The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds 3DS Review
So, during the roll-out of the newest, biggest, and baddest gaming consoles around, Nintendo quietly remained in the market, chugging along as if the world hadn’t ended for them, and the walls weren’t crashing all around them. Of course, these doom and gloom prophecies of Nintendo’s fate following the releases of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One were always a bit hyperbolic. However, it did seem that Nintendo was primed to become just a footnote in the story, considering the limited number of households that actually own a Wii U. That being said, the portable gaming market is still where Nintendo really finds its comfort zone. This has never been proven truer than with their highly acclaimed 3DS title, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. You may be asking yourself, “Why is iGR just now giving this a once-over?” It is our great regret to state that yours truly thought that it would be something of a disappointment – a top-down Zelda game on a system to which they ported the Nintendo 64 title Ocarina of Time. After so many people showered it with praise, it seemed as if those prejudices were quite unfounded. And so, here we are, looking to see if this is actually merited, or if these reviewers are commending Nintendo out of a sense of obligation.
The story is a continuation of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Zelda title A Link To The Past. Similar to that game’s plot, Link must once again unite three pendants to claim the Master Sword, and then save the descendants of the Seven Sages in order to stop the Demon King Ganon from causing worldwide devastation. However, this time around, a wizard named Yuga has decided to help Ganon rise from the Dark World in order to claim his powers. In order to do this, Yuga first puts Hyrule Castle under a horrendous spell that traps all the inhabitants, keeps out anybody seeking entrance, and brings illustrated troops under Yuga’s control to life. Breaking the enchantment is the reason why Link must capture the Master Sword, but once he gets to Hyrule Castle, he must chase Yuga to save Zelda. Yuga, who is obsessed with art and who has been capturing the descendants of the Seven Sages in paintings, decides after a few battles to imprison Link in a painting as well, carrying off a portrait-trapped Zelda in the process. However, a bracelet given to him by a traveling merchant named Ravio (he winds up being highly important later, but he’s also rather helpful because he sells most of the tools and devices you’ll need for your journey) manages to allow Link to escape being trapped – but also to turn himself in to a painting on the wall at will, and to travel along it. Yuga’s decision to merge with Ganon breaks Hyrule’s dimensional barriers, and creates portals to a parallel world called Lorule, which Princess Hilda rules. Lorule is a broken land, and so to traverse it, Link must use his power to turn himself in to a portrait in order to use the fissures in reality to move between Hyrule and Lorule. His goal in Lorule is to find the portraits of the Seven Sages, unite them, and defeat Ganon. To go any further in to the plot would be to give gigantic spoilers, but let’s just say that the turn is a doozy.
At first glance, one could assume that because the game is a top-down adventure, the graphics team did not utilize the system to its full capabilities. This could not be further from the truth. The environments are and characters are all fully rendered with 3D graphics, they are simply seen from a different perspective. The nature of the game necessitates the perspective. At first glance it does not seem to provide the same graphical density as the Ocarina of Time port. As one progresses, it is impossible not to appreciate the work on the visual aspect of the game. From the dungeon design to making Hyrule and Lorule seem completely unique, the worlds through which you travel are incredible. It is even more striking how much attention the designers paid to fully fleshing out the game when you merge in to a wall, or simply solve a puzzle. There is something gratifying about just stopping to look at the game and appreciate it for its appearance. Even better than the game play graphics, however, are the cut scenes, which are fully rendered from a cinematic perspective, and really add to the game. Unfortunately, n 3D mode, it is a little hard on the eyes (as is true with every 3DS game, and stereoscopic pictures in general). Luckily, every so often after a save, the game reminds you to take a break.
As for the game play, combat is somewhat simple at first, with a command to attack with a sword and a command to block with a shield. However, as you progress, you get equipment that changes both how you get around Hyrule and Lorule, and how you battle opponents. Some major staples in the game – the bow, the Hook Shot, the boomerang, and the bombs – make their return, and are useful in their own way. New equipment is also present that is added specifically for certain parts of the game. They become quite useful beyond this, however, and have combat purposes all their own. Unlike the game’s big brothers on consoles, there are only two additional slots for equipment, so a player must choose wisely how to play. The puzzle solving in the game is prevalent throughout, and shows something that we saw in other children’s series (thank you, J.K. Rowling); you can bash things repeatedly all you like, but at some point, it helps to use your brain. The always available menu on the bottom screen is well designed, and allows for a game experience that takes all the best mechanics from the Ocarina of Time port and fits them to this new style of play. Being able to traverse between activated save points is a huge plus. The Street Pass experience is an interesting addition, and the Shadow Link battles are an intriguing way of expanding the game beyond the regular plot.
Of course, no game is without its flaws. As beautiful as the environments are, the displays suffer from some perspective issues, so that depth perception becomes something of a guessing game. While this is fine for most of the game, there are a few locations where Link is taking gigantic falls on to platforms where, if he misses, he suffers health damage. As such, it can make for a very frustrating experience in certain (if minimal) parts of the game. Secondly, although the combat system is simple, the aiming system could do with some work. Link can only attack in one of eight directions, making long distance weaponry far more unwieldy than it should be. Also, Link seems to move with every action, meaning that if he happens to be upon one of said precipices of doom and you do an attack in just the wrong direction, you’ve also directed him to leap to his doom. As these things rarely happen, however, they are not major inconveniences, and are basically negligible.
Overall, looking at this game, this reviewer feels embarrassed to have been so prejudiced against this game in the beginning. Sure, it’s another Zelda title, and the story isn’t exactly the most original thing that Nintendo has created, but ultimately, this is a great game, and quite possibly the best 3DS exclusive that has come out since Kingdom Hearts 3D. If you’re still on the fence about this, in spite of the rave reviews, jump off it in the direction of your nearest video game retailer. You won’t regret it.