The Legend of Zelda is a classic action-adventure video game series starring a humble swordsman named Link that has consistently drawn an audience to itself since its inception in 1986 on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Each installment since the first has managed to build on its predecessor’s successes, but none more so than the recent game for the Nintendo 3DS: A Link Between Worlds.
Link Between Worlds is set in the world of Hyrule that debuted in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Fans of the SNES classic will find themselves right at home in this version of Hyrule, as the overworld has been recreated almost flawlessly in the 3DS installment, and even some secrets found in Link to the Past can be found in the exact same spot in Link Between Worlds.
That’s not to say that Link Between Worlds is a complete remake of Link to the Past. The story features a new Zelda and a new Link, and is set several hundred years after the events of Link to the Past, meaning that the population and some geographical aspects of Hyrule have changed over that time period. The dungeons have also been heavily redesigned. Aside from the remastered musical score from Link to the Past, all of the dungeons in Link Between Worlds have unique and memorable puzzles in them.
Puzzle solving in the game has been changed as well. Unlike in most Zelda games since the new millennium, Link does not have a companion guiding him on his way, meaning that there is little to no tutorial section and the puzzle solutions in dungeons must be organically found by the player. The puzzles often have multiple solutions thanks to the way players can acquire items.
Early in the game, a rabbit-like character named Ravio encounters Link and asks him for a place to stay, and almost immediately sets up a shop in Link’s house. This new item-renting system provides players with the opportunity to have every item almost immediately, however, the items must be returned upon Link’s death. While this breaks from the Zelda tradition of finding an item in dungeons, each dungeon still has many secrets to be found, such as armor upgrades and sword upgrades, most of which require more than one item at a time to complete.
Another significant gameplay addition is the ability for Link to merge with a wall to turn into a 2D painting. This adds another layer to the difficulty of puzzles, as Link’s new ability allows him to take unique paths to get items and treasures. This ability, along with any rented items, drains an all-purpose stamina meter that regenerates over time. This is a welcome change that allows for experimentation with items against enemies that would otherwise drain magic or ammo that couldn’t be filled back up immediately.
Ultimately, though, what makes Link Between Worlds an excellent game is its return to its roots. The original Legend of Zelda was, at its core, a game about exploration and secrets. From the start, players could go through the game in any way they wanted and explore the land of Hyrule. Link Between Worlds echoes this, choosing to not focus on making combat more exciting or unique like its more recent predecessors did. Combat is simplistic but difficult, with three sword attacks (slash, stab and spin) and two item slots.
Instead, the focus is on exploration. Each screen of the overworld has a plethora of secrets hidden within it, requiring the use of different items or Link’s ability to find them all. Also, much like the original, the journey is open-ended, and Link can visit almost any dungeon in any order, making this an adventure crafted by the player’s own choices.
Overall, this game is an excellent experience to be had on the Nintendo 3DS and an experience that every fan of the Zelda franchise should have.