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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – Review


Rare is it that you can point to any Zelda game post Ocarina of Time and say with confidence that it does something different. However, with A Link Between Worlds, the formula has undoubtedly been shaken up. The linear progression of previous titles is thrown out the window; this time Link can tackle all of the game’s dungeons from the get-go and in any order. A large part of this freedom is thanks to the new item system.




Meet Ravio, the enigmatic and enterprising merchant who stocks every single item in the game from the very moment he opens up shop. Oh, and he’s definitely NOT Nabbit from New Super Mario Bros. Link can rent any item from the shop for a fair price, but if he dies while holding it Ravio’s pet will come and collect them from your fresh corpse, meaning you’ll have to rent them all over again. If you buy the item outright, for a much steeper price, it’ll stay with you no matter how many times you fall in battle. It’s not a perfect system, not every item is necessary and by the time you’ve gathered a few heart containers dying is essentially an impossibility, but it’s different and scary enough to really inject some tension into the Zelda formula. I was reminded of Dark Souls, when I died early on in the game I actually felt like I’d lost something tangible, and I can’t remember the last time that happened in a Zelda game.


Then there’s the game’s primary mechanic (or gimmick, if you’re a cynic). Early on in the game, Link acquires a bracelet that allows him to become a painting and merge with walls, shimmying along as a Wind Waker-style illustration. The isometric view switches to something not-quite-but-almost over the shoulder, completely changing the entire perspective of the room. As you might imagine, this leads to some incredible puzzles and secrets, and really makes you think in a new way.


The layout of the overworld is an exact copy of A Link to the Past to the point where, at first glance, I was disappointed with the familiarity of the world I was about to explore. This concern dissipated rapidly however, once I saw how much this title really had to offer. There are the usual collectibles and sidequests, but a surprising amount of hidden activities and interesting characters to discover scattered across Hyrule.




Something else that A Link Between Worlds really showcases is that Nintendo has finally listened to the complaints about excessive handholding. There are far less tutorials, you can skip through text as fast as you want and, most importantly, it doesn’t force you to read the description of each item you pick up even if you already have 100 of them, like in Skyward Sword.


Of course, you can’t review a Zelda game without discussing the soundtrack. Well, let me say that the soundtrack and sound design of A Link Between Worlds stands out amongst the greats in a series well known for its iconic music and audio cues. Everything from the puzzle solving chime to sword swipes are masterfully done here, especially for a handheld game. There are some great new songs to be found in the various dungeons of Lorule, but where A Link Between Worlds truly shines is in its reimagining of some classic themes from A Link to the Past. Hyrule Field, Kakariko Village and the Dark World themes have never sounded so good.


The end result is a game that successfully and expertly balances old with new, nostalgia with innovation. The fundamentally traditional is still there: Link has to save Zelda from a cackling evil dude, he needs to gather three items from a couple of pre-dungeons, then get the master sword so he can tackle the meatier dungeons. Along the way he’ll collect heart containers and bottles and rupees… you get the idea. Similarly, the overworld, the isometric view and a decent number of the characters are all throwbacks to the SNES era. But layered on top of all this is the truly new and different. Being able to shimmy along walls and shift perspective allows for some really quite tough and clever puzzles. The item system, while eventually becoming trivial, is at first quite brutal and unforgiving, two words you’d never expect to be used in conjunction with a Zelda game.




Whether you’re the type to consume anything and everything Zelda no matter what, or if you’ve grown weary of the series in recent years, A Link Between Worlds has a lot to offer, and takes the series on its first steps in an exciting new direction.


Rating: 9/10