The Legend of Zelda : A Link Between Worlds is the most recently released title in the Zelda franchise, coming out for the Nintendo 3DS on November 22nd 2013. Cyrus recently wrote a full review of the game, you can read his opinions here.
As those of you who’ve played ‘A Link Between Worlds’ will know ; despite the fact the game is usually experienced from a 2D top-down perspective, the playscape is in fact full 3D. This much becomes apparent when the player invokes Link’s newest ability ; that of merging with walls. That this is the case led me to ponder whether Nintendo should have made the title fully playable from a third person perspective. This article contains my thoughts both as to why this would be a good idea, plus some reasons why it might not work.
Despite usually being played from a top-down perspective the LOZ:LBW is rendered in full 3D
I’ll start by putting fourth my reasons why making the game third person would have made sense. First of all ; the 3D Zelda games do tend to be the most successful financially. The best selling Zelda games thus far have been Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, selling 7.6 million units and 8.5 million units respectively (according to VG Chartz). Link Between Worlds, despite being both heavily publicised and the first original Zelda on the popular 3DS console, has only sold 1.8 million units to date, significantly less than the 3DS Ocarina of Time remake (at a more healthy 3.28 million).
With that in mind I’ll make my next point : that the 3DS could certainly handle a 3D Zelda. The game itself is proof of this, along with the aforementioned Ocarina of Time remake. Indeed even the handheld before it, the Nintendo DS, could have handled a 3D Zelda. Although they were not numerous in number there were some very impressive 3D titles on the DS, such as the Super Mario 64 remake and Okamiden (which I reviewed for PlusXP. You can read my thoughts here). Handheld fans like myself have waited so long for an original 3D Zelda and, while the Ocarina of Time and rumoured Majora’s Mask remakes are a step in the right direction, it’s still not quite what we want. This is the sixth original Zelda game on a handheld console (counting Minish Cap and Oracle of Ages as two separate games), and the fifth to be released since Ocarina of Time rocked the 3D world back in 1998. Yep, I’ve been counting. Given the dependence of Nintendo home consoles on 3D Zeldas it might be the case that I will never see my dream of an original 3D Zelda on a handheld console happening. But it would still be amazing if it did.
The cutscenes are also 3D, and look superb!
Now it’s time to look at the other side of the coin. Firstly ; the most obvious point ; the fact that Link Between Worlds was deliberately developed and marketed as a sequel to the SNES classic Zelda : A Link To The Past. Which made the 2D top-down view almost inevitable. In fairness it’s easy to appreciate why Nintendo decided to do this ; we all know atleast one person who had a SNES back in the day, adored Link To The Past, but haven’t touched a Nintendo game since. It’s indeed admirable that Nintendo still thinks about those fans and looks out for them. I, myself, understand exactly how such fans must have felt when they heard Link to the Past was getting a sequel. My own favourite SNES game was Final Fantasy IV, and when I heard that Square-Enix released an episodic sequel via the Wii Virtual Console system in 2009 I spent a small fortune in Wii points to obtain all the chapters. Something I don’t regret for second.
The next point is one of practicality. Yes Link Between Worlds is rendered in 3D, but the models are all very basic, and the texture resolutions low. When you compare this to something like Twilight Princess it is obvious that Nintendo would have had a lot of work on their hands to convert this basic 3D environment into something with a lot more depth if it were to be taken seriously as a 3D title. For a start they would have had to add skies! Fourth wall aside (or sixth wall if you want to be pedantic) the developers would have had to incorporate complex lighting effects, grooves and jags in the landscape (such as hills etc) plus a plethora of other little things (such as blades of grass swaying in the wind). Not that any of those things are beyond them, but all take time. And time is something Nintendo are currently devoting to bigger projects than this (I believe that Link Between Worlds is partly intended as a filler so that Zelda nuts have something to sink their teeth into while waiting for the next big Zelda game).
The Link Between Worlds logo
So, in conclusion, Link Between Worlds is fine as it is. It’s succeeded in bringing some older fans back to Nintendo (and gaming in some cases!) as well as offer a mighty fine original adventure to players like myself (who’d never played the SNES original). I still think it’s a shame that this wonderful game, with it’s well-thought out characters and incredible soundtrack, isn’t in full 3D in a way, if only because I know so many people who’ve been put off playing it on the sole basis that it’s mainly presented in 2D. I myself was one (until I was told of this game’s joys). It’s also a shame due to the fact this incredibly fun game has sold only a fraction of what it deserved to have sold. But you can’t have it every way. If it had been in full 3D it wouldn’t be a true Link to the Past sequel. Heck, it might not have existed at all, given Nintendo’s aforementioned developmental priorities. And I, for one, am certainly glad it exists…
Before trying the game I was of the opinion that this should be an eShop title of £20 or so rather than a full retail release. Having played it (and loved it to death) I’m still of this opinion. Heck, the FF4 sequel I spoke about earlier was released in this way! If LOZ:LBW had been an eShop title it would have helped negate all the criticisms laid on the title (some of which I’ve made myself here). It would have also put it in a more affordable price bracket for a lot of people on the fence about this title (I believe this is a considerable number). Then I’d have more Shadow Links to fight =(
What do you think, dear readers?