Review by fallenKlNG
"A Link To The Future Of Gaming!"
Zelda fans are the worst. They want something familiar, but demand innovation at the same time. Hence, the creation of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds- a game that revisits a classic, but at the same time, brings something new to the table. A meeting of new and old, if you will. That being said, I suppose a better title for this review should be A Link to the Past of Gaming, but that just doesn't have the same ring to it.
If you've ever played Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, or Twilight Princess, you'll notice similar story drives. When you're starting out, the world feels quiet, peaceful, lazy, and carefree (more or less). The problems early on in the game don't feel all that heavy. Then after you beat the first 3 dungeons or so, you run into the game's oh s*** moment, where things take a turn for the worse. That's when the game's story really opens up and pulls you in. The same formula was used for this game's story, so if you're just starting out and you're just not feeling it, don't worry. The story gets better once you've played past the game's introductory arc.
Aside from the whole dark world theme and a few interesting plot developments towards the end, I'd say the overall story was pretty standard for a Zelda game. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. The story is there, but this game was made to be very fast paced. What I mean is that all of the story events are brief and straight-to-the-point. This was all done intentionally to create a fast paced Zelda game that's all action, all the time. For you gamers that don't appreciate a story that takes hours to set up and refuses to take you to the first dungeon until like 3-5 hours into the game (Skyward Sword, I'm talking to you), you'll definitely appreciate the fast-paced nature of this game. Now personally, I LOVE a good long story in video games, and I don't care if they take a long time to develop. For a handheld Zelda game though, I believe the fast-paced story-telling makes perfect sense.
So what if you're not interested in dungeons and dragons, darknuts and dark-worlds, sages and sand rods, princesses and portraits, or treacherous towers and triforce shenanigans? That's fine, because there are no dragons in this game. But more to the point, this is more of a gameplay-heavy game, where the story is there, but doesn't take up too much game space, if you know what I mean. So that begs the question: how IS the gameplay? Read on, my fellow Zeldaddicts.
After playing this game, you will never look at walls the same way again. A new mechanic introduced is the ability to merge into the walls, giving every dungeon a whole new dimension of complexity (pun intended). You'll often find yourself stuck on a puzzle, then remembering that you can get from point A to point B by merging into the wall at point C. It's not always as easy as it sounds, but it's usually never too difficult either. Another new mechanic is the item rental system. Instead of finding items in dungeons like usual, you'll obtain all of them through Ravio's rental shop. You'll pay a small fee to rent an item that you'll need for dungeons, and you'll keep the item for as long as you live... and I mean that literally. If you get a Game Over, you'll lose your rented items, and will have to rebuy it. This will make you genuinely fear getting Game Overs, and that's a healthy fear for gamers in my opinion. Soon enough, you'll be able to buy the items so that you can keep them permanently, but doing this costs a lot more money than renting.
The final new mechanic worth mentioning is the energy meter. It's sort of like your magic meter, but it's used for all of your items except maybe one or two like the lamp. Whenever you use an item, your energy meter will deplete, and you'll be unable to use the items until you regain energy. The energy meter will automatically refill itself (and it refills pretty fast), and the amount of energy depleted depends on the item. The more powerful the item, the more energy it takes. Here's the kicker: ammunition based items such as bombs and arrows no longer require you to find refill ammo, and are now energy based items like everything else. So you essentially have unlimited arrows and bombs. Not bad. Not bad at all.
The combat is similar to any Zelda game. You have your standard sword attacks, and two item slots that allow you to mix and match whatever item combos you think is best to slay enemies. Usually, you can use several different items to kill bad guys, but some enemies have weaknesses to certain items that will make your life a lot easier, so it's always fun to experiment with different items.
The dungeons are cleverly designed, and will genuinely make you feel smart and accomplished for being able to solve some of the more thoughtful puzzles. Notice that I said they were cleverly designed, not difficult. While I thought the puzzles and dungeon designs were creative, this was the first Zelda game that I was able to beat without using a guide. The puzzles (usually) weren't too difficult, but they weren't too easy either; they were just right. To be fair, it's entirely possible that I was able to beat this game without a guide because I'm what you would consider a young adult, and with age comes wisdom. After all, if a 22 year-old Engineering student like myself can't finish a game intended for children (not saying this game is ONLY for children. Please put away your pitchforks) on my own, there may not be hope for society. Despite what I just said, it's not the end of the world if you get stuck, because the game gives you special glasses that allow you to see ghosts. These ghosts will give you hints for the price of a few 3DS play coins. Not trying to brag, but I honestly forgot this item existed.
One thing that makes this game really unique to other Zelda games is the freedom. Almost as soon as you begin, you'll have free access to most of Hyrule. I found myself getting lost in the Lost Woods before I even got my first sword (not recommended). Fortunately, exploring Hyrule (and Lorule) isn't too overwhelming because it's a pretty small world, and just about everything can be reached in less than 10 screens. Even though the world is small, it feels big. Even though you may be standing in a mountain area about 3 screens away from the castle, the game certainly won't make it feel that way. Each geographic area looks naturally separated from everything else, making Hyrule (and Lorule) feels like its own complete, mini-planet.
The one thing that really stood out in regards to the free exploration was the fact that you had what was it, seven dungeons?.. roughly seven dungeons available for you to tackle in any order you want. Like playing with fire? If you're like me, and enjoy making fireballs with paper towels and Germ X, then tossing them at your frightened friends, do the fire dungeon first (and seek counseling). Did you have a near-death experience with water when you were little because your older brother pushed you into the pool, and now even a little water puddle makes you nervous? Then save the water dungeon for later and seek counseling. If you feel like doing the ice dungeon first seek counseling.
I had mixed feelings about the dungeon freedom. While it was nice to be able to choose my own path, I felt that it made the dungeons a little unbalanced. For example, when you go through your first few dungeons, you may feel a little overwhelmed and underpowered depending on the dungeon you choose. On the other hand, when you go through your last few dungeons, you may feel a little underwhelmed and overpowered depending on the dungeon.
The first thing you'll notice when you play this game is that the camera is positioned in the classic bird's eye view. This is one of the many things that gives this game the classic Zelda feel. While I enjoyed most of the graphics, I wasn't too crazy about some of the character models; especially Link's. The characters look decent when the camera is in its usual bird's-eye view, but when they zoom in on the characters, I felt like the models looked oddly fun-sized (or chibi, if you know what that means) and a little bit like (high quality) clay. I don't think the zoomed in character models were awful, but at the same time, I wasn't too impressed either. What did impress me though, was the 3D. The depth that the 3D provides is superb, and I often liked to play at about 80% 3D (my usual).
It's Zelda music. It's awesome. Not much else to say. Many of the songs are remixes, and they've been remixed quite well. I wasted quite a bit of time and money paying the 2-man-band in the milk bar to play random orchestrated remixes to my favorite classic songs, which you won't hear anywhere else in the game. I would spend several minutes loitering in Kakariko to listen to the music, and I especially loved the overworld themes for Hyrlule and Lorule. If that overworld music played as I walked around in real life, I would have the motivation to do just about anything. I suppose we have mp3 players for that very reason though, don't we?
This is the ultimate Zelda experience that offers an excellent balance between nostalgia and innovation. So whether you're a diehard Zelda vet or someone new to the series, this is a game that just about any gamer can enjoy. So what are you waiting for? Those dungeons aren't going to explore themselves, and those bad guys certainly won't slay themselves either (although it's possible for enemies to damage and kill each other; which can be extremely hilarious to watch).
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/07/14
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (US, 11/22/13)
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