The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is regarded by many to be the greatest title in Nintendo’s long-running Legend of Zelda franchise. It was the first game in the series to feature both the idea and existence of parallel worlds that so many other games so often portray, and for the series in general, it was also the first to feature a tale of the legendary Master Sword.
Taking place in the “Downfall Timeline” as explained by “Hyrule Historia,” The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the spiritual successor to A Link to the Past and while it may not seem as epic or even revolutionary, the game offers an incredible experience that brings the series back to its roots.
What Is It?
Taking place shortly after the events of A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds, once again, stars a different Link. This time around, Link is the uninspired apprentice of Gulley, the blacksmith of Hyrule who sends Link on an errand to deliver a sword to somebody everybody calls “the Captain.” In typical Nintendo fashion, it isn’t that simple. Chaos ensues and Link sees the Captain conquered by a suspicious person by the name of Yuga, who has the power to turn people into paintings. Yuga then strikes Link with dark magic, knocking him out.
Before long, Link finds himself back at his own house with a masked figure named Ravio who supplies him with a bracelet after Link agrees to let Ravio stay at his house.
Without saying too much about the story, yes, Hyrule goes in peril once again as Princess Zelda unfortunately is also turned into a portrait, and Link also ends up as a painting. But because of the bracelet Ravio gave him, Link finds out that he has the ability merge in and out of walls whenever and however he pleases.
Since the game marks the series’ return to its top-down quasi-2D roots, this wall-merging ability considerably enhances the potential of the game’s puzzles, adding a different dimension to Zelda’s signature dungeon-solving gameplay.
Why Should I Care?
While pretty much every Zelda game has its signature Nintendo polish and has considerably improved its storytelling over the years, A Link Between Worlds deserves its acknowledgement for not force-feeding its narrative.
Ever since Ocarina of Time, it seems as if Nintendo tried way too hard to enact the epic story that most gamers already know Zelda is. Too much is made of the background, and while every bit of dialog is well written and interesting, it also robbed the series of much of its playability. In comparison to the latest console entries with Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, it seemed as if you had to go through two hours of tutorials before even being able to do anything. A Link Between Worlds, like A Link to the Past, immediately puts players right into the action. It starts off sort of pedestrian, but eventually the game becomes non-linear, finally returning players the ability to play the game however they want.
This is exactly what makes A Link Between Worlds the best Zelda in years. While it isn’t necessarily an RPG, the freedom to go through the game almost however you want removes the stigma that a lot of the recent linear adventures have had. Dungeons in the game hardly have that Mega Man feel where the dungeon’s main item or power-up also doubles as the answer to all the puzzles. Players will finally find themselves thinking again because not only do they have that wall-merging ability, but all the basic power-ups become accessible from the get-go.
Early on in the game, Ravio, that masked rabbit Link offers his home to, turns his place into a shop. This shop rents out items such as the bow, the hanger, bombs, the hookshot — all the essentials that Link needs in his adventure — and they’re for cheap prices too. The catch? If Link dies, he loses all those items. After a certain point in the game, you have option to buy the weapons and items, but they’re all at premium prices. Fortunately Link immediately has a big wallet and can carry thousands of rupees, which are actually spawn pretty frequently in the game.
If there’s any weakness to the game, and it’s nitpicking, the game really isn’t all that hard. There will be times where puzzles will stump you, but that’s about it. The enemies aren’t all that challenging. You probably will die, and when that happens, it’ll suck. It’ll suck bigtime. But it isn’t going to happen a lot.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Being in the same version of Hyrule as its predecessor, A Link Between Worlds doesn’t look that much different than A Link to the Past. Of course, it being on the 3DS changes a few things, but the art style is close to A Link to the Past as it gets. In fact, the map itself is eerily similar and makes it seem like nothing has changed, which should please the series’ nostalgic fans.
The 3D effect also works great with the game as it was originally developed to be played completely in 3D. A large number of the game’s puzzles require players to really acknowledge the depth of some of these environments. The effect isn’t required to play the game, but it’s the first time I’ve played a 3DS game where having the 3D on actually enhances the experience. The 3D isn’t a gimmick here, and it’s good that there’s finally a game that makes use of the feature from a significant standpoint.
While the most recent Zelda games aren’t bad by any means, it’s a safe statement to say that Zelda hasn’t necessarily been the same since A Link to the Past. Of course, it being the game that it is, Nintendo set itself at a very high precedent, and of course expectations for this game were high.
A Link Between Worlds is the perfect example of a long-time series going back to its roots to rediscover itself as a franchise. It is truly a shining highlight of the 3DS hardware and is a must-have for anybody with the handheld that will please anybody who was ever a fan of the Zelda series.