After updating Ocarina of Time for 3DS and Wind Waker for Wii U, producer and Zelda deity Eiji Aonuma thought about where to take the series next. While every Zelda game introduces a new mechanic or wrinkle, they’ve picked up a few bad habits, along with being formulaic. What initially started as a remake to one of the greatest games ever, A Link to the Past (LttP), the team decided to do something different. The result was an incredibly successful experiment.
A Link Between Worlds is a direct sequel to A Link to the Past, but who know where it fits in on the timeline. The game features two worlds, Hyrule as you knew it from LttP, and instead of the corrupted Sacred Realm, a parallel world, the kingdom of Lorule. Lorule is complete with it’s own princess, Hilda. While there was always a linear progression to LttP, and every Zelda game following it, LbW breaks the mold in new and exciting ways. In quick order, every item you would need to complete the game can be obtained before setting foot in a dungeon thanks to Ravio and his item rental shop.
Shortly after the game opens, some vagabond moves into your house, turning it into his shop. Every item you’ll need can be rented immediately; hookshot, bow, ice rod, and new items like the sand and tornado rods. The items can be purchased eventual, which is good as the punishment for death is the lose of all your rented items (always keep a fairy on hand). This new mechanic was brilliant as it allowed me to tackle the dungeons in Lorule any way I wanted. Though there is a puzzle and enemy difficultly progression increase to the dungeons, their order is fluid. This flexible approach did have some problems, as there were many things I didn’t discover until the very end of the game; Pegasus Boots (knew they existed, just missed them), item purchasing and upgrading, and quick item selection. All of which would have been helpful early, but that’s what Hero Mode’s for.
The new mechanic introduced to the series was the ability to become a painting on the wall, allowing you to traverse the environment in different ways. This completely changed puzzle solving, particularly for me as I am intimately familiar with LttP and sometimes forgot about it. It’s this familiarity that gave me some concerns with the overall experience.
Little has changed in Hyrule, other than a few cosmetic differences. Lorule is very similar to the Dark World from LttP, with the major change being the land is separated, only able to enter from different parts of Hyrule. The game ultimately provided little challenge for me, as I’m not only a veteran Zelda player, but know this iteration of Hyrule like the back of my hand. I understand why little was changed between the games, this game was an experiment to change the proven formula of Zelda (the last time this was attempted was Zelda 2 on the NES 25 years ago). They couldn’t change too much, adding a new world and new mechanics. They need to prove this approach is viable for future games. On that front, they succeeded astoundingly.
This game also corrected several missteps the series has taken recently. Touch controls are thankfully gone, as are tutorials. I couldn’t tell you how annoying it was to be told what a blue rupee was every time I played Skyward Sword. Puzzle hints and help are available through the optional hint ghost, allowing players to ignore it if the choose. I didn’t miss having some floating partner always instructing me.
While they balanced the progression well enough, the game was too easy thanks to the abundance of rupees. I had no problem purchasing or renting anything I needed. Even after buying everything, I still had 9999 rupees to my name by the end. Also, instead disposable items (bombs, arrows, etc.), everything was tied to a magic meter, including the wall painting mechanic. While this freed up the inconvenience of having to constantly stock bombs and the like, it was annoying when trying to use the boomerang or hookshot. I’m surprised the bug net didn’t use it. There were less items this time around (no canes, medallions or capes), though LttP had a few too many. Still, I don’t think I used the boomerang once.
SPOILERS! The story this time around was very well done with an awesome twist at the end. While I had a feeling it was coming (Yuga dropped a hint early on), it was no less shocking, particularly when Ravio showed up. Being Lorule’s failed hero was startling. This explained why he had all these items and Lorule’s dungeons had none. It was a simple story beat that tied to the gameplay. Brilliant. His design was smart as well, dressed as a rabbit. Mirroring Link’s rabbit appearance in the Dark World was a smart call out. END SPOILERS!
I didn’t care for the graphics when the camera wasn’t overhead. Though I never liked that miniature body-big head look. Thankfully the camera stayed overhead mostly so it wasn’t much of a distraction.
Though it’s not in my top 5 Zelda games (post coming soon), I really enjoyed LbW for accomplishing what it set out to do. This game will be the impetuous for change in the series, something it really needed. I can’t wait to see what they do next. Oh, and screw that stupid baseball minigame. What hell is that crap?
Enjoy the non-linear gameplay? Where does this Zelda rank for you? Comment below!
No really, screw that baseball crap.