Review by neonreaper
"Link Between Worlds gets right to the point and delivers with classic Zelda quality."
The most remarkable thing about Link Between Worlds is how it turns over some Zelda conventions that have started to bog the franchise down a bit. Nintendo could have taken Link To The Past, messed with the dungeons and puzzles, slopped on some of the recent Zelda conventions, and it would have sold well and people would have probably liked it. And I think most of us expected the game to be a let down, but then they used the LTTP intro for this game... and come on, you have to expect Nintendo to deliver if they're going that route.
So what's new and good? First thing you'll probably notice is the item rental system. Most items are available very soon after the game starts, as a masked merchant named Ravio shows up at Link's house, unloads a bag of items, and allows Link to rent them. Hookshot, bow, boomerang... many dungeon staples are now items you get pretty much right away. Not long into the game, you are allowed to buy the items, though the prices are fairly steep. If you die, you lose your rented items and have to rent them once again. Purchased items are yours to keep.
This philosophy of immediacy is a huge change of pace for Zelda, and the gamer is rewarded. As soon as you can afford most of the items, you can explore almost all of Hyrule, looking for treasure and heart container pieces. It used to be that you'd see a piece of heart sitting around, see something blocking it, and have to figure "well, in a few dungeons I will come back for this". No longer! Dungeon progression being linear wasn't a huge problem in Zelda games, but world exploration being in lock step with the dungeons was dragging the franchise down.
Link Between Worlds introduces a new mechanic for Link - merging into walls. Puzzles and strategies use this new mechanic quite a lot, and it's a good one. Dungeons themselves I think have some highlights, but overall maybe weaker than I was hoping for. Also some cool/nostalgic bosses, but I think a lot of encounters are hurt by how easy this game is (explained below).
The game offers the usual Zelda collectibles such as rupees and heart containers, but also tosses in some crafting pieces for brewing potions as well as 100 little octopus guys that you can find and return to the mother in order to upgrade your items to superior versions. There are also some mini-games. There's plenty of stuff packed into the game.
LBW introduces Lorule, somewhat of a mirror/dark version of Hyrule, and this is where the bulk of the dungeons are located. Once you set foot in Lorule, there's basically no story to speak of, just clearing the dungeons. You can do the dungeons in almost any order, which is really cool. I think what they did with the ending was really good, though I wish there was just a little bit more so I felt invested in the entire journey.
This game is super easy. You may die to some of the stronger enemies early in the game when you only have a few hearts, but after a few dungeons and collection a few bottles, you'll have too much life for the game to pose proper challenges. This is a problem that wasn't really addressed with the concept of exploring the dungeons in any order - they are all equal in difficulty (more or less), and you have a lot of life later on (and possibly better armor). Also, rupees are everywhere, so the penalty for losing your life isn't meaningful as the game progresses - it's mostly in the slight tedium in re-purchasing everything. Early on, you might not have the rupees to rent everything and you don't have the heart containers to mess around. So initial impressions are probably "wow, dying means something in this game!" but later on you are almost invincible and you have Uncle Scrooge Money Bin money.
That said, there is Hero mode. The same weird difficulty curve exists, though you have to be extra careful and skillful with your actions early on, and later encounters are no longer mere formalities. It's a great extra mode though I think it doesn't entirely cover for the regular playthrough issue.
There's also a streetpass feature which will add Shadow Links to your game if you connect with someone locally, and you can fight a shadow version of that person's Link. This would have been much better if it wasn't local connection only. Wasted opportunity. There's also a tower on Death Mountain that has a series of increasingly difficult monster battles.
The music is beautiful and the graphics are decent. The 3D in this game is pretty good.
So what we have here is a worthy spiritual sequel to Link To The Past, a modern take on LTTP that puts you right into the good parts of 2D Zelda and keeps you there. I personally think it's slightly below LTTP because the dungeons aren't as great, but they're still pretty good.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 12/06/13
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Zelda 3DS XL Pack) (US, 11/22/13)
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