The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is an indirect sequel to the SNES title The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The game constantly references A Link to the Past indirectly, and will most likely invoke nostalgia in all players of A Link to the Past.
For those that are familiar with the series, you pretty much already know what you’re in for with A Link Between Worlds: a sinister evil attacks Hyrule, something terrible happens to Princess Zelda, and it’s up to Link to save her and restore peace. It’s a cliché formula, but a formula that works.
I would like to immediately point out the few gameplay mechanics that sets this particular Zelda title apart from the others: First of, you no longer acquire the classic Zelda items such as the bow, the bombs and the hookshot from within dungeons, instead you have the option to rent these items from a shopkeeper named Ravio very early on in the game. There is no limit to how many items you can rent these. However, should you fall in battle, these items will return to Ravio and you must rent them from him again. Later on in the game you can buy these items to keep for yourselves permanently at a much higher price, which leads on to my next point.
Link must make use of his new wall-merge ability to progress through this new adventure…
Rupees (the currency of every Zelda title) are VERY important in A Link Between Worlds, much more so than in the other Zelda games, and because of this, the game constantly throws rupees at you. It’s not uncommon to find yourself easily acquiring up to thousands of rupees at an early point in the game, but the game does this for a good reason since equipment and items are more expensive than usual. The “magic bar” of this game comes in the form of the “Energy bar which drains a little every time you use an item before quickly refilling. This feature works well in this particular game, but I would not like to see this become a staple of the series as it does feel a tad restrictive in terms of the use of your own items.
Shortly into the game Link will acquire the ability to attach himself and merge into walls, hence become a painting. This allows him to reach otherwise impossible-to-reach areas. However, it is impossible to move up or down while inside a wall, so it’s crucial that you find and reach the correct elevation in which to enter a wall in order to reach your destination. While in walls, the “Energy bar” will slowly deplete, so it’s important to time when to enter walls in order to solve puzzles within the dungeons. As the main gimmick of A Link Between Worlds, this ability is used constantly throughout the entire game; you will search every nook and cranny of locations and be surprised by what you find. Without spoiling too much ; there’s a point where you use this ability early on ; you slip through a crack in the wall and emerge on the outer wall of a dungeon, a location which wouldn’t even have been considered to be an area you can go to until you actually get there.
Because the game is so large, you will no doubt feel lost and unsure where to go next at times, and it’s easy to forget that you have the ability to merge into walls and move around. Thankfully, it is possible to acquire the “Hint Glasses” item early in the game in case you ever find yourself unsure of what to do next. By putting on the Hint Glasses, you will see Hint Ghosts at different point around the world and by paying them a Play Coin, they will give you hints regarding the surrounding area. Of course, using these hints are completely optional, but they’re there when you need them.
The Link to the Past visuals have been given a very pretty 2013 update
As with A Link to the Past, there is a “Dark World” equivalent in A Link Between Worlds. As well Hyrule, players will explore the decrepit kingdom of Lorule, which is essentially the dark counterpart of Hyrule. Scattered throughout the entire kingdom are rifts on walls, which allow Link to freely slip through between the two worlds. There will be areas within Hyrule and Lorule that are completely cut off from access within the same world by fissures or mountains, but by slipping in from the other world through these rifts, Link can gain access to these areas and explore a whole new location, which is a gameplay feature I never get tired of.
Because you can acquire crucial equipment so early on in the game, the main dungeons in Lorule can essentially be tackled in any order you wish (with one minor exception). If you’re disappointed that the dungeons lack new and interesting items to add to your arsenal, fear not as this is not entirely true; within each dungeon in Lorule will be some form of a special upgrade that both directly and indirectly upgrades your equipment.
It wouldn’t be a Zelda game without collectibles and mini-games. A Link Between Worlds has an abundance of mini-games for you to enjoy, both simple and complicated. For those of you who enjoyed hunting down the 100 Gold Skulltulas in Ocarina of Time, this game has a similar collection aspect; throughout both Hyrule and Lorule are these small creatures called Maiamai that can be found stuck to walls, under bushes and rocks, etc. There are 100 of these creatures, and for every 10 of these you bring back to the Mother Maiamai, you will get a nice upgrade to one of your equipment pieces. Thankfully it’s much less of a hassle than you would think to hunt these creatures down ; on the touch screen is a Maiamai icon which, when touched, will reveal how many Maiamai are left within each region of the world. Additionally, to further help you on your hunt and to prevent you from turning over every single pile of rocks to find them, the Maiamai will make a distinct sound whenever you’re near one, whether they’re visible or hidden.
How quickly you find your way through this title will depend on your familiarity with the series
Scattered throughout Hyrule and Lorule are weather vanes, which act as save points, and when activated become warp points. This is a feature that can be used anytime as much you wish when outdoors. Of course, fast-travelling is rather necessary in a large game like this as it saves a lot of unnecessary walking.
The game plays fantastically, controls are responsive and combat feels fluid and natural. A few minor problems I had include how Link moves slower if you’re not pushing the analogue stick all the way in one direction. However, from time to time, Link will suddenly decide to move slower even if I =am= pushing the analogue all the way. Another issue involves the camera angle and the positioning of some doors ; because of the nature of this particular game, some South-facing doors within dungeons cannot be seen : you wouldn’t even know they were there unless you looked at the map on the touch screen or just happened to attach yourself to a southern wall. These problems are few and far between and I don’t think it’s enough to take away from the experience, merely minor annoyances.
In conclusion, A Link Between Worlds is an excellent homage to A Link to the Past, the constant throwbacks, references, and the same essential map and bosses should be perfect for those who wanted to revisit the Hyrule from A Link to the Past. I managed to complete the game 100% within 17 hours of play, but that’s only because I am extremely familiar with the series and found myself stumped on puzzles very infrequently. I’m positive that it will take a lot more time for other games to acquire 100% completion. This game is worth the £35 and will keep you busy for a long time, especially for those looking for a classic Zelda experience on a handheld, which I haven’t experienced since playing Minish Cap (as I didn’t happen to enjoy Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks much).