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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Let’s roll it back a bit to when The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past came out for the SNES.

Almost 20 years ago a 10 year old Darren picked up a copy of the game in Leighton Buzzard’s finest retail shop, Woolworth’s, saw a sword and shield and immediately got put off. I remember putting it down and walking away smirking at the geekery on display. It was only when I spotted Ocarina of Time in N64 Magazine that I realised it was quite possibly the biggest games-related mistake I’d ever made.

‘My first Zelda’ is a phrase often used when discussing the series. It’s a seminal moment in any gamer’s life when they discover the depths lurking in Hyrule which results in that being their first love, never to be forgotten. Nostalgia glossing over the brain is a powerful thing and Nintendo knows it.

When a sequel a to A Link to the Past was announced, I was surprised to see just how much they are pushing the nostalgia button which links you the player between today’s world and that of 1992. Everything from the look, the sound to even how A Link Between Worlds plays are in tact here on the 3DS and it’s a true testament to just how well the game was designed originally.

ALBW doesn’t rely solely on its nostalgia and in a rather stark contrasting move, the game is designed differently to any prior Zelda game. Or at least since the NES original anyway.

You are pretty much free to roam Hyrule from the get-go, only a small five-minute tutorial dungeon gets in your way and it’s clear that the criticism taken from Skyward Sword (and other games in the series) of a slow start have been taken on board. It puts the faith completely in the players hands once the newly introduced merge mechanic has been taught.

The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

It’s a graceful decision and ultimately I felt rewarded whenever I became unstuck but Nintendo aren’t the types to shy away from helping out gamers who need a hand. An item in the form of comedy glasses & moustache ridicule Link’s appearance when he wears them but in doing so, you’re given the ability to speak to a rather cute looking ghost who’ll flick through his guidebook and give you a hint, for a price. One 3DS Play Coin.

Dungeon design in this game is spot-on, utilising more layers than ever before in the series to emphasise the (and I don’t say this often) brilliant 3D. I turn off the 3D in most games but somehow Nintendo have worked out a magic formula and here it really pulls you into the fantastically remade Hylian landscape.

Link’s ability to merge into the wall and become a 2D image of himself allows him to move around the dungeon like never before, and really shows just how well the world of Hyrule was built back on the SNES. I could hardly imagine playing A Link to the Past without it now.

It’s an odd one, changing the Zelda formula. You run the risk of ostracising your loyal fans, who have probably been moaning that the series is too boring but also failing to attract new players with genre-breaking mechanics and whilst the free-form nature of the dungeons is welcome – as is the renting of out-of-sequence gear from Ravio.

The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

A prime example of fans wanting something new but also feeling the “careful what you wish for” mantra. The same could also be said for the ‘big bad’ this time round. It’s not Ganon and that should be applauded but at the same time, it’s not Ganon and the world, for the most part, just lacked that specific sense of tension and urgency that most Zelda games do.

Overall, though, A Link Between Worlds is worthy of the Zelda name and boasts one of the best soundtracks in the series to date. ¬†With some well thought out design choices to make both the newcomer and expert feel at home, it’s an evolution of the series which producer Eiji Aonuma has been aspiring to for what seems like ages now. ¬†Well done Nintendo, you finally did it.

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