I think this is the shortest amount of time I’ve spent between buying a game and playing it to completion. I picked up LoZ: ALBW the day after it came out via preorder and got around to playing it over this past week. Needless to say, I was satisfied and impressed with the experience. As with past reviews, I’m going to look at 4 key parts of the game: story, graphics, sound and gameplay. Let’s get this review started.
The story of ALBW isn’t much different than others. In fact, it’s eerily similar to A Link to the Past. You, as Link, get caught up in an evil scheme by the villain, a Ganondorf-like man named Yuga (who I swear looked like a woman to me at first). Yuga seals the seven sages of Hyrule and Princess Zelda in paintings in order to use their power to obtain the Triforce and rule the land. In the process, you also get turned into a painting but are freed thanks to a gift from your item-selling “friend” Ravio. Like ALttP, you travel between Hyrule and the dark world known as Lorule (get it?) in order to free all the sages and Zelda. The story is simplistic and serviceable for a Zelda game, but it did throw a couple twists in the end that I liked. I kinda feel I should have seen them coming, but they were appreciated all the same.
The game has a top-down perspective which works well, and both Hyrule and Lorule have great colors, with Hyrule being bright and cheery and Lorule being a bit muted and dreary. I liked the 3D models, even if Link and Zelda in particular looked more cutesy than ever. Everything ran smoothly and little details, like the wave beams from your sword or the merging effects, looked great and added some punch. Honestly, it’s a nice-looking game despite some cutesy character models, which didn’t take away from the experience for me.
This Zelda has a great selection of music and the orchestral sound comes out nicely on the 3DS. The majority of it is remakes of ALttP’s music, which sound even better than ever. The sound effects are also reminiscent of ALttP and there are snippets of sound for many of the characters too. And while I didn’t tear up at the ending like I did with Skyward Sword, hearing this game’s great rendition of the main Zelda theme made me smile. But let’s finally get to the main meat of the game: the gameplay.
Since this game is billed as a sequel of sorts to ALttP, it plays much the same way in that the locations are the same, though the dungeons have been revamped a bit. The biggest updates are the merging ability and exploration. The merging ability is just plain cool, allowing you to access secret rooms, get around puzzles and even help you out during boss fights for a quick breather. I really liked how Egyptian-like characters looked in painting form, and while I doubt they’ll use it in the future, it was a fun game mechanic.
The other feature is emphasis on exploration. From the start, you can rent every item except the Sand Rod from Ravio for a fee, and eventually buy them. While people could get away just renting them throughout the game, you do lose all rented items if you die. So if you don’t feel confident, buying them at least gives you a permanent option. With all these items in hand, you’re quickly free to explore all of Hyrule and soon Lorule and tackle the dungeons in any order you choose. This was a lot of fun, allowing me to save the dreaded ice dungeon (one of my least favorites) for last while I went after the others. You can also hunt down 100 creatures called Maiamais, little squid-like babies that can be found under rocks, in trees and other hard to reach places. Giving 10 at a time to their mother gives you an item upgrade, meaning you could upgrade all your items fairly early on, which I did.
Just as the dungeons are revamped to allow for utilizing the merging ability, so are the boss fights with some familiar faces like a Helmasaur King creature and Moldorm. These fights were a lot of fun, but I didn’t die once during them, although I did have all my items upgraded to their max strength. The final battle against Yuga was also surprisingly easy, though I felt as though the whole game was prior to it. Veterans to ALttP may feel the same way, but I for one welcomed the leisurely pace and easygoing difficulty. The only downside to this is that it makes the game ultimately feel short, and as such I beat it in much less time than previous Zelda titles. I even found out by the very end that I’d only died twice in the entire game, and that was early on when I had a few hearts. Still, it made it easier to enjoy than ALttP simply because I could play it my way, having natural progression by getting better weapons and clothing.
Overall, I would recommend A Link Between Worlds to anyone who either enjoys Zelda or wants to get into it. This is one of the best traditional Zelda games we’ve had in a while, and while it may be a bit too easy at times, it recaptures the familiar parts of ALttP and throws in some enjoyable new mechanics to toy with. Whether you pick this up at full price or on discount, this is a great game for anyone’s 3DS library. I give The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds a solid 10/10.