The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the first all-new Zelda title for the Nintendo 3DS and the first major Zelda game to be released in the west significantly earlier than in Japan. The game was developed by Nintendo EAD and released on November 22, 2013 in the west and on December 26, 2013 in Japan. It is the first Zelda title to be solo-directed by Hiromasa Shikata who first worked on the franchise with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. A Link Between Worlds is set in the same incarnation of Hyrule as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and has its own unique alternate world players will discover and explore with Lorule.
A Link Between Worlds is set a long time after the events in A Link to the Past (it's also set after Link's Awakening and the two Oracle-games) and stars a different Link than the one who defeated Ganon before. This new Link is the local blacksmith's apprentice who keeps being late for work because he has nightmares about Princess Zelda being assaulted by a giant shadowy monster. Just as in The Minish Cap and Twilight Princess, Link is tasked with delivering a sword to Hyrule Castle but he gets turned away and tries to sneak into the castle by way of the Sanctuary.
There, a wizard called Yuga knocks out the young apprentice who later awakens in his house where he meets Ravio, the shopkeeper. Ravio tells him to go to Hyrule Castle and warn Princess Zelda of Yuga's evil plans but Link cannot stop him and so Yuga traps Zelda and the descendants of the seven sages in paintings and makes off with them. Link has to get them back and must wake the Master Sword from its supposed eternal slumber. Sahasrahla, whose ancestor already assisted Link and the player in the SNES-title is again educating Link about his upcoming adventure.
Like in A Link to the Past, there is again an alternate world that Link eventually travels to. However, this time it's not the Sacred Realm that has been corrupted by Ganon's evil wishes and turned into the Dark World. In A Link Between Worlds, this other place is called Lorule and is a land fallen upon dark times which used to be a lot like Hyrule. Lorule is governed by Princess Hilda, the direct counterpart to Zelda in Hyrule. Hilda is in need of a Hero to save Lorule but there is no one suitable around. Possible connections between Hilda and Yuga are still unclear as is the role of Ganon in Link's nightmares.
A Link Between Worlds represents a major initiative to throw out many of the design conventions of the Zelda series and approach the basic game structure differently. The development team pushed for a more open, player driven experience in contrast to other recent Zelda titles. Instead the gameplay goes for a more open-ended approach, reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda.
Playing with Perspective
The game is presented from the traditional top-down perspective of early Zelda titles such as A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening. However, gameplay and exploration are centered around playing with perspective, as Link is able to flatten himself into a wall sketch so he can move on walls like a shadow. When Link is in this state, the camera perspective shifts to provide a three-dimensional side view of the immediate environment.
The biggest and most important new addition to the game is the item renting systems. In an effort to combat the linearity of recent Zeldas, players now get to rent all the major puzzle items from Ravio's shop.
Ravio offers Link the opportunity to rent items for an affordable price as long as he wants or until he dies. In the event that Link meets an untimely end in a dungeon or facing off against an enemy, the little flying creature that accompanies Ravio will collect all the rented items and return them to the shop. When that happens, the item has to be rented again. Purchasing items is an option as well, though the price to own an item forever is quite steep. This places an unprecedented importance on rupees in this new Zelda game. Players find a lot more rupees in their adventure than in previous titles as there are mini-dungeons scattered all across Hyrule and Lorule that yield rupee rewards.
Non-Linear Dungeon Progression
Nintendo EAD introduced the item renting system to put more emphasis on freedom and let players roam the game world in the way they want and tackle dungeons in any order. The availability of the necessary items from Ravio's shop makes this possible.
Exploring the World
Hyrule's geography should be very familiar for players of A Link to the Past as it retains most of its characteristic layout. However, some notable changes have been made in the form of new passages that function as shortcuts between major locations and the addition of the aforementioned new mini-dungeons and caves that hide various treasures for Link to find.
Another factor changing the way players perceive and explore the familiar Hyrule landscape is the wall-merge mechanic that turns Link into a flat painting. Just as it is used in dungeons to solve puzzles, it is used in the overworld to reach otherwise inaccessible places. On top of that, it is used to travel through tears "between worlds" and cross over into Lorule. This can again be used to reach different places previously not reachable by Link.
Getting around the world quickly is again facilitated by the familiar fast travel system from A Link to the Past by way of calling the witch Irene with a bell after which she will drop Link off at already discovered weather vanes like the one next to Ravio's shop.
Used to produce an updraft so Link can reach higher places. Also has offensive use.
Manipulates sand to form solid ground for Link to walk on or wall-merge in to.
Makes Link invulnerable for a brief period. Requirements: Yellow Monster Horn
Damages enemies around Link. Requirements: Purple Enemy Guts
Can be found in pots. Instantly refills the energy meter.
The Hint Glass lets Link see hint ghosts that help Link solve puzzles if necessary. However, usage requires payment via 3DS Play Coins. Each hint costs 1 coin.
Ravio's Bracelet is given to Link by Ravio and has multiple uses in this game. The most important being the ability to turn Link into a painting so he can walk along walls in his flat state. Another key function is that it activates the energy meter that determines the frequency with which players can use items before having to wait for a recharge.
This fruit can be purchased at the shop in Kakariko Village. It can be used to scare off or stun enemies.
This fruit can also be purchased at the shop in Kakariko Village. It allows Link to warp out of dungeons.
Known returning items
Finding Maiamai & Upgrading Items
Items can be upgraded by finding Maiamais all over the world (100 in total) and returning a certain amount of them to the Mother Maiamai which will then reward Link with an upgrade for an item the player has purchased (not rented!) from Ravio's shop. Maiamais are stuck to walls (some in easily visible places, others must be located by following their cries) and can only be removed by using the wall-merge mechanic and getting behind them in order to pop them off the wall. Mother Maiamai can be found in both Hyrule and Lorule. An important detail is the fact that only items purchased from Ravio can be upgraded. Rented items are not eligible.
Finding Maiamai, heart pieces and collecting rupees is not the only thing Link spends his time on when not solving puzzles and fighting baddies. The latter will drop objects like guts, horns or tails which Link can use to trade for potions at the Witch's hut. These potions aren't limited to restorative functions like in previous Zelda games. They can be used to damage surrounding enemies, make Link invulnerable or heal him.
In A Link Between Worlds, collecting arrows or replenishing Link's bomb supply is a thing of the past as there is a new system in place similar to the stamina gauge from Skyward Sword. This allows Link to, for example, fire arrows until the gauge is fully depleted after which it has to refill before Link can continue to shoot arrows. All item usage and the wall-merge ability is tied to this mechanic, limiting Link's ability to mindlessly spam item attacks.
The game's structure is loosely based on that of A Link to the Past in that there are four basic dungeons in Hyrule and another eight in Lorule. Only the first dungeon has to be completed before the player can freely choose the order in which to approach the remaining dungeons as all items necessary can be purchased or rented from Ravio's shop. Key items needed in a dungeon are telegraphed via a symbol at the dungeon entrance to avoid frustrating experiences.
Familiar dungeons from A Link to the Past are revisited and appear in new light just like the overworld due to changes in the environment and other changes brought on by the passage of time since the original game.
As is typical for the Zelda series, there are a few mini-games available for Link to partake in with the chance to win some cash or heart pieces. A Link Between Worlds introduces some brand new ones.
In this mini-game, located in Lorule, Link whacks a ball fired at him by an Octorok to break vases scattered on the baseball-like field in front of him or knock over enemies.
Here, Link has to evade the notoriously deadly cuccos for 30 seconds to get his desired rupee-reward.
This one is a familiar challenge from the Zelda series. The Treacherous Tower is a combat challenge in which Link has to clear numerous floors of various enemies with the option to choose from three difficulty levels.
After finishing the story for the first time, Hero Mode is unlocked. Similar to other recent titles in the series, Link will take higher damage (four times as much) but this time, there is also a "hidden extra" players can find on a second playthrough.
StreetPass & Shadow Link
The game supports StreetPass functionality in the form of Shadow Links being passed around. When speaking with a character in Hyrule called Gramps, he will tell Link about newly received StreetPass data. The player can create their own Shadow Link and equip them with two items before sending them out to StreetPass with other people. Each Shadow Link has an automatically calculated bounty attached to them which is determined by the amount of hearts the player has and the item combination equipped on the Shadow Link.
Once a player receives another player's Shadow Link data, they can challenge him to a duel in a dedicated arena and, upon winning, cash in the bounty set for that respective Shadow Link. The bounties appear in the game world in the form of signposts in front of Gramps but Shadow Link will only show up later somewhere in the world. There is no penalty for losing against Shadow Link, only the chance to win some precious rupees and the possibility to get achievements for winning battles with certain items.
File Size: 5,482 Blocks (685MB)
As of March 31, 2014 A Link Between Worlds sold 2.51 million copies worldwide.