The Legend of Zelda is one of the forerunner series of Nintendo’s first party franchises across their various gaming consoles. For more than 25 years now, the iconic Nintendo series has graced many different consoles with unique stories of good and evil, memorable characters, and secrets to discover that have captivated gamers old and young. The newest entry now available on Nintendo 3DS continues this trend and brings another adventure that may one day be considered timeless among other games in the series. Playing between the lines of both tradition and new horizons, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds returns players to the land of Hyrule, in a familiar yet unconventional approach.
Those who are familiar with the classic Zelda formula will feel very much at home playing Link Between Worlds. Much of the game has a very traditional feel that long time players will appreciate, especially those who have played A Link to the Past as the game has many similarities to that Zelda title. A great story about the land of Hyrule and its shadowy counter-art “Lorule” is at the heart of everything, but not the sole reason why this game is worthy of its name. The presentation of Link Between Worlds is top notch, with great character and level design that enhances what was previously established in past Zelda games, while also revamping it all into something that feels fresh. Not only does the game run very smooth at 60 frames per second, but is also full of bright varying colors that establish tons of variety with each area players explore.
The top down perspective is a classic 2D Zelda approach that works well on the 3DS handheld, it really takes flight when being able to explore multi-leveled dungeons and environments. This is only further enhanced when playing through the game with the 3D effects turned on to full blast, as already smooth visuals are made even crisper with the 3D effect on. But the gravy on top of it all is the game’s soundtrack, which remixes classic music from throughout the series and gives freshness to the world Hyrule that we all know and love.
Gameplay is the meat of Link Between Worlds, where classic design choices are meshed together well with various changes to the traditional Zelda formula. Much like any 2D old school Zelda game, players can control Link and use items and equipment to explore and battle creatures in the world of Hyrule. What is different this time around is the freedom of choice and accessibility for progressing through different dungeons. This is made possible with the item shop, where given enough rupees, players can rent out every item they may need to progress through the game from the very start.
This is balanced though by the constant possibility of losing your items should you die at any point of the game, in which Ravio (the shop owner) reclaims all the items you rent out, forcing you to buy them again should you ever fall in battle. Roaming around the land of Hyrule and solving puzzles in dungeons feels smooth and satisfying more than ever before. The puzzles are clever and never become too nerve rackingly hard, but instead encourage you to think differently in your approach to situations and give a great sense of accomplishment each time you advance through a dungeon.
The most interesting new feature to come out of Link Between Worlds is the utilization of the 3DS StreetPass capabilities. The game allows players to create and send their own personalize shadow version of Link to other 3DS systems, as well as receive other player’s Shadow Links. This then allows them to appear on the map of Hyrule, where players can go to and battle against them, where victory leads to a huge score in rupees. The best part about this feature is that it can do nothing but help out the player in their own game.
Being defeated by another player’s StreePass Shadow Link has no real negative consequences on one’s main game, you don’t lose all of the rented Ravio items when you fall against a Shadow Link. This is a great introduction into multiplayer social features in a Zelda game that is different than what was introduced in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords. Yet this foundation could have been taken further in the form of actual online battles between players and their own personalized Links. While this may not be present in Link Between Worlds, the handling of StreetPass here is definitely a great starting point for what could be evolved and expanded upon in future titles of the Zelda franchise.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a fantastic addition to the long running franchise. The game not only handles a lot of inspiration from past titles with great respect for long time fans, but also gives much more in new approaches and ideas that make this a unique experience for fans of the series. Not only is the visual and audio presentation one of the best that the 3DS has to offer, but the gameplay is just as good as some of the other games within the Zelda franchise. Link Between Worlds presents a great example of blending together long-time tradition and new innovative approaches to the Zelda series in order to create an awesome gaming experience for everyone. This is a must own in anyone’s 3DS library and a great talking point for those looking for a reason to get Nintendo’s 3D handheld.
This review is based on the retail version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds For The Nintendo 3DS provided by Nintendo.