Apparently this is the best Zelda game in ages or something, highly praised and the alike, I finally got it in my grubby hands to play. Is it the best? Let’s find out, praised for its story, gameplay changes and ending let’s see it if it hits those marks.
My first impressions as an XL owner was the horrible cart logo just before I clicked on it to play. It was so compressed, and I thought “this is a bad sign if the XL isn’t handling this game well”. However that changed as I started writing this article and the quest legend scene started playing, the graphics on that amazingly unique like the experience I had with Wind Waker. It was a fresh new style, while probably not my favourite approach defiantly had some charm. So I thought, why not wack on the 3D for this, and even just a smidge it was instantly cross eye trauma, so I was like “no more 3D then”. It will be interesting to see how it handles in game, but as a gamer who avoids 3D due to its effect on my eyes and the general effects appearance it isn’t something I’ll be playing with, however I can appreciate when it is done right on the 3DS, and sadly that has been pretty much never.
An interesting design choice I have to make note of, is when you start the game your player is instantly labelled as Link. With the option to “rename”, I guess they are sick of people naming him Zelda.
So I turned on 3D for that first cut scene, and once again was unimpressed, also what was the point of that scene, link having nightmares about the bad guy? So what that has happened before and isn’t well done in this instance. Also the Link waking up thing is also a staple which needs to be changed in Zelda games, and on that note, I disagree with the time Link took to wake up and how cheerful he was when he did.
Once I got control I did have another look at the 3D effect, still not impressed but it was defiantly working better once in motion. But what could I get from it which I couldn’t get playing in 2D? Exactly nothing.
Another interesting thing I need to note is the Weather Vanes are reminiscent of the Owls in Majoras Mask. Apparently this game has a few references but nothing really big or revealing. Which is kind of a disappointment. Meaning most of this is just fan service for the potential 3D remake of Majoras Mask which is expected next year.
Did I also mention that Link does a weird crumping thing in the intro tutorial sequence?
Yuga reminds me somewhat of Vatti (at least of course what I have played so far dah!), in for example the church scene reminds me of the Minish Cap scene at the castle.
Link likes Ravio farts that’s why he is on the floor. Wait no Link don’t say yes, Ravio will stay forever in your house, he is an evil squatter. What is that, he didn’t even bother to check on the other people when he dragged you back? Ravio sounds like bad cheese.
Yes after I distorted your soldiers training scarecrows Impa let me in with my wild story about people turning into paintings. Oh the fact that the legend story has paintings in the castle, that is pretty cool. Also why is everyone giving Link bracelets and necklaces, he isn’t a girl. Also clearly Zelda wants to give me it because of some weird incest love triangle were the first born boy is always abandoned by the royal family, only to become Link and only to marry Zelda and become King. I mean what.
So moving on, I think it’s time I move onto the review part of this article, clarification time; at the time of finishing this article I have ventured into Lorule, which means I have done three dungeons and explored around a bit. Nothing to fancy, but enough to get the grasp on were the game is headed and what I have liked/disliked so far.
A Link Between Worlds is a lot like Skyward Sword in some ways, the over world is a dungeon idea which is something which is a relic of both the design choices Nintendo have taken for the series and the nature of the game mimicking old game design found in Link to the Past, a title which was riddled with monsters. ALBW has monsters everywhere a very few settlements of interaction with characters, just like Skyward Sword. This for the most part isn’t a bad thing, Zelda needs more exploration and battles during the over world segments but the problem is like Skyward Sword this technic isn’t done well. This is also an issue with older games in the series were the over world doesn’t feel like it has any personality, that it is just a breeding ground for monsters and little tricks to find rupees and more monsters.
The game doesn’t feel like the breakup segments are interesting, you have a few fetch quests, some mini games but it doesn’t feel like once you done those there’s much to do. While this is an issue with most Zelda games post game, many of these feel like they are just dumped into the world.
Another thing the title takes from Skyward Sword is the bromance between Link and the villain, the constant bickering of the villain to Link and the multiple battles you face with the villain. The result of the bad guy is also simular to the same formula. The lead up just feels the same, and like I said I haven’t reached the end, but it plays like all the others a twist at this point would feel more tacked on then the LTTP over world reuse.
Which speaking of the Link to the Past over world been reused, it isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. Majority of the secrets are in locations which they appeared in LTTP, which means if you have a good memory can go to them much quicker. It also means if you forget the location of these secrets but remember everything else, like I do, the over world just feels tiresome and predictable. I imagine the result would be the same if you did remember the locations of secrets, I remembered a few and it didn’t enhance my gameplay experience as the types of secret locations and items in a Zelda game if the over world was completely different are especially hard to find for the most part if you are looking for them. It is Nintendo handholding which appears multiple times in this game based on conversations, and design choices (such as “do you wish for me to repeat myself” and the answer ticked on yes) which has leaked into the “we need to educate the new users” to “hey the old users, they don’t know anything either”. Or something. Something odd like that which dehumanises the players and expect they can’t figure out anything on their own. The game has become simple and “new”, like the Mario titles it just feels like another entry, while it presents itself with some interesting ideas, it is very much one step forward and two steps if not more back.
Another thing I want to squish down is the all items been rentable feature. It would have been perfect, just like the expanding methodology of Skyward Sword for the dungeons leaking into the over world. Oh it would have been amazing done right, however it isn’t done right. The fault lies with the dungeons, with every level becoming a tutorial of sorts for the item you have just acquired. There isn’t much if at all anything to do with any other items you can acquire in the dungeons just the current buzz item.
So what about story, well you did see me have fun at the start of this review. Making little comments about the characters or what is happening, was starting to get into it but the issue I had with LTTP is once again in this title. Things just sort of let themselves disappear a bit once you reach a certain point and it is quite for a while, yes you can do one or two things around the map to advance a few side quests with certain people, but story wise it just goes quite. There doesn’t have to be a constant written story. But there needs to be a magic, and reusing the over world is one of the things which sucks it away. For me the best 2D Zelda game which captured the magic and mystery as well as emotion of a 3D title was The Minish Cap. The first few minutes before things started going crazy as a magical concave of a festival, there was life in the air of Hyrule and Zelda wasn’t some untouchable princess, she was your best friend, there was a different dynamic there and it showed throughout the story. The minish themselves also added a level of depth and intrigue to the story which powered it through to the end, the gimmick of the kingstones even empowered life into otherwise dead NPCs.
It wasn’t perfect however, but it was an experience. There seems to be a level of letting things slide for the handheld and 2D Zelda games. Things don’t need to be as detailed or as magical, but the combat needs to be solid. I am not sure why, maybe it was hardware limitations, if it was they have been gone for a very long time, and even then it isn’t an excuse.
What I do like however, is the Link becoming 2D and attaching himself to walls gimmick this game has. I say gimmick cause let’s face it, every Zelda game has one. A unique twist which changes the game just slightly enough only to never see the light of day in the next title, when another thing has been changed just that much. My problem with the 2D mechanic is it doesn’t seem to be as used as much as I thought it would be, and when it is used however it adds that extra level of thinking and level of gameplay which I’m starting to find myself liking. Currently playing Tearaway as well, and while not a similar mechanic, it is one which is filled with that same level of “oh this game can do that”, when you use the touch pad on the back of the system to perform various actions, even the touch screen with simple things like a Wario Ware Touch title.
A simular mechanic would be the shrinking in The Minish Cap, which once again I have to say felt more useful and powerful for the message and experience it was trying to convey.
In summery this game isn’t the Zelda game many of us are looking for. The game is deprived of any soul and just feels like a Zelda game for the sake of it. A New Super Mario Bros or 3D Land feeling title. Yes it hits a few pointers, but it just doesn’t feel like it is making any headway.
Overall I am enjoying the title, but feel at times it is a chore to bust through. As a Zelda fan of course, but not because the game has any good design merits or direction. It is a title if I wasn’t a fan of the series would probably consider renting first, maybe from Ravio.
So Link placed the Master Sword back into the pedestal and presumably went on to be angry at Zelda cause clearly his wish was to get with her not bring peace to Lorule. So from that lovely sentence, you can clearly see I have battled through the game to complete it. So that means A Link Between Worlds joins the few Zelda games I have finished to the credits. The other titles for those interested if I remember them all correctly are; Wind Waker (got up to the triforce quest on the GC version and finished it on the Wii U remake), Link to the Past (finished it on the GBA), Four Swords Adventures (funny story; my TV (an old commodore 64 monitor) blew during one of the levels) and I’m fairly sure Spirit Tracks and quite possibly Phantom Hourglass are also included in said list. Then there at titles like The Minish Cap which I’ve gotten all the way to the end castle to beat the bad guy and instead of doing the level decided to just call it quits for whatever reason. I think Phantom Hourglass fits in this category not the complete one. Then the rest of course I’ve gotten to some point and just stopped playing or gotten sick of them, but that’s beside the point.
So when I wrote my review I had finished the Hyrule section only to be battling away through and possibly completed the first Lorule dungeon. Confession time, I didn’t finish that dungeon because I stupidly had picked Turtle Rock as the first level. Which for my general skills in Zelda games felt a little bit harder than it should have been but I was still able to get through to the end. What ate up all my hearts and annoyed me was the boss of Turtle Rock, which I decided to abandon and by the time I saved a few of the sages and came back, it was a breeze to kill that wicked thing.
Firstly lets go over some of the points I made in the review, and lets look to see if I am no longer as angry about them, and have come to terms with what it does for the game.
I had this big idea that A Link Between Worlds road on the Skyward Sword “everything is a dungeon” style of gameplay. I guess now I had some time to think about it, this is something which isn’t as major, least as what I was thinking it was. 2D games will always have that condensed feeling to them. A Link Between Worlds follows the style which LTTP and The Minish Cap both share. I guess with the gap between this style, it just felt as a shock to be playing once again in this compacted style of gameplay, with monsters and a few puzzles around. The Skyward Sword more vibrant puzzles in the overworld could however work in a 2D game, and ALBW does have things like the giant bomb flower.
Speaking of which, I have to derail for a bit I was highly disappointed that when I levelled up the bombs, it didn’t count power wise as the giant bomb flower. Unless there is another stage which does, this is a disappointing feature which wasn’t used to its fullest of extents if what you levelled up really didn’t solve any puzzles.
But anyway that was one thing which I jumped the gun on but was still technically right. The other is the villain battling Link all the time like Skyward Sword. This didn’t really play out that much, so another technicality there.
The renting feature my original complains I believe post game are still there. The overall aspect that I can pick any of the items and then go into a dungeon and just use that item, while fun doesn’t seem like there is any use for the item once I did that in any of the other dungeons. As well as many of the level design feeling like they are tutorials for the item. The Lorule Castle had some small rooms for four of the more basic items but other than that nothing else really. Yes I understand that because of the design of the renting system you can’t have levels for the primarily goal been swayed by having multiple items, but the ability to use pre-existing items to advance quicker or find secrets should have been part of the brief. Heck, even if Ravio only offered renting one item at a time, they could have forced you to go back and get the other item to explore in a certain area. Though I can see that been tedious so ultimately the main structure is probably the best it could have been for the renting system. Maybe if there were more levels you could have tiers, but that could get messy.
So moving away from that, the overall feel of the game was another one of my problems with the title. Once I hit Lorule and started getting into the groove of the game it felt like a different title. For the time I went into lorule I tried to only go back to Hyrule unless I really needed to. Which means my issues of reusing the LTTP world map was sort of diminished because of the fact Lorule is so full of destruction that there was then more twists and turns on the main map. However this game feels for the most part it is relying on LTTP assets and background to carry the game, despite been a sequel it didn’t need to ride the previous title in its timeline. If the game had a more unique world and possibly less of a dark world feel for Lorule it possibly could of stood on its own and flow much better.
The level design in the dungeons even improved in some of the Lorule dungeons making them feel less like tutorials for the item I had just acquired from Ravio. A section heading towards Ice Palace annoyed me, it seemed primarily designed to highlight the fact this game has 3D, rather than present any good level design. The jumping down into the fire was cool, but needed great timing, but the climb back to the top in the ice section was riddled with “hey here is a pillar”. It didn’t even have a frozen bottom it was just a black echo abyss which was the background of these flying pillars. The game did this a few times, just because your title is on a 3D system doesn’t mean you have to throw out all design rules to make objects flying look cool on the 3D screen.
So moving onto the end game, while I would of preferred more visual explanation instead of written for the big bad and the alike, it did flow alright until once I beat the boss and then Zelda showed up, then Ravio showed up and….*snore*. Way too much written information in that typical children childlike explanation of life, the universe and everything. Turned me off completely after that amazing swing I got into once I started enjoying Lorule.
So remember when I said Ravio is bad cheese, clearly a crazy evil villain of some sorts. Obviously the only correct conclusion for his identity is that he is the Link from Lorule. So when he finally shows any sign that that is the case out of the fact the Link equivalent never showed up at all and he mysteriously came from a strange land to set up shop it isn’t rewarding when you see his hideous grin when he barges through with all your money you gave him by renting items and buying items from him. He was just a devious creature who was set on taking your money. Seriously, his whole corny speech about him getting courage rubbed off from Link or the fact he knew Link? Seriously I was out saving the world and he was just in Links house. The only way he would get to know Link is if he was going through Links draws, because I sure as hell didn’t talk to him outside of “hey, me want hammer”.
So in the end I stick with my opinion of the game, it did get better once in Lorule and had a better flow. However in the end the game had issues with the little changes it wanted to present and the reuse of LTTP made the game ride the nostalgia train of LTTP rather than trying to build its own legacy. Which is much worse than Spirit Tracks no over world but a crazy train thing. Cause at least then, that was contextually different and fresh.
Remember to read my original review of A Link Between Worlds.