I’ve waited a long time to play a Legend of Zelda game that made me so giddy that I couldn’t stop playing. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, nor the previous DS titles, but I could do without playing for days on end. However, after firing up The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, I finally found myself playing for hours at a time, unwilling to put it down.
Yes folks, A Link Between Worlds is magnificent! For those who remember playing A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo, this game is a spiritual sequel and veterans will appreciate seeing the familiar sites of that particular Hyrule. In fact, the layout is just about the same, but you’ll notice a few tweaks here and there that still manages to throw you off in a good way. But there’s just so much fan service in this game that it’s difficult to count. From the odes to A Link to the Past, to seeing ornaments and photos on the wall that bring up memories of Majora’s Mask and more.
One thing that gamers will learn right off the bat, is that there is a new system for gaining equipment. Typically, you trek through the gauntlet of dungeons before finding new equipment, but in this game, you can actually gain a majority of these items from a funky guy in a purple rabbit outfit who actually rents them out to you. It’s sort of refreshing in that it eliminates the need to play the game in a linear fashion, and lets you explore and attack dungeons in any order you wish. What’s also cool about renting them is that you lose them all if you should die, so that adds a heightened level of fear as you can be left weaponless just as quick. In the earlier parts of the game, I definitely found myself more concerned with staying alive than I had been since Majora’s Mask. Later in the game, you’re able to purchase those items but at a premium, though you’ll have the benefit of being able to upgrade them if you own them.
As in A Link to the Past, you do have the light and dark worlds, though they’re presented as Hyrule and Lorule, which also features two separate princesses. Traveling between each world is not done by stepping on warp tiles though, as Link will get to merge with walls, which has him looking like a hieroglyphic, and lets him enter dark crevices to move between Hyrule and Lorule. Though maybe a small touch, I also love the psychedelic look of Link moving from one world to the other, that made me do it on a number of occasions just to see it happen.
After trudging through three dungeons in Hyrule, you’ll then get whisked away to Lorule, where you’ll come across dungeons in the familiar areas that you find them in A Link to the Past. However, these dungeons have some very distinct themes to it, such as the Dark Palace having you play around with the lighting in each room. There are things you can see only by lighting torches, and likewise, things you can only see if you leave it dark. There are also the typical dungeons such one themed in the desert and another in water, but they feature their own unique puzzles that make them seem fresh. If I had one knock on the game, is that story-wise, there isn’t much to it save for the ending, as I’ve seen deeper storylines even from the Gameboy and GBA games, but perhaps this allowed Nintendo to get a little more creative with how the game plays.
As for the game’s 2D/3D perspective, I absolutely loved it. The game looks really good and seeing things in 3D really open up not only the world’s design but also bring it alive. The 3D is especially important and awesome in dungeons that make use of how you not only can move up or down floors but platforms. And while I appreciated the game’s point of view, I also began to notice some subtle graphical goodies, such as lighting and detailed textures, particularly with things like tiled floors, metal doors and water effects. It’s not something that popped out at me at first, but over time, I was able to appreciate them.
Thinking hard about what I most enjoyed about this game, it’s tough to point to one particular thing, but overall I’d say that the bit of nostalgia present in the game, along with exceptional puzzles, the fact that it can be at times quite difficult, and due to the game presenting me with a whole heap of surprises along the way, makes The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds one of my favorite Zelda games to date.
Ramon Aranda is the Senior Editor and has been with GotGame since 2011. Past work includes stints at 1up.com, Electronic Arts and Glu Mobile in QA, production and marketing. He's a life-long gamer who began his love of gaming with the Atari 2600 and then the original NES, which he still owns (and works!). You can follow him on Twitter @Ramon3MR.