The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds is Link's first adventure on the 3DS, a return to his 2D over-the-top ways, and lastly, a direct sequel to the acclaimed Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The game was released on November 2013, along side with Super Mario 3D World in Nintendo's attempt to dominate the holiday rush with AAA title games. Small tidbits to this game is it is a return to Link being left-handed, as well, his first handheld game since Minish Cap! The game, being a sequel to Link to the Past, puts you back in the same world, with the same map as Link to the Past, to appease the older audience excited for the game!
The story has to do with you, Link and your awakening to a greater destiny. You start off working for a Blacksmith (note: this is not the same Link from LttP), and are on a delivery to Hyrule Caste to drop off a sword for the Captain. There you have your destined/fabled meeting with Princess Zelda, which in turn brings the story to life, filling in the gap of what happened in Link to the Past and your role. Unfortunately, the meeting is interrupted by an evil force who raids the castle named Yuga, who kidnaps Princess Zelda turning her into a painting and seizing Hyrule Castle. After losing, you are found by a mysterious merchant named Ravio, who helps you out through your quest, and gives you a magical bracelet, which gives you the power to turn into a painting*. As you journey all across Hyrule, you learn of a greater force and another land that is corrupted by evil, Lorule, and vow to not only help Princess Zelda but Princess Hilda as well, in your quest to save the two worlds from one tyrant!
The gameplay of a Link Between Worlds plays similarly to that of the old 2D Zelda games; you control Link in a top down camera view and can travel in 8 (well 4 back then) directions. If you've played any 2D Zelda before you would know that your shield and sword are auto-equipped, the faster you press the button the faster you swing, and that the Pegasus Boots exist (insert laugher here). What Link Between Worlds does is brings their own element of gameplay into this classic design and that focus has to do with the ability of being a painting. Your game, no the entire world of Link Between Worlds, is built off the fact that you can become this drawing on a wall and use it to your advantage. There are no terrible gimmicks like a Stamina Bar or limit of pot-breaking, it's just Zelda with a simple twist. Dungeons and the over-world are even built for areas to be inaccessible unless you use newfound ability and traverse across far distances or drop from dangerous heights, only available to those with this power.
Two things that make this Zelda game different and a lot easier than elder entries is, one, you can rent all the items from the start of the game, rather than having to collect them at certain dungeons as the treasure of the level. And second, they give you the compass and Map of every single dungeon you go in. One thing that was aimed for in Link Between Worlds was a semi-open world kind of free-to-choose style, where dungeon order did not matter, as long as you accomplished the mission. While the later idea is pretty cool, this severely limits the gameplay of what we have known from Legend of Zelda games *.
As with everything in this game, you use a magic bar, be it if you are a painting or if you're even planting a bomb. This magic bar serves as your limit, for using too much of one thing and creates an even balance of item to regular combat for the player. Firing more than 3 arrows will probably drain all your magic, or staying in paint mode to hide from your enemies will not last forever. Fortunately, the magic bar is auto-replenishing, so do not search high-and-low for a magic bottle in the grass like this was a good Zelda game!
Like Link to the Past, there are many fun things to do around the world which include minigames like Cuccoo dodging and baseball, and of course the hidden juicy secrets like 5!! (wtf) bottles, level 4 sword, and the new Maiamai's which upgrade all your weapons a la Great Fairy in Link to the Past. The world given to you is vast, but easy to travel, and in that way you feel like you are always right there instead of trekking for what seems like hours! In 2D Zelda games, there is also not really any under-water gameplay as we have seen from 3D Zelda's; water is only used to travel and occasionally dive for treasure.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds boasts another great soundtrack and you will have blast listening to some old tunes and new tunes while you are adventuring Hyrule and Lorule. The graphics in Link Between Worlds are outstanding and the game runs so smoothly, it just makes it an even greater joy to play. Replay-value in the game is also very good, as not only do you have all the extra collectibles you search for, as well as the minigames, but Hero Mode makes a return, though the Hero Mode in LBW is a lot easier than it is in most games. In addition, the StreetPass game is probably the best StreetPass feature out of any Nintendo 3DS game I've played so far. You get to fight Shadow Links of the person you streetpassed, be it you are at their level or not, and it is used to bring you a special easter egg if you get all 50 achievements (like I did myself). They really are a fun little challenge to do and I was glad Nintendo added something special for those who sought to do it.
Link Between Worlds is a good game, but honestly if you think its a great game or Top 5 Zelda games you either: suck at games/Zelda games, have never played any 2D Zelda's in your life, or probably didn't finish or play Link to the Past. This game is a Link to the Past lite, with a huge leeway and more freedom. Fans of A Link to the Past will enjoy the ode to the game and getting a sequel to it, but, like myself, have to realize that this is a different game and it will not reach the level of greatness that LttP did. Honestly, the game is so easy that you never run low on anything...ANYTHING! I'm not only talking about your magic that you use for everything, but I'm talking about Rupees and Hearts as well! Did anyone actually ever die in this game!? Once I rented everything I bought them like 3 hours later and had 9999 for the rest of the game! In addition, why do we have all the dungeon maps and compasses? Like did Link help Ganon, who isn't even in the game fyi, build all the dungeons so you had a spare copy of his dungeon blueprints!?
I have to say I did like the painting mechanic, though it was too drastic of a change for me, as I would always forget I can use that to get across areas, and I would use all my items until I finally realized like OOOHH! The idea of it really brought a lot new puzzles and challenges and was a great addition. It's just too bad the game is messed up with its easy difficulty and getting all the items to ruin puzzle way.
- Michael Troina
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