The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
I don't say this often enough when it comes to a lot of video games, but A Link Between Worlds is absolutely brilliant! What I mean to say is this game hooked me, and didn't let go, a feeling I'm not used to with many games. Taking a page from the SNES title, A Link to the Past, this brand new Zelda game invokes the nostalgic feeling from when most of us were still kids. Exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS & 2DS, A Link Between Worlds has caused quite a stir among the gaming community and will hands down, be remembered for generations to come.
I've always been an on and off Zelda fan myself, playing the essentials like Ocarina of Time, A Link to the Past, Majora's Mask and even some not so familiar ones like Link's Awakening. These games are the few Nintendo titles I still follow with, and I never grow bored of them. A Link Between Worlds shares the same charisma because I can feel even once I'm done, I'll return to the land of Hyrule. A Link Between Worlds has offered me a gaming experience I can take with me and even makes the cold weather a little bit bearable.
This Zelda title opens up like mostly every other one out there. Our young hero (I named him Link) is awoken by a blacksmith's son and tells my groggy Link that his father is upset at him sleeping in. Even before stepping out of the house, the bright crisp graphics unfold before me, giving this era of Hyrule a distinct look. After getting adjusted to the control scheme and accessing the menu via touchscreen, I step out into the world. "Beautiful" I whisper and it is indeed beautiful. Hyrule opens up with vibrant colors and a sense of freedom. After visiting the blacksmith and through a rapid chain of events, Link is thrusted into a grand adventure to save Hyrule and its alter ego Lorule.
What I think I like most about this new installment is the amount of freedom given to the player right from the beginning. Zelda titles of old required temples to be beaten in a specific order to progress through the adventure. Players couldn't access the Spirit Temple before beating all previous temples in Ocarina of Time, but here, players have a choice as to which temple they will explore first. This is all thanks to the change of how players acquire crucial items. Early in the game, Link has the distinct pleasure of meeting Ravio, a traveling merchant.
After setting up shop inside Link's house, Ravio informs the player about the renting of many items. Items can be borrowed from Ravio for a price and kept until Link falls in battle. If that happens, Link has to waste hard earned rupees on items he already had. Rupees may have been important in past games but now more than ever. I often found myself cutting bushes and breaking pots just to have some extra rupees. Eventually, players have the option of purchasing said items permanently. They cost way more than renting but you don't have to worry about re-buying them if Link loses all his hearts. The use of Bombs proved valuable to me because many of the hidden areas requires rubble to be blown away. I've found rupees, heart pieces and many other treasures because I invested time to explore my surroundings and bought the proper equipments.
In all honesty, I feel like this is a much better approach than having to find important items in the field or a dungeon. It also pays to visit Ravio frequently as he often imparts helpful tips and advice.
The main focus of the game is for Link to save both worlds from a inescapeable evil. To do so, Link must become one with the worlds... literally. Without spoiling anything major, Link at some point gains the ability to merge with his surroundings. This can be done at any time and is often used for solving puzzles, accessing previously unreachable places and finding hidden secrets. I remember the first time I had to use the merge ability to progress upward through a temple. By switching to this 2D perspective, I had to move Link around corners of the temple to avoid falling from such high heights. Many of the platforms could only be reached by merging with a wall because there was no floor between me and the intended goal.
More importantly, it is used to switch between Hyrule and Lorule. Much like Twilight Princess and A Link to the Past, switching between worlds is extremely important. Some areas can only be accessed in Lorule from Hyrule and vice versa. I remember seeing this big chest I couldn't reach because of no clear passage. Racking my brain and using different items ultimately failed me. Just when all hope seemed lost and I came close to abandoning the chest, I spotted a crack in the wall which lead to Lorule. By exploring this route, I eventually came back to Hyrule and discovered the chest not too far from where I came out. Moral of the story: explore, explore and oh yes, explore.
Lorule resembles much of the Dark World from A Link to the Past with good reason too. The entire environment looks bleak, skulls are littered across the landscape, the locals are as hostile as the enemies; Lorule is just not a safe place to be. Safe or not, Link has an assortment of weapons to help defend himself. It goes without saying that the legendary Master Sword and Hyrulian Shield show up, but new weapons also join the fray. Link also has access to magic rods such as the Sand Rod to help combat foes. The magic meter automatically refills, and considering how every item Link uses absorbs magic, this is a welcomed change.
Advancing the plot is great and I felt engaged from start to finish. At some points throughout my adventure, I ventured off the main road and just explored both worlds. Roaming the lands to find hidden areas is exciting the way one would expect to feel while playing. I stumbled upon a mother Maiamai and she requested my help in finding all her missing babies. I'm not one for collecting, but my incentive came from her upgrading a item of my choosing for every 10 babies found, resulting in said item's effectiveness.
A Link Between Worlds may not be perfect or revolutionize the Zelda franchise but I can't find one complaint within its makings. I don't believe in absolute perfect games, but I do agree that a rare amount of games deserve the perfect score, this one in particular. Between the blend of nostalgic and refreshing, plenty of replay value, crisp visuals, challenging puzzles and tight combat, this new installment of Zelda bodes for a bright future.
+ A challenging yet joyfully experience
+ A nice mixture of new and old elements
+ Takes a good amount of time to beat with excellent replay value
+ Beautiful graphics and music to delight the ears
To say I enjoyed my time spent with A Link Between Worlds would be doing the game an injustice. I haven't played a Zelda this good since Ocarina of Time. Naysayers may cry foul but since I've never myself played Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword, that was the conclusion I came to.
I highly recommend this game to all fans of Zelda and 3DS/2DS owners. To me, A Link Between Worlds would be considered a console seller especially with a great lineup of 3DS titles available already. I may have finished my journey through Hyrule and Lorule but I know I'll be back for more soon.