Review by Ezero_De_Milo
"A Link Between Worlds is a much welcomed sequel to the critically acclaimed SNES game."
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is arguably the one game (next to Final Fantasy Mystic Quest) that truly piqued my gaming interest. I remember the days of the SNES first establishing its roots in the world, and my brother renting this particular game. Watching him play, I was captivated each step of the way, and unsurprisingly it was one of the first games that I got my hands on myself and beat. To this day, it's still one of my absolute favorite "old-school" games and definitely a contender on the list of my favorite Zelda games (next to Ocarina of Time).
For the longest time, I wondered what it'd be like to see a 3D remake of Link to the Past, especially after the video of a Chrono Trigger remake surfaced (which unfortunately was shot down by Square and reduced to a simple "project" trailer). When news of A Link Between Worlds surfaced years later, I was definitely intrigued. At first I thought it was a remake that they were going for at first, though I was admittedly puzzled by the name change...but was glad to see it was actually both a remake AND a sequel. I was a bit curious, though, since Link to the Past had a perfect closing, and I had wondered how a sequel would even work...but this was the result, and I'm quite content with it for the most part.
Storyline - 8/10
This was both a very strong aspect to the game, but also one of the weakest parts of it. For those who haven't played the game, I don't want to spoil it...but the basics of it is: Link is having a nightmare, is woken up because he's late for his job, is sent out on an errand, and is propelled into an adventure after things go down. Along the way he meets a mysterious bunny merchant named Ravio who seeks a place to live, and rents out equipment for Link to use in return. At an early point, the main villain of the game does something to Link which gives him his well-publicized power of merging into the wall as a painting. Because of this power, he's also introduced to Hyrule's unusual counterpart, Lorule. Though they're apparently supposed to be two separate entities, Lorule will no doubt remind LTTP gamers of the famous Dark World, the only differences being that there's a castle instead of the Pyramid, and each part of the world is completely disconnected from each other.
The goods about this story:
*It's very fast paced and doesn't drag on. You're literally playing the game and going into dungeons about 5 minutes in, and the story itself is intriguing and reminiscent of LTTP (and even mentions aspects of it every so often). To add to this, story doesn't take up chunks of gameplay in parts. After a certain number of dungeons, you get a minute or two of story, and then right back to game play.
*There's a twist that happens in the game that is somewhat unexpected, and the ending is somewhat endearing.
The bads about the story:
*The main Villain, Yuga, is pretty lame. The purpose of his entire ordeal? Seeking "perfection" by turning certain people into paintings. Yeah...that's really it. Really, the twist had more working for it than Yuga's entire time in the game. Even Vaati was a better villain.
Gameplay - 10/10
One of the strongest points of this game was the gameplay. At first I was worried because I had read that it would be described as being very similar to Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks...both of which I didn't care for because I absolutely HATED the complete stylus gameplay style. Thankfully, I think the description was pointing merely at the game being a top-down style game as opposed to OOT3D. The stylus is very rarely (if ever really outside of the inventory) used in the game, taking much more of the traditional button use that we know and love.
A new aspect I greatly enjoyed was the fact that most items (outside of the sword/shield, lantern, and fruits) were tied to a sort of Attack Meter. Every time you used most of your items, the attack meter would go down a bit, but would recharge on its own (unless you picked up the appropriate item like you would to fill the magic meter in LTTP). This was great for items such as the Bow and Bombs, which now have absolutely no limit outside of that meter. This means that times of having to (as another review put it) "farm" for bombs/arrows for a dungeon were over with.
Another new aspect I enjoyed was the renting of items. Remember how I mentioned Ravio? At an early point in the game, he'll rent out the Bow only, but then very shortly after, he'll have ALL of his merchandise available to rent (Hookshot, boomerang, ice/fire rod, etc...) for low prices. What does this mean? It means that after the very first dungeon, you'll be able to do the next ones in any order you choose...and the same goes for all of Lorule's dungeons once you're introduced to them. This game is almost completely open to where there is no specific order that dungeons (outside of 3 of them) have to be dealt with.
This is also a drawback for some of the diehard Zelda fans who appreciate getting the dungeon-advancing weapons in the dungeon itself. Hyrule's dungeons no longer have inventory-item chests in them (though you'll still get new equipment occasionally by other means), and while Lorule DOES have item-chests, they're both hidden/harder to get to, and they're not essential to getting through the dungeons (though the items they hold are definitely handy for their own reasons). But despite the change, I wasn't upset about it...I actually quite liked the change of pace and newfound openness.
Renting can also be a drawback (especially in the unlockable Hero Mode which is more difficult) because you only have the item until you die. Once you die in battle, Ravio will send his pet out to collect his items, and you'll have to go all the way back and rent them again. While this doesn't sound too bad price wise, it can become pretty pricey if you die a number of times and have to keep backtracking and giving more rupees to him.
But fear not, because after a while, you'll have the option to BUY the items he rents out for a high price. Don't like having to keep renting the boomerang? Well, you can dish out 800 rupees to buy it (unless it's the first item you buy, which he sells it for half price)!
Remember the collecting quests from games such as Minish Cap, Link's Awakening, and the like? Well, Link Between Worlds has one of those too, and the payoff is pretty nice. I won't spoil what the quest is exactly, but the reward comes in the style of upgrading the items that you bought from Ravio. Why have a bow that shoots one arrow when you can have an upgraded bow that shoots three at a time?
Sad to say though, the ocarina from Link to the Past (and the bird that came with it) doesn't return...though the Weather Vane (now weather vanes) does make another appearance. Outside of every dungeon and in other parts of Hyrule and Lorule are now little Weather Vanes. By activating them, you activate a new waypoint that you can fast travel to (via broomstick...you'll find out what I mean when you play). These are also your save points as well. Sorry to say that Quick Save is now gone, and you can only save by weather vane. But it's not as bad as it sounds, honestly. There are plenty of weather vanes to be found (and as I said, they're right outside the entrance to every dungeon)...and the game brings two quick-escape solutions for dungeons: Midway points (think Minish Cap and the GB/GBC Zelda games), and Scoot Fruits which allow for instant dungeon escape.
Did I mention that there's also a sort of Colosseum type of area as well? Yeah...it's actually not too bad. A nice edition to the game, though I would have preferred the level that used to be there in LTTP.
I almost forgot one important thing to point out: The lack of a noisy companion. That's right, like Zelda games before OOT, A Link Between Worlds has you traveling alone with an occasional message (occasional being not very often at all) by important characters before heading to certain areas. Other than that, you're absolutely alone throughout all dungeons and overworld areas. But that doesn't mean that you won't have help on puzzles! Because in place of taking away the companion, you can now get an item from the fortune teller known as HINT GLASSES! Wear these glasses, and you might see a hint ghost (literally a question mark shaped ghost) in certain areas/near certain puzzles. If you pay these ghosts a coin (remember those coins that you can get from doing stuff like actually walking around?), then they might help you out. But other than that, there's no hand-holding in this game, period...ESPECIALLY at the level of Fi telling you every obvious fact about every little detail that you didn't want to know about. Like Link to the Past, it's virtually silent so that you can figure everything out on your own...unless you decide to use the Hint Glasses.
All in all, the gameplay aspect is very well executed on all fronts, and I really had absolutely no gripes. Controls are very easy to learn, side quests are plenty (Treasure chest games and an upgraded form of the "dash" game are still around...as are other mini games that are somewhat newer). It has all of the classic touches that made LTTP exciting, as well as some new touches as well.
Dungeons/Exploration - 7/10
For the most part, the dungeons were a success with an occasional flaw here and there. The flaw stems from some of them feeling less than perfect but dragging for a bit, while others felt absolutely amazing but cut fairly short. Tower of Hera and the Ice Palace were beautiful examples of the 3D aspect being used wonderfully; they very much felt like towers as the view from holes in the floor would show the floor below it with enemies still running around. The Ice Palace itself was an absolutely beautiful dungeon, and definitely one of my favorites. Likewise, I enjoyed Turtle Rock's much bigger play on the name. Though I didn't understand the location switch between the two, I enjoyed it nonetheless. On the other side of things, I was really hoping for the nostalgia card with the first area before the introductory dungeon. I was glad that we got at least half of it with trecking the sewers, but I was sad that Hyrule Castle was smaller than it used to be, and that exploring the dungeons wasn't in the cards for this game. The final dungeon was a disappointment as well, especially compared to how the Tower of Ganon was in Link to the Past. Comparing the two doesn't even seem fair with how incredibly easy the final dungeon was, whereas Tower of Ganon had me pulling my hair at parts.
On the flipside, exploring Hyrule in a new 3D environment was wonderful. It was nice seeing all of the familiar sites of LTTP in a new way, and it was quite possibly my favorite part of the game. The same goes for Lorule...though going back to it all being disconnected, it took away from the Open-World feel of it and felt like they were forcing players to go back and forth to Hyrule to activate these new entrances there before they could access that part of Lorule. For a game that's trying to pride on "play the dungeons however you want," it defeats that purpose a bit. Heck, I mean sure...the mirror in LTTP was finicky at points as well unless you found and went through the portal in parts, but ALBW just took it to a new level. At least in LTTP, you could still go between Thieves' Town, Skull Forest, and every other part (minus Misery Mire) in one walk if you had all the right items...but ALBW completely takes that away. The ground between sections is gone and essentially closed off from other parts, so exploring the entire map in one walk is impossible. Not even using the hookshot to get to different parts (IE the one area in LTTP) will help. You literally have to go to Hyrule, go to the appropriate place for that section, activate the waypoint there, and rely on the waypoints to get around Lorule. The game tries to explain why it's like this, but it just seems highly unnecessary.
The goods about exploring
*Hyrule is beautiful to explore in every way.
*A lot of the little "spots" from LTTP are still there, as well as some new ones.
The bads about exploring
*You'll be relying on fast travel a lot, especially in Lorule
*The better dungeons feel incredibly short, while the "Eh.." ones feel like they drag on.
*The final dungeon is both short and easy.
Enemies/bosses - 8/10
Another flourishing area for the most part with few minor gripes. It was lovely to see all of the old LTTP enemies in a completely new 3D style...even the knights! There were some welcome new editions to the enemy list as well, though most of them were definitely remade/updated versions of the old ones. Likewise, they were just as frustrating at points to fight as they were in LTTP, which was another thing I enjoyed (remember those enemies that took 3 hearts with every hit? Yep, you can find those here too!)
There were also some new bosses as well as some of the classic older ones revamped, which again were VERY welcome in this game. Some of the classic frustrating LTTP bosses are even more so in this game with new quirks to their style...while one particular boss is actually fairly easier due to a changed mechanic (that I had mentioned in a previous statement) in this game...but it's a welcome change as well in my opinion. Newer bosses also had their challenges at points, though I can safely say that I've never had to waste a fairy on any of them (though Hero Mode might be a different story...)
My only gripes were some of the bosses being stupid easy even without upgrades. The first boss was an absolute joke, and the boss in the water dungeon was ridiculously easy compared to the boss that was in the same dungeon in LTTP.
Graphics - 10/10
Sure, I bet there's other 3DS games out there that might look a little nicer than this, but for what this game set out to do, I'm incredibly impressed with how beautiful it is. Every little detail from LTTP has been captured in a beautiful 3D style, and translated very well. From enemies to the overworld itself, it's a breathtaking view. The dungeons themselves, though different than the ones in LTTP look amazing for the most part and look fantastic. Character sprites are pretty well done, and overall there's really no gripes at all for this one...I loved the graphics both in regular "2D" style (which was what I used for the entire game for the first run through) and with the 3D turned on (which I've done off and on for the 2nd).
Sound/Music - 8/10
First off, I absolutely loved the soundtrack to this game. The starting song when you're up and about was very nicely done, and many of the improved versions of LTTP songs (the Sanctuary, overworld, dungeon themes, etc...) were lovely to listen to. I especially loved the alternate Hyrule Overworld theme, which almost seemed like a nod to Adventures of Link with how it began. Likewise, as much as I enjoyed the Lorule Overworld theme, I enjoyed its alternate version near the end even more. Overall, the music for this game was exceptional...one of my favorite songs being the one that plays in the Maimai cave.
The sounds were a hit and miss. Remember the GBA version of Link to the Past where they incorporated OOT Link's voice into it? Yeah...thankfully the Link in this game mimicked his SNES ancestor and was very silent. Unfortunately, there were other sounds that followed from the SNES title that were in this game...some that translated well, and others that didn't quite fit as well. I wouldn't have minded an upgraded form of the sound that plays when you complete a puzzle, for example...as the original sound doesn't feel like it fits very well.
Difficulty - 9/10
Overall the game had a pretty decent difficulty going for it for a first time playthrough. Enemies are virtually easy as you start the game, and become increasingly difficult as you progress. Bosses pretty much take a similar cue despite the lack of a set dungeon order, with some bosses being exceptionally easier than others. I actually enjoyed the progressive difficulty, though...despite the fact that I only completely died 3 times according to the final game statistic at the end (usually more due to my carelessness of not having a fairy/leaving a dungeon to heal). For being an open game, though, it could have been more balanced especially in the later dungeons as far as the bosses went...and the dungeons as well, since some of them were far too easy compared to others.
Replay value - 7/10
I will admit that unless you're completely captivated by the story from beginning to end, there's really not much going as far as replayability goes. It's incredibly easy to get through every sidequest (most of them just being continuous rupee generating games) before the game is over, and the only reward I've seen for finishing the game is Hero Mode.
The only difference between Hero Mode is that it's more like a "Hard" mode, but everything else is essentially the same. Enemies do double the damage and I believe that's really the only change compared to the main game. Now, if they took a page from OOT3D and did a MIRRORED "Master/Hero" quest Mode, I would have been much more excited as a Mirrored Mode almost completely changes the game despite it being the same story. Alas, it's not...it's just like going through the choice of "Normal" or "Hard," which may be new to the LTTP universe, but it's nothing exceptionally catchy unless you're a die-hard Zelda fan that wants to play it just for the added difficulty.
Overall score - 8.3/10
As always, the game always depends on the person. Even with its little flaws here and there, I found this game to be tremendous from beginning to end. While its replay value may be a bit weaker (especially compared to OOT3D's added mode), that doesn't take away from it being a game that I would HIGHLY recommend others giving a go. Whether you've played LTTP, or you haven't and have seen commercials, it's a game to pick up. And if you haven't played LTTP, I'd definitely recommend either playing that first, or giving it a go after you play through this game...give you a chance to see the original quest that they will hint at quite a bit in this game.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/03/13
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (US, 11/22/13)
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