Review by THOTH
"Some unusual complaints barely keep it from perfection."
Many were a bit confused as to A Link Between Worlds and its relationship to A Link to the Past. In the end, the best way to sum it up to someone that's played the later is it is in some ways a sequel, other ways a remake, and still others a sort of homage. It is in many ways LttP using the 3DS graphics visually, with many plot elements, enemies, items, situations, sound/music and this has both been greatly celebrated but for some been a cause for annoyance. Ultimately, while on this subject I feel like they play with the player's expectations enough to keep pit fresh even if LttP was beaten a thousand times, and offers a lot of completely new content that will hopefully make it to future Zelda games.
That all aside, it plays like a very conventional over head Zelda, you navigate a world that's been riddled with strife as an unknown and strange foe begins kidnapping key figures and sending them to a dark twisted alternative reality called Lorule (Vs Hyrule....get it?) As the latest Link you set out to awakening the master sword, investigate the ties to this strange nightmareish landscape with the help of Ravio, a quirky and greedy as sin merchant dressed like a purple buck toothed rabbit.... and utilizing the ability to turn into a wall painting.
These last two features are what make the game distinct. First, the ability to turn into a painting against virtually any correctly formed/textured service is a difficult one to describe, but basically you become flat and can walk left or right on the same field of play as you merged into the wall. This lets you dodge attacks, or cross really big gaps and more running on a "magic meter". Its a mechanism that is so well integrated in the multi-layered 3D dungeons that you eventually almost forget about it as a major feature. Not because it loses interest but because it SEAMLESSLY integrates into how you see the entire game, and moving around the field in different ways. It makes for entirely unique dungeons, some clever puzzles and is a great example of a cool function over a gimmick.
The other aspect, Ravio is a complicated matter also. Setting shop right away, for a pretty low price you can rent almost every item in the game. If you die, they are all returned. After a certain point, for a much bigger fee you can buy the items to keep. This means you can play it safe, go to a dungeon find out what item you need, go back and rent it. Or you can rent them all at once and try not to die. (note, items use the aforementioned "magic meter" that recharges too, including bombs and arrows)
What this also translates to, especially as the game unfolds, you have much more options as a player: you can access dungeons in almost any order and if you don't use a guide another player will almost surly have ENTIRELY different experiences. I got a great sword REALLY early for example. To keep things interesting, most dungeons contain misc upgrades versus their item counter parts like other Zeldas. This removes the Zelda tradition of finding an item, going back to the start of the dungeon and using it to solve puzzles you couldn't before....dungeons overall have a fast paced campaign approach to them, while innovative and keep you at a steady level of challenged but moving forward and not so much back, it's kinda like a steady anthem of conquest. Its easy to get lost in, but....the challenge issue.....
Most dungeons are roughly the same difficulty because you can access them in different orders. And sadly, it's really not that tough. Depending on what dungeons you tackle and upgrades from them, this could be even *more* of an issue. One dungeon could mean never seeing a game over screen if done early more or less. I'm personally not cool with this.
The pervasive lack of difficulty starts so early in the game there's very little risk to renting all items, and with the intensive and INSANELY inappropriate amount of money this game throws at you, you'll be owning all the items early on, you will probably be destroying whatever the last couple dungeons you picked with your upgrades.... honestly, my first play through I didn't even use advanced healing potions (or any of the "utility" potions), hardly ever used the shield......
But, even with those difficulty issues aside what a great game to get intoxicated on. The world is vibrant, the characters actually have some personality, there's weird/funny mini-games, mini puzzle dungeons using specific items, a couple important side quests, a battle tower....the dungeons themselves are all completely different, different themes: some of them are absolutely amazing. The game play has been really fine tuned, the mechanics of the items makes all of them have different use at different times....
Probably my favorite part about the game is a side quest to hunt down squids hidden all over the land, which enables you to upgrade any item that you've actually *purchased* from Ravio. These upgrades put completely new spins on the LttP items, and for your first time through the game don't make a huge difference but it is worth while to pay attention to the mechanics of each upgrade (stun properties, damage, utility, do they work against shielded or flying enemies etc) its a lot of fun and makes it so you re-discover the inventory you pretty much have at the beginning of the game.
Other aspects are great, the music is incredible takes on stuff from LttP, the GBA remake screams of Link are replaced with less distracting whoofs and buffs of the SNES era. The visuals look great, I never play in 3D so I can't account for how well that experience played out. Everything is so fine tuned. The plot is pretty good, the ending is surprising (I do advise being careful on these message boards as spoilers are everywhere) and even with its difficulty issue there are a few tense moments, and it still keeps you in a sense of steady conquest through out the 20ish hours it takes to complete. When its done and you've got mostly 100% you feel ready to beat the game, it's that thorough.
When you beat the game, you unlock a new mode where things hurt you a LOT more and there's a bit more story to play around with. Here, you can take your knowledge of dungeon treasures, and items worth upgrading and really put them to good use. In true Zelda tradition, it is easy to skip out on optional upgrades, meaning with even a bit of ingenuity fans that really like the game can customize this mode to their own difficulty liking. And, I have to say, their item/inventory/upgrade system really shines with an almost RPG like deliberateness.Enemies have properties and weaknesses to certain items.... you can really give yourself an experience on this mode with minimalism.
Overall, it's a great game, I think it's my new favorite Zelda, it's everything I'd hoped for, the painting ability is an effortless brilliant addition.....some deeply embedded difficulty problems in main game like ease of renting items, obtaining too much money, not dying much (I didn't first time), gimmicky potions/monster part collecting.... some stuff lacks balance, but I believe that this was a first stepping stone to make a less linear yet more traditional Zelda experience I really hope to see more of in the future.
So in summery:
+Its relationship to LttP is great. Plays on old pros expectations. Better switching between worlds. Feels like homage, sequel and remake fluidly.
+Painting Link, ACE
+Fleshed out world, characters, music, graphics depict an engrossing world
+Less linear play style means you create your experience more, and lets dungeons be less....pensive, less back tracking.
+Items available at once and gradually upgraded makes a lot of sense (especially since the basic item forms are kinda routine for Zelda players any way)
+A Zelda ending that surprised me? Whoa.
+Dungeon design is some of the best I've seen
+Hero mode makes things really count and makes the player notice game mechanics.
+Just the right amount of minigames and side quests.
+That sense of freedom of having so much to do? Fits this genre perfectly.
+Every dungeon is kinda tricky!
-Why do I need all this money? No really, this is obscene.
-Why should I bother with healing potions when faeries work just as well and are dished out more than I even need? (for non Zelda fans, basically where's the difficulty?)
-A certain dungeon makes all the other dungeons waaay easier. This is my biggest complaint about this already easy game, stumbling on "easier' mode.
-Enemy body part collection and two kinda novelty potions and a goofy fruit.... eh, I can't complain about extras but I feel like content in a game should be at least note worthy.
-Every dungeon is the same level of kinda tricky.....its not until the very last segment you get what feels like an updated challenge.
This is a must have for the 3DS I think ultimately. Just get it if you have the system, it's legit.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 12/13/13
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (US, 11/22/13)
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