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

Editor’s note: This is another in a short series of old reviews that never saw the light of day for some reason. The games are still out, so it’s relevant! Trust me!

THE GOOD

Chris: It’s a Link to the Past sequel. So obviously I’m a big fan from the start. But what I really like about this game is the item distribution. Getting rid of the old “get an item in this dungeon, use that item in this dungeon, use it on the boss, never use it again” formula is a great touch. The items give you the flexibility to tackle dungeons in whichever way you choose, and in any order (with one exception). That’s a smart design choice for a series that could use a little bit of ingenuity.

Shaun: Agreed. It could have been enough to simply follow the tried and true Zelda formula and implement the “go into a wall as a painting” feature, but instead, they restructured the entire foundation the series is built on in regards to items. It sort of pissed me off that I’m trying to save the entire damn world and this guy is charging me an arm and leg for his wares, but that’s a problem that’s been in gaming forever and I’m not gonna use ALBW as my platform.

I also adored the presentation and the music. The dungeons were some of the best in the series, the gameplay was tight and responsive (as all Zelda games are), and the music was some of the most memorable in the entire series.

Michaela: My favorite thing about Link Between Words is the gameplay. The ability to become a painting in the wall opens up new doors of creativity to designing the puzzles, and solving them is equally fun and requires creative thought. Having the ability to upgrade items was a great touch, and integrating exploration to that end was one of the most enjoyable parts of the game for me (like finding all of the lost Maiamai’s!).

Shaun: Oh yeah, upgrading items! You haven’t lived until you’ve laid waste to every living thing in Hyrule with a flame tornado…

Joseph: I was excited to hear of a spiritual successor to A Link to the Past. After playing it, I can agree that the new dungeon system is something for which we should be thankful. The break from the tradition Zelda format was a welcome one, especially in a series where the formula is constantly repeated. I do not think this will be the best iteration of the Legend of Zelda we see on the 3DS, but I certainly think they are taking a step in the right direction.

I must say I had no complaints about the music, but that has become a standard for the Zelda series. The new tracks blended well with those previously used, keeping us in the Hyrule in which we grew up while giving us background for another stage of our lives.

THE BAD

Michaela: The difficulty level in Lorule was really intense when I first got to that part of the game. I don’t mind a challenge in combat, but that was absurd. Thank goodness for the blue tunic, or I’d have never gotten through the game. I suppose I would have liked  a better balance – even doing something like adjusting the difficulty in Hyrule would have been fine, just so then it wasn’t easy in one world and crazy hard in the other.

Shaun: This game is SHORT. I appreciate the brisk pace, and always feeling like there was something compelling to do – there are not a lot of fetch quests, and the dungeons are brilliantly designed and filled to the brim with engaging puzzles. With that said, I beat this game in TWO DAYS. Two very long, “bingeing” days, but two days nonetheless. And while I’m going to come off as a hypocrite because of my stance that too many video games are too long these days, Zelda is one of the few series I’m willing to set time aside for to play. They only come out every so often – is it so wrong that I wanted more meat?

Chris: I think they were trying to imitate Link to the Past, where everything in the Dark World essentially hits for twice as much damage. Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to take damage in this game.  I was fortunate to be on top of the heart pieces and have life to spare. As for the length, I suppose I could have done with another 5-10 hours myself. One wonders if bringing back the LttP world wasn’t part of the problem (despite all its benefits) — there’s only so many places to put dungeons and such before you run out of real estate.

Joseph: I agree with the derision over the item system, but only when it comes to having to rent items to save the world. I liked their availability, but I am the kind of Link who would rather raid a dungeon and get a bow for free instead of renting it from a rabbit-faced prowler. I would have rather had a situation where I could only carry three items and was rewarded with an upgraded my inventory capacity with each dungeon. This was the game where they could have finally answered the question, “Where does Link keep all of his items?”

Chris made an excellent point about the map as well. The same map with the same designs means you will essentially know where every dungeon is, and that detracts from the adventure aspect of the game. Is it a ridiculous notion that there could be three or four “linked” worlds, which would increase the game time and dungeon count? I am certain Nintendo could make a tie to the Four Swords series and have a different Link working to save each.

Despite playing on the highest difficulty, which increased the already insurmountable damage received, the records will show I did not die once. And that is because the game did not record the number of times I pressed the Reset button. Who would want to pay for all those items again?

OVERALL

Shaun: When I tell my children that, despite what others might tell them, the 3DS was one of the greatest gaming consoles of all time, A Link Between Worlds is going to be a large part of that argument. As cheesy as it sounds, there’s just something intangible and sort of magical about Nintendo gameplay, and the same is true for ALBW. The game is immersive and extremely enjoyable, and easily makes a case for one of the best iterations of this series ever. It also proves that (mostly) 2D Zeldas are still fun as hell to play. Hopefully this won’t be the last of those that we see. 5 out of 5

Chris: I don’t think Link Between Worlds was the best 3DS game of 2013 — that honor probably belongs to Fire Emblem Awakening. But that’s no slight against LBW. The game manages to find a perfect balance between innovation and familiar series staples, and the end result is an experience that is a blast to play. It also means that my favorite two titles in the Zelda series are both top-down now, which might explain why I’ve found certain 3-D offerings to be so-so (looking at you, Twilight Princess!). Worlds isn’t perfect, but it’s damn close. 4.5 out of 5.

Joseph: Another exciting game in the Legend of Zelda series. When I played it, I did not constantly worry about comparing it to its predecessor. The gameplay kept me occupied for two days at least, with the occasional break to see the sun. I would certainly recommend this game to all you ladies and gentlemen, and I am happy with the strides Nintendo is taking to keep one of my favorite series alive and fresh. But it was not perfect, and as such, I cannot give it a perfect score. 4.5 out of 5.

Michaela: A Link Between Worlds was a lot of fun. The exploration was fun, and the items were a blast to update and rent right from the start. Even if the story was a little slow in the beginning, the gameplay compensated big time. 4.5 out of 5.

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