I’ve been playing a lot of 3DS over the past months, haven’t I? Blimey. I will admit I do not keep up with gaming news as much as I used to, but I had heard about A Link Between Worlds. Enough to look forward to it, certainly.
As usual I’ve gotten the images for this through Google Image Search, because I do not have a 3DS Capture thingy.
I downloaded the game from the e-shop, which actually took me under an hour, and while I had heard something about it being set in the same world as A Link To The Past, I wasn’t quite prepared for it. The nostalgia, especially with the music, was a tad overwhelming, and will likely tint this ‘review’.
I believe it was said that this is set 100 years after A Link To The Past, so if you played that one, then this world will be instantly familiar to you. Things have changed in the intervening years, naturally, but on the whole I’d say there’s more similarities than differences. Whether you think that’s good or bad is up to you, but personally I thought it was quite neat to walk around and explore the same world in a new light.
I would also say it’s a good intro for those new to the series. Nintendo have always been good at making their games so that you don’t really need any previous knowledge or experience to jump in.
Outside of your house.
If you’re looking for big innovations, I can’t really think of any. It’s mostly small or medium stuff. The biggest is probably the new item system. All of them can be rented (and later bought if you’re rich enough) from a merchant who sets up shop at your house. You can take them all at once if you want to, but if you then ‘die’ (get knocked out) you lose them all. And especially early on that can be rather costly.
See, they’ve actually managed to balance the economy pretty well. I was nearly at the end before I had earned enough rupees to finally get all the items purchased. I started with the items I felt were more essential, renting the rest, and then by the end I had them all. I was practically never overflowing with money until the very end. But if you are, good news! You no longer need to upgrade your purse size, which has been a slightly annoying hanger-on throughout the Zelda series. It goes up to 9999 from the very start, and I never managed to max it out.
I should mention that items now all work off of an energy metre. It recharges fairly fast, but it still enforces a bit of strategy out of how you use your tools, especially in combat situations. It’s a simplification to make sure you’re never out of ammo or mana if you need it. The game just wants you to have fun.
And you get the ability to turn yourself into a painting at will.
Though I think what I appreciated most was just exploring. Walking around the world, seeing the sights, talking to the people, finding secrets. A lot of the upgrades you now get simply by finding and talking to the right person in the world. Dungeons only contain non-essential items (some of which are quite neat, admittedly), or more likely money. Just pottering about that world and letting the soundtrack roll over me was a joy.
Also, I recommend finding Mother Maiamai early on. She’s in a cave south-east of Link’s house, by the lake, with a sign outside that says you should not enter under any circumstances. You need a bomb to get in, but the bomb bag is fairly cheap to rent.
The dungeons themselves have some neat puzzles, and I’d say they never felt too long. In fact, I’d say some of the early ones maybe felt too short. This is also where the game likes to throw some challenges at you. As an added bonus, you can now attempt them in any order you like (at least within the chapter you’re on). All you need is to rent/buy the right items. I had scenarios where I felt like “eh, this is a bit tricky right now, maybe I’ll just go do a different one and come back when I have another heart container or two”, and I could just do that! It was a nice touch of freedom. Of course, someone who’s a better gamer than me could have done it regardless, but I’m not that good.
Oh hey, it’s a Zelda!
I’d say it feels a bit like an RPG. “Sure there’s a main objective you have to do eventually, but if you’d like, you can just go headbutt some trees or something, no rush”. I’m not saying it is an RPG though, no matter how broad that term has become, just that it evokes some of the same feelings in me. There’s a whole little world for you to explore at your leisure. Two, actually. It’s A Link Between Worlds, after all.
And yet, while this is certainly one of the most accessible Zelda titles to date, I will still say that if you don’t like the Zelda series, this game will not do much to convince you otherwise. But if you’re a long-time fan, or interested in getting started, I’d say it’s just about perfect. Okay, newer players will not get all the little easter eggs they’ve stuffed into it, but they’re hardly essential to the enjoyment of the game (or so I would assume).
Begone, skeleton fiends!
When it comes to consoles, I’d say that the 3DS has had the strongest showing this year, and A Link Between Worlds is another great title for the handheld. Definitely recommended if you like, or have any interest in, the Zelda series. Or if you just like action-puzzler-explorer games in general. If not, it might not be for you.