The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past set the standard for what constitutes an extremely well executed top-down Zelda game. With intricate puzzles, challenging dungeons, and a cavalcade of items, A Link the Past became a definitive Zelda title. A Link Between Worlds is no different from A Link to the Past, acting not only as an indirect sequel, but as a restoration of what made A Link to the Past so great. Originally released in 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS, A Link Between Worlds does not just act as a send-up to traditional Zelda games, it adds a lot of new options into the mix, making the game a strong Zelda title in its own right. A Link Between Worlds is set generations after the events of A Link to the Past and the events of the latter game has led to the separation of the Triforce at the hands of the Royal Family of Hyrule. One piece was kept with the Royal Family, one with the now deceased Ganon, and the last one endured in the hearts of Link and his descendants. From that point forward the plot focuses on Link and his quest to stop an evil wizard named Yuga who turns the current descendants of the seven sages into paintings in order to resurrect Ganon.
What makes A Link Between Worlds exceptionally special is that it manages to stick to the classic formulas and narratives of A Link to the Past, but creates brand new game elements to give itself a unique identity. A clear-cut example of this is that Link can now travel alongside the surfaces of walls as a painting to solve puzzles, access new areas, and travel to the Dark World of Lorule. Traveling alongside walls is a clever feature for a Zelda game that definitely puts variety in the experience and puzzles.
Aside from this brand new mechanic, most of the major items in the game like the bow, bombs, fire rod, and the mallet must be purchased from a bumbling merchant named Ravio who takes up residence in Link’s house. Although this may seem like a departure for traditional Zelda fans, it is a welcome change because it immediately grants players all the items from the start. Accessing these items is not as easy as it sounds because Ravio only lets you rent the items for a fee and informs you that if you lose all your hearts, all your items will vanish and must be rented from him again. However, this is not a problem because as you explore Hyrule and Lorule you will accumulate enough rupees to purchase the items for yourself permanently. Once you purchase the items, you can upgrade them and manage them with the touchscreen to scroll through items during actual gameplay, making item use fast and efficient. In light of these improvements, some items like the sand rod and tornado rod are used rarely so improving them is pointless.
Another new game mechanic in A Link Between Worlds is the inclusion of a stamina meter that depletes when you use items and when Link becomes a painting. This is another large departure from the standard Zelda formula that works well in my opinion because it eliminates the need to kill enemies and break pots for more bombs, arrows, or magic bottles. Despite how much I enjoy the inclusion of the stamina meter, it is far from perfect. I found it irritating how quickly the meter depleted even after I had fully upgraded it. What’s worse is that there is no potion to help restore. Instead, you have to find stamina bottles in pots which only rarely appear in certain areas of the game. Regardless, I would like to see this feature improved and implemented in the new Zelda title for the Wii U due its high potential in becoming a core mechanic that will last throughout the series.
The graphics and music are vibrant and memorable, sticking to the classic visuals and music of A Link to the Past. Even in game, sound effects are almost identical to the sound effects heard in A Link to the Past. Unlike other retro Zelda games, this title’s dungeons are not as challenging, but they are not simple either so completing puzzles in dungeons is satisfying, but forgettable. Many of the boss fights are relatively simple as well making them forgettable too.
Overall, A Link Between Worlds is a solid title with a few shortcomings in its execution. A Link Between Worlds really excels in its presentation of new game mechanics and the satisfaction of exploring Hyrule and Lorule to uncover hidden secrets. If you are a fan of the Zelda titles before Ocarina of Time, then you will love this simple return to roots and the new game mechanics it possesses. Even if you are someone exploring Zelda for the first time then this title is definitely worth getting. Pick up the game today for one of the best Zelda experiences on the 3DS.