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Review: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

Friday, December 13th, 2013 by

link between worlds review
Nintendo’s newest Zelda game has more in common with one of its oldest, taking place in a near-identical Hyrule to that of the beloved fan favorite A Link to The Past. Clearly a bid on Nintendo’s part to cash in on yesteryear’s magic – is A Link Between Worlds more than a simple trip down memory lane?

Nintendo is no stranger to the ways of tugging at our nostalgic heartstrings – it’s the very crux of their business model; it’s what they do best. And honestly, I don’t think they’ve ever done it better than they have with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

Between Worlds is the perfect marriage of old and new, fusing together the best parts of vintage Zelda with modern sensibility. Those who’ve played 1992’s A Link To The Past will immediately feel at home from the very outset of Between Worlds. It features virtually the same Hyrule; every location will be exactly where you remember it. But it’s the content – the people, treasures, and secrets – that have changed. In this way, Between Worlds manages to feel both familiar and intrepid.

link between worlds gameplay

Between Worlds handily reminds us that a game’s world doesn’t need to be huge, or rendered in 3D, to be a lot of fun. While it’s true that the game uses 3D models instead of hand-drawn sprites, it’s still a classic top-down adventure and plays exactly like one should. So much variety is packed into such tiny real estate that exploration never feels like a chore. You can literally go corner to corner in Hyrule in just a couple minutes, but the game is most enjoyable when you take the time to explore every nook and cranny in between.

There is also a great deal of freedom in A Link Between Worlds, thanks largely to a rental system that gives you access to nearly every key item from the start – for a price, of course. This kind of item dispensing is new to the series, and while it helps streamline the game’s exploration, it can be a real drag when you have to “return” your rented stuff. When Link dies, you are stripped of all rented items, meaning you’ll need to rent them again if you want them on hand. C’est la vie. Thankfully, you’ll eventually be able to purchase those items permanently. Not that you’ll be dying much, though – the game isn’t especially difficult.

link between worlds map

The most notable new mechanic in Between Worlds is ‘merging’. With walls. It may sound strange, but it’s really quite clever.

Link will gain the ability to change into a drawing and fuse with any flat wall. Once merged, he can walk along the wall in a simple left-or-right manner, then pop back out at will. It seems like such a simple mechanic, but it dramatically shakes up the classic Zelda formula, opening up new possibilities and changing the way you approach the game’s challenges and puzzles. It also makes for some pretty keen “Aha!” moments, especially early on.

The oft-forgotten 3D aspect of the 3DS looks pretty damn swell in A Link Between Worlds. Crank the meter all the way up and marvel as trees pop out of the ground, holes dive into the distance, and monsters blip around through time and space. Okay, well, maybe just space. The game’s many dungeons were clearly designed with 3D in mind, and when you turn the effect on they become a real treat.

So, then, what’s bad about the game? Well, not much, honestly. Unless you’re fatally allergic to good times, Between Worlds is one of the easiest recommendations a critic could ever make. I guess the analog stick can sometimes be cumbersome when targeting, and a handful of the dungeons just don’t feel as inspired as the rest, but in all, Between Worlds is the ultimate love letter to gamers new and old, packed with astronomical levels of fan service and good old fashioned fun.

I’m not being facetious – it’s genuinely hard to be critical of A Link Between Worlds. It’s a game that does just about everything right, successfully merging contemporary ideas with classic gameplay to create something damn near perfect. It’s the 3DS’s killer app if there ever was one.

The question, my friends, isn’t “Should you play A Link Between Worlds?”

The question is, emphatically, “Why aren’t you playing it right now?

5 star

About the Author

Mark A. Brooks uses the A. initial in his name so as to seperate himself from the teeming legions of other Mark Brookses (there are at least 65,000 in the state of Michigan alone). Keep up with him on twitter, because why not. @unoriginalG

Mark A. Brooks has written 614 posts on Delta Attack
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  • http://www.deltaattack.com/ Fade to Slack

    You sold me on the 3DS, sir. Oceanhorn’s fine and all, but there’s nothing like a true Zelda game.

    • http://deltaattack.com/ Mark A. Brooks

      It’s a good time to hop on board the 3DS train! With the spectrum of games available now, you won’t be sorry.

      • http://www.deltaattack.com/ Fade to Slack

        I know. I also want a piece of Theatrhythm’s sequel when it comes out and you can seldom go wrong with Mario.

        But, really, it’s all about portable Star Fox 64 for me. I can’t help it.

  • http://www.deltaattack.com/ Markham Asylum

    Just finished it. I agree that the only complaints I can make are that some dungeons don’t feel very inspired and that the game overall leans on the easy side.

    That aside, even the weaker dungeons are still fun, and the similarities to the original are expertly complimented by the aspects that have been shuffled or redesigned. It’s like a nostalgia upgrade.