Review by BigReed

"Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in!"

The Good:
A throwback to the original filled with new content, the art style and graphics are amazing at times, interesting and engaging story (when it's actually told), vast array of items, Master Sword upgrades, no wallet cap, entertaining puzzles, some of the more creative boss fights in the series

The Bad:
3D models can be a bit ugly, lack of direction early on, the story is engaging, but really only in focus at a couple points in the game

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a newly created title with the intentions of visiting one of the most beloved and influential titles in video game history. A Link to The Past on the SNES is not only one of the best games in the Zelda franchise, but also considered one of the best games ever created. Shigeru Miyamoto, series creator and more recently general producer, has flirted with revisiting the title once more, either with a remake or sequel. ALBW actually started out as a numbered sequel, but ended up being more of a spiritual successor in my opinion. While it does focus on A Link to The Past, A Link Between Worlds is actually full of new content, including characters, story, dungeons, and new gameplay changes. Nintendo has gone back to the traditional 2D style from past Zelda titles, and with ALBW, has created one of the best games in the series.

Beautiful, yet ugly, at the same time

ALBW utilizes updated graphics that employ the use of 3D models. With AlttP, beautiful 2D sprites were used, and they stood the test of time. There were times when I would be in a dungeon or exploring the open map, and the game would be among the best on the Nintendo 3ds, graphically speaking. Other times, the 3D models would be somewhat ugly. Close-ups of some of the character models took away from the experience, and sort of counter acted the darker direction the game was attempting to go in. The art style, and many of the games drawings created, showed proportioned characters, but the in game models had more of a “chibi” style to them. This is the only portion of the game that I thought could be subjectively debated evenly. While it's not as straight forward and easy to place, love or hate, the graphics do take some getting used to. To combat the subjectivity, certain portions of the game are just a pleasure to look at. The game running at 60 frames per second for example, makes it very easy on the eyes and smooth looking. Also, Link's new ability, merging onto walls and taking the form of a painting, is gorgeous and well done.

Ever been in an awkward social situation, and wished you could just blend into the walls and disappear?

By far, the biggest gameplay change in ALBW, is Link's new ability. Early in the game, Link will gain the ability to lean against a flat wall, and become a 2D painting of himself, that actually has the ability to move around. This small feature dominates just about every section of the game, but in a good way. During the first three hours of the game, I was finding myself not really enjoying what the title had to offer. I think one of the biggest reasons for this was because I didn't fully understand how big of an impact merging had on the experience. Before the game released, so much emphasis was put on the fact that you can complete the dungeons out of order, because of the new item system (which I will talk about later). I figured the game's pace would be dictated by the item rental system, and then complimented by the merging ability. Well, I was wrong, and it was actually flipped. Merging allows for a new layer of exploration in the Zelda series, and adds so many new puzzles and ideas to the formula. The map may seem small to experienced Zelda fans, but the ability to merge to solve puzzles greatly expands the possibilities it can hold. Once you become accustomed to the merging mechanic, then the game really opens up and begins to impress. Merging can solve puzzles, be used to cross gaps, find hidden collectibles, and defeat bosses. This mechanic is really fun and creative, and I hope it makes another appearance within the series. The idea was executed too well not to be considered for future titles.

Item rentals for the adventurer on the go!

Another major change to the Zelda formula is the ability to rent any of the games items you want. This change however, was much bigger on paper than within the game itself. Leading into the release of the game, great emphasis was placed on being able to complete the dungeons in any order. While this is true, the ability to hold all of the rupees you collect during your adventure makes the rental system more like a convenience rather than a revolution. The items are also changed in another manor as well. Gone are the bomb bags and quivers, and good riddance. In past Zelda games most of the collectibles were centered on upgrading the amount of a specific item you could hold. This was fine for a while, but doing the same thing over and over could have become boring to longtime fans of the series. In ALBW, there is a stamina meter that is used for items and the merging ability. This means that once you rent an item, you can use it as many times as your meter permits. This was a great way to streamline the series without removing any worthwhile content or gameplay. The biggest drawback to the overall item changes, is that it is very easy to rent almost every weapon in one shot, and by the time purchasing the items is offered, a majority of those can be purchases as well, in a single shot.

Since the past collectibles were effectively removed, Nintendo was able to concentrate on hiding other things throughout the game. Each item can be upgraded once the player progresses to a giant beast, who of course has lost one hundred of her babies. Through both versions of the map, players can collect the noisy little babies, and in return, will be able to upgrade the items. This is a nice little feature that encourages exploration and puzzle solving, and the upgraded items are pretty fun to use.

An entertaining story spread too thin

Generally when writing reviews, I skip over the story sections unless the game centered on it. ALBW, a Nintendo game, actually has an engaging and well written story, but the game never really takes the time to remind the player it is happening. The story is basically told at two major points in the game, and at each time, I was entirely drawn into what was happening. Normally for Nintendo games, the story is simple and easy to ignore, but the Zelda series has been pretty good at telling in game stories. The timeline is a whole other subject however. The ending of ALBW was satisfying, and the games pacing is reminiscent of the older Zelda titles. It's clear that the 2D Zelda games are still viable even though the technology keeps improving, but it would be nice if Nintendo told more of the story during the middle portions of the game.

Recommendation: Buy it

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a fantastic entry into one of gaming's most cherished franchises. The stamina meter, new item system, and ability to merge into walls all add new gameplay elements to the strong, traditional Zelda formula. Nintendo has several key franchises that they rely on as a business, but The Legend of Zelda's quality was not compromised in the process. After a slow start, ALBW eventually became one of the best games I have played on the Nintendo 3ds, and is potentially one of the best Zelda titles ever created.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/17/13

Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (US, 11/22/13)

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