Review by AlexNight
"The return of an old Legend with a breath of fresh air."
Okay, so this is the first time that I have written a review about a video game. Just to be clear, this is my own opinion and observances as a gamer. With that little disclaimer out of the way, let's get into this.
First off, it's a Zelda game. You know it's gonna be good, but this is probably the best Zelda game in 15 years. It certainly can stand as a successor of A Link to the Past. There's various reasons why I say this without spoiling anything major.
Now, it follows the same formula as the previous Zelda titles where you play as Link or whatever the hero's name is. For fans of A Link to the Past, you'll find the overhead view and the places around Hyrule familiar with the exception of the second world that you have to go to eventually. As it has been revealed in the trailers, Ganon is back but I will not spoil anything about his agenda. As seen in the picture above, the Master Sword makes its return which does seem obvious for a game that is a sequel to A Link to the Past. Also, no this is not the same Link from A Link to the Past.
A Link between Worlds is set in the Fallen Hero timeline that takes place if Link loses to Ganondorf in the final battle on Ocarina of Time and takes place 600 years after the events of A Link to the Past or six generations more simply. You take the role of the Hero and you have to help the Princess stop this new evil that is going after the Seven Sages for some reason. This new evil is a man named Yuga who uses a strange power that allows him to become a moving portrait on the wall. You'll also get this strange power early on in the game and the wall merging mechanic brings in a whole new depth of exploration as well as strategy in combat as you will not take damage from enemies while merged.
One major gameplay thing that I would like to note is that you do not have a companion or a guide telling you where to go, how to fight an enemy, or to tell you to take a break. Oh my goodness, how much I was glad that they did this for this game. The lack of a companion gives you the chance of exploration, discovery, and not to mention making you work harder in fights. I personally felt that having companions like Navi, Midna, or Fi made the game too easy and doesn't let you figure out what to do on your own.
A couple of notable gameplay changes to the Zelda formula is the item acquisition formula. In previous installments, the way you get items like the Boomerang is by defeating a mini-boss in a dungeon, get the item, use it a lot in said dungeon and use it to beat the dungeon boss, and then only use that item in a couple of instances. This time is different.
There is a mysterious character named Ravio who is willing to rent you any and all items. That means if you have enough rupees, you can rent the Boomerang, Ice Rod, Fire Rod, Bow, Hammer, Sand Rod, Hookshot, Tornado Rod, and Bombs near the start of your quest. However, this does bring in a bit of strategy for you to consider. You may rent any item and keep it for as long as you want. However, Ravio will take any item that you rent back if you die and press continue. That means you will lose all of those items and have to buy them again. This places more importance on your own life as well as strategy. On the other hand, this does give you more freedom on exploration. Having the choice of multiple items can allow you to solve nearly any puzzle with whatever item you want and explore any dungeon in whatever order you wish until you have to deal with the next important segment of your quest. I feel that these two changes make this Zelda game stand out amongst its predecessors. Also, there is an option for you to buy the item you want later on in the game. It will cost you more rupees of course, but at least that item is yours even after you die.
Another unique mechanic that Nintendo implemented is the energy gauge. You lose some of the energy in the gauge as you use the various items in the game or use the wall merging mechanic. I honestly felt skeptical about this change at first, but as I continued playing the game I started to love it and would love to see something like this in the next Zelda game that is planned for the Wii U. This mechanic does eliminate ammunition for arrows and bombs, but it does eliminate the need to farm for them or have a boss come up with an excuse to give you some arrows or bombs to beat them. (Example in being the ToG boss and Puppet Ganon boss in Wind Waker.) I also find this to be a welcome change as it also brings in that level of strategy for you to consider in order to progress through the game.
As this is like Four Swords and A Link to the Past, this game is played from an overhead view. This leaves your sword combat with only three attacks: the slash, the poke, and the Sword Spin. I feel that this simple formula is actually more tense than the combat in Twilight Princess because you don't have the reliance of Z-Targeting and every monster in this game holds the potential for killing you if you are careless. This is especially true if you play this on Hero Mode which also makes its nightmarish return. Every section of Hyrule in this game always has something going on whether it be an event or an enemy which is quite the welcome change. Games like Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess did have a huge Hyrule field, but they just felt empty. For Ocarina of Time, there would only be enemies out in Hyrule Field during the nighttime which is kind of underwhelming. Same thing with Twilight Princess and its Hyrule Field. In A Link between Worlds, there is always some kind of presence in every section of Hyrule and the alternate world making you stay vigilant. Don't get me wrong, I love Ocarina of Time but it does have its flaws once you get past the nostalgia.
It's not a Zelda game without side-quests and it does have some interesting side-quests that can reward you for the time taken doing them. Some of them range from races to cave explorations for items like rupees and Pieces of Heart. There is a unique side quest that makes it necessary for you to undertake where you have to find this mother's many children. Everytime you bring back ten of them, she'll upgrade whatever item that you own to make it better in a certain way like the Hookshot. So, if you want to have a better time progressing then I suggest that you keep a watch for this mother's children. There is also reward in exploring the dungeons themselves for extra gear like a Blue Chainmail which can cut damage taken by one third or a half. (I can't remember exactly) The freedom of exploration and the potential rewards that comes with it are some of the biggest points that makes this game stand out amongst it predecessors as more than just another adventure into the familiar Hyrule of A Link to the Past.
While this game doesn't come with online play, there is a unique mode in Streetpassing where you can fight in an arena with somebody's Shadow Link. The way you do this is you allow streetpassing and when you go to Kakariko Village, you'll find a Shadow Link just waiting. You can battle against this Shadow Link with any items you want, but you may only use the two items that you choose to go into the fight with. There is a bounty system in place that determines the total number of rupees you get for beating the Shadow Link based on how many hearts he has, the gear he has like armor and sword, and what items he has and what level those items are like the Bombs or Bow. Everytime you enter and exit the arena, you'll have full health. So there is nothing to lose and a lot to gain. Take note that the higher the bounty they have, the harder it is to kill the Shadow Link.
Now, let's talk about the alternate world for a bit. This isn't the same Dark World back in A Link to the Past. Instead, you'll visit alternate Hyrule that is called Lorule as seen in the trailer. What you didn't see in the trailer is how the world of Lorule is so different from Hyrule as this Lorule is a world filled with despair and many dangers that makes Hyrule look like a playground. Lorule is a very interesting world as it brings that certain air of desolation and despair yet there is hope trying to cling on in a dark world. You'll see it in the form of actual NPCs that live in this world trying to survive against the dark denizens of this world. I honestly love this Lorule over the Dark World in A Link to the Past because of this aspect.
The art design and look of the games is great. I cannot honestly give any nit-pickings on that front especially since this game runs at a constant 60 FPS even with the 3D effect on. Also, the 3D effect looks surprisingly well with the new Zelda game. It brings additional depth to the world of Hyrule and it can make some exploration instances look intimidating. Anytime that I want to turn the 3D effect off is when some of the exploration instances just look intimidating with it on. The music in this game are some familiar tunes that give tears to nostalgic fans like the Dark World theme as well as some original pieces of music that coalesce very well in this game.
There are some nice nods to the games of the past that you'll have to stay on the lookout for and some of the interactions just make you smile like when you can spend a few rupees to hear a couple of bards play some familiar tunes with a guitar and flute. As far as this game goes, the world feels alive around you.
Every dungeon in this game has its own unique feeling to it. Some of the ways that you need to solve puzzles can leave you stumped for a bit, but when you solve it you can't help but admire the level design. Every single dungeon boss has its own unique feeling that makes each of one of them stand out from the other. There is even a dungeon where you don't need to use any items to beat, including the boss. I won't say what dungeon that is, but I will say that they made quite a clever dungeon along with the other dungeons that are in this game. There are some throwbacks to A Link to the Past like the gigantic worm boss shown in the game's trailer. (By the way, I hate that boss with a passion on Hero Mode.) Okay, now it is time for me to give my overall consensus on this game.
This game was put on the 2013 VGX awards and won for best Handheld game. This game absolutely deserves this award and the numerous praises among the various big critics. It's not the next HD Zelda that we wanted, but this game is an absolute hit on every single aspect. It gives off the meaning of adventure which I think is the most important fundamental part of a Zelda game. My only complaint? It's that it might be a little too short, but even then its still a fantastic game that I don't think that I can count this as a fault. If you have a 3DS and want something to play for this holiday season, then get this game. You won't regret a single penny of this purchase. If you don't have a 3DS and you want one this season, then get the Zelda 3DS bundle that comes with a sick looking 3DS bearing the Triforce as well as a digital download for A Link between Worlds. After I finished beating the game for the first time, I wanted to restart it on Hero Mode right away and beat it again. Unfortunately, I couldn't as it was 3:30 am when I first beat it and sleep was needed... So I started the next day in the afternoon.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds gets a 10/10.
Now let me explain myself about giving a game a 10/10 score. No game is perfect. All that this score means that this game has done exactly what it intended to do and more. It stands out from the other games and brings in new fresh formulas to make the game interesting while keeping the core of the game strong. Whatever flaws that this game has are minor, not worth noting, and/or does not pull you away from the experience that this game brings.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 12/18/13
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (US, 11/22/13)
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