Review by MordecaiRocks
"A Link Towards Perfection"
What is a sequel to a beloved game in the Legend of Zelda franchise happens to be the most innovative entry in the series in decades. A Link Between Worlds mixes familiarity with daring new ideas to create a game that revitalizes a series that has started to become lackluster and predictable.
You take control of Link as soon as the game starts. The lack of a long intro puts you into the action almost immediately, and the game does not let up from there. The controls are extremely fluid, and Link has complete 360 degree movement(some items like the bow and hookshot can only be used in one of 8 directions, however). Swordplay is very snappy and items are simple and fun to use. There is no longer a limited supply of bombs or arrows in your inventory. Now, all items share a stamina meter that depletes when an item is used. This system works well as as you no longer have to search for any items when your supply depletes. The limit also prevents you from spamming and abusing the item. A new wall merge ability is present, which brings new ways to transverse and explore and is used cleverly throughout the game. All these elements blend well together. Overall, this the smoothest and most enjoyable to play Zelda game yet.
The core aspect of exploring dungeons found throughout an overworld is present here in ALBW, but altered. Very early in the game you have access to most of the items you will get in the game. This is handled with a rental system, where you pay rupees to rent as many items as you can afford (and money is plentiful). You'll keep these items until you die, or until you permanently purchase them later on . Because of this, the game allows you access to multiple dungeons at once, letting you decide which one to tackle next. This design encourages exploration, letting you free in Hyrule, a large overworld filled with secrets and open to explore. The overworld is nearly identical to that of A Link to the Past's, and anyone who has played that game will find it instantly familiar. Later on you'll unlock a second world, which you can also explore with points of transition between the two worlds. Not being held back by a story or lack of necessary items, the choice of where to go and what to do is up to you.
While this new system breathes new life into a tradition that was becoming stale, it isn't without its flaws. By handing you all the items from the get go, there is a very limited sense of discovery ad accomplishment from obtaining them. Their replacements of helpful yet often unnecessary rewards in dungeons fail to fill this void. The game also has to account for the fact that you may not have a certain item(s) with you at any time. Because of this, dungeons only require the item you used to enter and your always-present wall-merge ability. This leads to a major increase in simplicity, because you know that all puzzles within the dungeon can be solved with either that one item or by merging into the wall. The difficulty also reaches a set point, because any dungeon you play next could have been played earlier instead. While you lose items if you die, I did not die once and therefore the feeling threat of losing my items was low, as I rarely even approached death. However, upon completion of the game you unlock hero mode. In this mode, enemies deal 4x as much damage and dying is a real threat. If this is a blueprint for future Zelda titles, then hopefully these overall minor flaws can be ironed out in future experiences.
The game features an art style that appears to be as if it was taken directly from ALttP, which is definitely a good thing. However, the graphics, while not necessarily bad, aren't all that pretty, which is a sacrifice for the 60 fps that hardly drops. The framerate definitely encourages the smooth and fluid feeling of the game, and makes up for the otherwise decent visuals.
Zelda games have never really involved a deep story, and ALBW is no exception. A villain named Yuga attempts to turn 7 sages into paintings to revive Ganon. Link tries to stop him, but fails and follows the villain into Lorule where he witnesses Ganon's resurrection. A princess named Hilda saves Link from Ganon, and tells Link to collect the seven paintings of the sages scattered throughout Lorule, as it is the only way to defeat Ganon. This story is not particularly engaging, but it is not bad either and serves its purpose well.
The soundtrack featured is absolutely phenomenal. It features new tracks, as well as older songs that have been redone and improved. This serves as a nice blend of nostalgia and uniqueness to create a soundtrack that is a a pleasure to listen to and experience. For a series that features some of the best songs in gaming, this installment may have the best soundtrack yet.
This is perhaps the best entry into the Zelda series in many years, if not ever. While its new design has its flaws, the positive aspects definitely outweigh them. I'd recommend this title not only to any Zelda fan, but also to anyone who enjoys video games, because this game reaches close towards perfection.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/04/13
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (US, 11/22/13)
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