Relying on past accomplishments.
Originally written: 12-12-13
The kingdom of Hyrule is invaded by a powerful sorcerer. He kidnaps certain people for his own evil purpose. A young boy by the name of Link learns he's destined to become the hero of Hyrule. But can this lazy young boy, who can't even show up to work on time possibly be the land's savior? -summary
The Nintendo 3DS and Wii U are indeed in some type of trouble. They are seriously in dire need of blockbuster games. This is why they are rehashing classic titles. These were my thoughts when I first saw that Nintendo were reaching for long gone classics to power their systems line ups which have been quite disappointing. Nintendo has indeed hit the panic button to resort to tactics like these. People can claim that they're paying homage or trying to appeal to a newer generation all they want, but as far as I'm concerned they're just falling back on memories. I'm still a fan of Nintendo but I'm not that crazy about them digging in the crates like this. I was still intrigued by their latest Zelda game A Link Between Worlds though, which is said to be a sequel or follow up to the SNES classic A Link to the Past; I was looking forward to this release since it was clearly a return to the franchises roots. To be honest here, despite my enjoyment of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, modern Zelda really hasn't done too much for me. It usually felt like something was missing and I never felt too motivated to explore most of those worlds in a lot of those games as I did in A Link to the Past for example. I'm very happy to see A Link Between Worlds has regained the lost charm of the series, but I would have preferred something totally fresh because this game feels like I retraced steps I walked more than 20 years ago.
The story takes place several generations after a Link to the Past, with Link's adventure, defeat of Ganon, and unification of the Triforce now being a part of legend. The story begins with a young Link descendant encountering the evil sorcerer named Yuga. Yuga kidnaps a woman by the name of Seres and Link goes after Yuga. His encounter with Yuga results in him being turned into a painting on the dungeon wall. Link then gains the ability to become a painting whenever against some type of wall like surface, and his quest begins here. Later on, he's able to cross dimensions between Hyrule and its counterpart Lorule, as he attempts to rescue the 7 descendants of the 7 sages.
Link Between Worlds uses the over head style of game play found in the original The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past. In regards to the latter, it borrows very heavily to the point where everything felt all too familiar for me. It really does feel like I went on this journey before despite several elements making it quite different. Still, this was a pretty fun ride and the addition of Link being able to turn into a painting added a new dimension to its old school style of play.
The game follows Link as he must enter several dungeons either to obtain a specific item, or liberate one of the sages whom are all being guarded by a ferocious monster. In between this, he explores Hyrule and Lorule battling monsters, going on fetch quests, or searching for things. Exploring the world of Zelda is still just as fun, but I really enjoyed the option of approaching things in a non linear style. Once your destinations have been revealed, the dungeons can all be tackled any way you want. They are no longer numbered and this is completely due to the new method weapons are obtained. In previous games, the dungeons had to be completed in an order because they all had a special weapon necessary to move forward. Early in the game, Link meets a guy named Ravio and he rents out his weapons to Link. If you have enough rubies which are the games currency, then you can rent all of the weapons at once such as bombs, magic wands, and even the hook shot weapon which works as a grappling hook for Link to scale across gaps. This brings a level of freshness to its familiar game play. However, if at any point in the game you are killed, Ravio will send his bird to collect all of his stuff, and you will have to rent them again. I know this sounds kind of unfair, but the game is quite forgiving with rubies. No joke, you will find silver and gold rubies worth up to 100 or 300 rubies. I actually maxed out at 9,999. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of grinding for rubies though, as you will find yourself slicing away every bush and killing every enemy onscreen. It's fun at first, but it did wear thin for me because there were times I just wanted to get to a specific place. Fortunately, for a very high price you can buy the weapons from Ravio which eliminates this minor nuisance. I recommend not worrying too much about dying though, because the game really isn't difficult, in fact I found it to be almost insultingly easy at times.
One thing is for sure, you are rewarded for going on these scavenger hunts and doing favors for random people and creatures. Some of these favors must be done to move further, while one is very necessary to upgrade weapons. I really like the upgrades though; you will be able to plant larger and more powerful bombs, shoot multiple arrows, and your sword just becomes awesome which makes Link pretty much unstoppable.
When I first heard the premise of this new game; the ability to turn into a painting just came out of left field. It was just silly thinking about it, but I was sold on the ability within short minutes. This is the Nintendo I'm talking about here, creative and imaginative. The ability to turn into a moving painting creates a new method to explore and traverse to new areas. People really need to play the game for themselves, because the most accurate descriptions really won't do it justice. Link can squeeze through cracks and avoid attacks like this. It can even be used in certain boss battles to reveal their vulnerable moments. One battle pits you up against a boss that appears unstoppable to all attacks, until Link uses his painting ability in the most awesome of ways. Those who played the game know what I'm talking about.
The puzzles are creative and fun to get through; the player will find themselves having to force boulders to collide with one another, or guide them across vanishing plat forms along with fusing Link into the wall in painting form. The puzzles have moments of being really cool, and I think what brings out the best in them is that although they make you think, I never felt like the answers to these puzzles where pulled out of nowhere. These are things most players should figure out without a guide, and I'm glad I didn't use one.
Nintendo does play it quite safe though with a bit of hand holding. For instance, there will be painted coins and hearts in walls mapping a trail for you to follow. I didn't care for this much since it does help you think and it hampers the exploration, at least for me it did. This is one area A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time clearly win at, because I don't recall much or any hand holding with those games.
The boss battles are kind of cool to look at, but I found them all very disappointing since they were so easy. I never felt challenged by any of them. I never came close to needing health items. I was terribly put off here, and some of this comes from the weapons having unlimited ammo. Now they do deplete a magic bar, but it recovers in no time. The game is too forgiving; I remember one boss battle from Link to the Past, where Link needed to use bombs to blow off a boss' metal mask, then from there hit him in the center with arrows. This battle was tough, but it was tough in the right way since you had to make all your hits count. Here, you can spam at will on some occasions and it just deals the game a black eye for me.
I also felt the dungeons weren't challenging at all; the obstacles and enemy encounters just weren't threatening. There's one bonus dungeon called The Treacherous Tower which is a massive gauntlet, and this part is only difficult if you try to complete all of the levels at your weakest. Still though, it just doesn't make up for the cakewalk. When you complete the game, there is another mode called Hero, but I find it challenging in the laziest of ways, as it's mainly difficult due to enemies taking more health. That's not so much as hard, as it is so much about being more careful.
The game is fairly short at about maybe 7 hours or so, some will probably say less; but it took me about this much to finish it though mainly because of the coin grinding. I enjoyed the exploration in some ways, and I imagine most people will.
This area is very responsive as all movements are quite fluid. The weapons menu is easy to access and that also can be upgraded, which makes swapping weapons a bit easier. Since Link can carry two items at the same time, the only issue is pressing the button for an item you don't really want, but that's the players fault. Now this part isn't completely the players fault. The A button is used to pick up items and use Link's painting ability. On some occasions I saw myself attempting to pick up an item, but I would go against the wall. It was minor but when looking at the controller set up, I really can't think of another way this could have possibly worked. It's something players will either have to deal with, or just try to play with perfection.
While this game does look pretty, it piles onto my complaints of Nintendo's rehashing. The world map of the original game is used here almost down to the last pixel. If it wasn't because I knew this was on the 3DS and given a new name. I would have called this A Link to the Past. The game is pretty though with updated graphics and more details. The characters have a lot more natural movement to them, such as the wind in Links hat being noticeable and his hair waving when running.. Some of the enemies have facial movements when being killed. I especially noticed this with the bomb wielding cyclops monsters. It happens pretty quick and can go unnoticed.
The backgrounds are pretty nice for the themed stages such as fire or ice. The older stages are updated, with the Lost Woods Dungeon in Lorule looking a bit creepier. The 3D effect is used pretty well. The falling snow almost appeared like it was going to exit the games screen and hit my hands. I have seen the 3D used better for this system with Starfox quickly coming to mind. I will say this is one of the better games for the system that uses it. It looks much better than New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Sonic Generations.
The updated music is definitely a plus though. While some of the themes went through a remix they still sound very familiar, but I thought it was a nice addition to provide different themes for the dungeons. Some of the themes are on the quiet side with mild chimes and small kicks. I mainly caught this with the Ice Ruins dungeon. The BGM was just a nice fit for this icy, almost slow moving stage. The BGM knows when to take things easy and when to become epic. The final battle felt like it was for all the marbles. Many of the sound effects return, but they sound more refined from the projectiles hitting Link's shield, to the grunts of pig-men soldiers. My only beef in this area is the lack of voice actors. I mean seriously, we are leaving 2013 in a few short weeks, give us some voice acting and leave the text in 1991.
The game does have some type of replay due to Hero mode, but I can't see myself replaying it again after that with so many other games to explore. Link Between Worlds is far from the flawless jewel some may claim. The reasons I don't feel it as much is because I played the original source material, I demand more from my games, and nostalgia just doesn't play a role in my feelings; in which I do believe fans of the original are looking at this game through that lens. Like it or not, although Nintendo introduced a couple of new things: Link's paint move, unique level design, and new weapons system. They still took the path of least resistance here, which is something they have been doing for the last two years.
I completely disagree that this is a whole new game, and I think it's misleading to say that it is. The game is too familiar but I can't lie and say that I didn't enjoy it. This game was a breath of fresh air, however Nintendo needs to quit pulling these old games out from under their beds. If you never played the original game, then I would definitely recommend this as a system seller along with Ocarina of Time, Cave Story 3D, Super Mario 3D Land, and Star Fox 64 3D. The level of violence is pretty low since it is kept pretty cartoony in a fantasy world so this is a great game for kids. It will definitely appeal more to hardcore gamers, since casual folks will probably find it to be too long and complicated with all the puzzles.
Pros: Fun game play, cool puzzles, painting ability is a hit
Cons: Shamelessly recycled, way too easy