It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this! By this I mean the newest installment to the Zelda franchise: “A Link Between Worlds.” Take it everywhere and never stop playing. Without hyperbole, the game is a masterpiece.
A Link Between Worlds, or ALBW as we’ll call it is a sequel to the 1991 smash SNES hit “A Link to the Past,” (which is for me, a strong number 3 on my best Zelda list—no.2 being Wind Waker and no.3 being Majora’s Mask) so potential of Nintendo making a remake of a classic for the money of the nostalgic fans, worried me. But the game is brilliant, I assure you for the very fact of its nostalgia. ALBW is less a copy of ALttP, but rather an imaginative, new idea that works well of the groundwork of it’s predecessor. Like Tron:Legacy, it has all the components that make it a good sequel, but its visual design and structure make it feel like a reboot and it works well; being appealing to fans of the original, and newcomers to the franchise.
The story takes place hundreds of years after the events of ALttP with a new Zelda, a new villain out to capture her and a new hero to accidently pick up a sword and rescue her. Much like ALttP, the way these events play out relatively the same. Much like the original, the story begins with Link going into three dungeons to collect the sacred stones he needs to get the Master Sword, then a boss fight, then to the dark world to 7 more dungeons to rescue the present day ancestors of the seven sages from ALttP. The world map is more or less the same as ALttP, but the visuals have been cleaned up, made fully 3-D and beautiful to explore. Overall, it provides an fresh new take for longtime fans, and a story that’s easy to get into and fun for kids.
The gameplay is stellar, and once again great for fans and newcomers. The top-down basic controls of the original are familiar and comfortable for veterans, but simple enough for newbies to grasp quickly. Adding a touch of freshness to the game, the main gameplay mechanic happens after a climactic showdown with the main villain, who possesses a rod that allows him to turn solid matter into paintings. When Link is blasted with an attack, he is forced as a drawing upon a wall, but a magic bracelet gives him the power to merge between his physical form and awall drawing. This makes for some clever puzzles involving merging between the 3-D and 2-D landscapes of the world and dungeons.
Even the music and effects are enjoyable as many 16-bit sounds from ALttP remain the same. The music has been fully upgraded, taking the same songs from the original and totally remastering them with live, fully orchestrated renditions. Hearing such familiar songs so crisply and with beautiful instruments deeply immerses me in the game, and hearing the same sound when you charge your sword as I did when I was 9, put a smile on my face every time.
And the game just looks amazing. The colors are bright and the lighting is atmospheric and it just looks so good at 60FPS. With the 3-D turned on, the sense of depth is used well by dungeon walls and you really feel like you’re looking at a little game board. One particularly excellent dungeon was one that took place in mostly darkness. The effect of being totally in the dark, in a small, claustrophobic environment was really well captured, and made for some interesting lighting effects when you use your merging ability and appear as a silhouette of a drawn out figure. And while it usually adapts the top-down look of its 16-bit predecessor, it often plays with the angles a bit and doesn’t become stale. And after seeing how well Ocarina of Time translated to the 3DS, I was a little disappointed that a new, fully 3-D Zelda on the handheld. But the nostalgic feel of the design mixed with the small reinventions of it wiped that away, the game is just gorgeous.
Overall, A Link Between Worlds is a wonderful experience. Fans of Zelda, fans of the sequel and newcomers alike will have a great time playing this. Just like I can play A Link to the Past a thousand times and not get bored of it, I already know that I can play this a thousand times and not get bored of it. Now let’s see that Majora’s Mask remake on 3DS Nintendo!