes repetitive and boring to explore and fighting the same enemies outside the dungeons. Maybe therefore the game includes so many hints to take a break from time to time as you’re playing a long time already, according to the programmers of this game. Nevertheless, the overall motivation to solve any challenge and getting nearer and nearer to a happy end.

From a female point of view, Princess Zelda is one of the oldest female characters,even though it's Link who steals the show as the main playable character. Zelda, Princess of Hyrule, best known simply as Princess Zelda is a female member of Hyrule's Royal Family who play an integral role in the history of Hyrule. Zelda is also her world's counterpart of Princess Hilda, the princess of Lorule. Hilda and Zelda share a physical resemblance as well as similar attire. Of course there are more female characters such as the witch, the great rupee fairy, cucco girl and Impa, awho appears in lots of Zelda games.

What expectations did we have when The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was first announced, knowing that it is a direct sequel to A Link to the Past? Could it be better? Would it include old-style gameplay with improved graphics? Would it include new features to make it even more appealing? Is the game and story accessible to anybody new to the Zelda series, or who didn’t have the opportunity yet to play A Link to the Past? YES to all questions, also the one if you need to experience it for yourself. It’s a joyful adventure and Nintendo managed to mix the style from old en new to make it appealing to any gamer. Story-wise, gameplay-wise and graphical-wise, one of the best Zelda experience thus far.