Monday, December 2, 2013

REVIEW: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

One of the best Zelda games out there is "A Link to the Past" for the Super Nintendo. "A Link Between Worlds" for the 3DS is a sequel of sorts as it takes place in the same Hyrule overworld where you'll be jumping between good and evil versions of it. However, Nintendo shook up the familiar formula we've seen in past Zelda games, which I found did much more good than harm.
This game is all about exploration and letting players decide how they want to tackle the objectives at hand. Instead of being held back by specific items not yet found, popular tools like the hammer, ice rod, fire rod, hookshot and more are able to be rented out from a kooky character named Ravio, who decides to open up shop inside Link's house. As you progress, these items can be eventually be purchased. It's nice having those options near the beginning instead of having to grind it out.
Renting has its risks, though. Fall in battle and you'll lose all those items. However, it's not a difficult game. Thanks to all that exploration, I was able to obtain three empty bottles early on to hold health drinks and fairies to revive me if I died.
Instead of managing an inventory, a meter is used for items that automatically replenishes itself over time, essentially giving you unlimited firepower. This will irk some.
What opens up the gameplay even more is the ability to merge Link onto walls like a painting, allowing him to traverse to areas inaccessible from his normal self. When allowed, crossing large gaps can be done with ease by the way of a flat surface. Merging onto houses in the village gives you the opportunity to see behind them, something that's hard to do with the top-down perspective. Rupees and hearts are drawn on surfaces awaiting to be collected, which is a clever idea. There are limits where you can travel, but there a lot of places and secrets waiting to be discovered.
Dungeons make good use of this mechanic, too, like on moving platforms. You'll have to be quick to merge onto an obstacle that threatens to push Link to his doom, and at the same time keep an eye on the meter so you don't run out of magic. Enemies painted on walls will even pop out at you for a surprise attack.
Side content is available if you're not in the mood to save the world just yet. A Cucco dodging mini-game is a fun way to collect more rupees, as is a treasure-picking game if you really love gambling. A pink octopus desperately wants you to collect her babies spread out across the land for rewarding results.
Moving Link around the world is smooth with the circle pad, and selecting items is a snap with the touchscreen. Pins can be placed on the map to remember points of interest, and the game thankfully lets you know how many octopus children are left to find in different areas.
I adored the music so much since it brought back childhood memories of "A Link to the Past." Overall, the visuals are nice. Sometimes the 3D models in cutscenes look awkward, but they're just fine during gameplay. The story is interesting with a nice cast of characters in both Hyrule and the darker version called Lorule (get it?).
Fans of Zelda, especially "A Link to the Past," will definitely enjoy what "A Link Between Worlds" has to offer. It's a fantastic trip down memory lane that should hold up for years to come.
3 1/2 stars out of 4

Written by Jeff Hoard for Digital First Media, reprinted with permission.

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