Feature Article

Two Hours with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

A Link to the Past.

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I slip into each new Zelda game like I would a comfortable pair of shoes. This is a series that relies on familiar beats and recognizable patterns, and there's a great sense of joy and excitement in seeing each game's inventive twists on the series' most famous moments. But while the latest entry in the series starts off by reveling in its nostalgia, after playing for a couple of hours, I'm starting to wonder if the 3DS sequel has a trick or two up its sleeve.

Warning: this article contains discussion about the plot and opening sections of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

A Link Between Worlds starts, as a Zelda game typically starts, with Link waking up. He's late for work--in this incarnation Link is an apprentice blacksmith--and so the player rushes to punch the clock. Managing to avoid a telling off, Link is tasked with delivering a sword. It's a task more suited to a mail carrier than a blacksmith, perhaps, but it's an excuse to run about--with an updated version of the iconic Hyrule Field theme playing in the background, no less--and put you one step closer to the first encounter with Princess Zelda. The blast of nostalgia is unlikely to be lost on the near-30-somethings whose childhoods were filled with memories of the game's 1992 predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, with the new game's overworld appearing to have changed very little in the last two decades. The map is so familiar, even, that when playing, I instinctively and innately knew my way around.

After being turned away from the castle gates, Link heads to the Sanctuary--recalling the first steps of the original journey, which took you into the place of worship via the dungeons of the castle. A similar mini-dungeon remains, however, as you're told you need to sneak inside via the graveyard. At this point, your sword is unsheathed, and the game introduces the lamp--an item rarely seen in modern Zelda games, but also the first thing collected in A Link to the Past--and progression requires you to play with a few of the series' traditional torch-lighting puzzles while swatting away a few buzz blobs. It's also an introduction to A Link Between Worlds' magic meter, which now refills on its own but is also used to power weaponry like the bow, mallet, and fire rod.

As you enter the sanctuary, the game introduces the new villain, Yuga, who uses his magical powers to turn people into chalk paintings and who also bears some resemblance to Ganondorf. After a brief ill-fated encounter, Link ends up passing out.

He awakens back in his house, with the camera pointed to highlight a cameo of Majora's Mask hanging on the wall. The scene also serves to introduce Ravio, a valuable non-player character dressed in a bunny suit reminiscent of Link's appearance the first time he visited the Dark World in the original game. Ravio takes the role of the game's shopkeeper, setting up his marketplace in Link's house and telling him to travel to Hyrule Castle to warn Princess Zelda. Realizing that Yuga is looking to trap the descendants of the original game's seven sages in paintings, the game then points you to its first proper dungeon: the Eastern Palace.

It's around here that the game starts to open up a little, introducing a witch who sells various colored potions in return for collecting items--such as guts, horns, and tails--from enemies. These powerful potions can damage all surrounding enemies, make Link invulnerable, or restore all of his health. A bit of exploring also takes you through Kakariko Village and to a fortune teller who dishes out a pair of Groucho Marx glasses that, when worn, let you see the game's hint ghosts. They give you clues on how to solve puzzles in dungeons, but demand a 3DS Play Coin before they're prepared to give up their information.

The hint ghosts are completely optional, but there were a couple of instances where I might have considered using one. The game's opening areas weren't the most perplexing creations that have graced the series over the years, but I still found myself stuck for a few minutes in each, wandering around in circles in an attempt to discover the crucial knack I was missing. It was exactly what I was hoping for, too: that sense of peeling back a dungeon's intertwined intricacies, and reveling in that unwinding discovery has always been one of my most treasured parts of the Zelda series.

To enter the Eastern Palace, Link needs to return to Ravio and rent a bow. Items in A Link Between Worlds are, for the most part, hired when needed instead of bought outright, which has the potential to significantly disrupt the game from the series' usual formula of bestowing new items after vanquishing bosses. It's also likely to put more of a strain on Link's wallet, requiring additional exploration for rupees, although you're given your first taste of the bow for free.

While the overworld and much of the structure, at this stage in the game at least, is basically a note-for-note reproduction of A Link to the Past, the game's dungeons are entirely new. The Eastern Palace is now filled with vertically moving platforms which make good use of the 3DS's 3D effect, having you work out the right level and angle to hit switches to progress further. While I'm not particularly fond of the 3D effect in most other games, I did find it was very useful here.

Yuga shows up again in the Eastern Palace, and once he has been dispatched in the first of the game's many boss fights, Link gains the ability to transform into a painting at will, which also switches the game's perspective. While becoming a living painting doesn't seem as immediately useful as, say, owning an Ocarina, which can control time, as a work of art, Link can squeeze through cracks in walls and reach previously hidden areas. Once you're clear of the Eastern Palace, you're presented with your next objective: obtain the three Pendants of Virtue and reclaim the Master Sword.

In my experience, there was a lot of fun to be had in the opening two hours of A Link Between Worlds. Even so, I couldn't help but feel that I also wanted something more, something newer, and something less familiar. The Legend of Zelda might thrive on recalling certain traits and elements--most of the series' games have familiar openings, after all--but the games have always given you new worlds and environments to explore, unearth, and discover.

If The Legend of Zelda is those comfortable shoes, then I came away from the first two hours of A Link Between Worlds feeling like I was retreading a well-worn path: without a new world to explore, there were moments when the game felt like it was being a little bit too nostalgic. With a near-identical overworld, some of the series' best moments of adventure and discovery feel like they'd surely be diminished by this sense of familiarity for anyone who has already played the original game.

But at the same time, I'm also betting on a twist that shakes things up more than Nintendo has been letting on. A recent trailer for the game showed off Lorule, A Link Between Worlds' version of The Dark World, and introduced Princess Zelda's Lorule counterpart, Hilda. While I'm afraid that A Link Between Worlds opens with too much of a reliance on mirroring A Link to the Past, these new additions--that Nintendo isn't really talking about--offer a tempting possibility of a few big new surprises in the game.

I had a blast playing the first two hours of A Link Between Worlds, but the most exciting part was this feeling that Nintendo is up to something: that there's the potential of a deeper and more original adventure than I originally expected bubbling under the surface. There's a good chance I'm completely and utterly wrong on this, but I'm very excited to find out the truth when the game is released in November.

Discussion

112 comments
bringthegnar
bringthegnar

I love Zelda and each game has its own quirks. Whether it's waving a baton to change the winds, or turning into a wolf to rescue Hyrule from the twilight. This game, just looking at it, does not interest me. I don't want to to turn into a chalk painting. That sounds like the lamest twist to put on a Zelda game I have ever heard. Nintendo, please make a Zelda game that looks more interesting than drawing with chalk on the sidewalk.

AdanVC
AdanVC

Of course there would be something that shake things up. Playing it for just 2 hours would not show you everything the game has to offer obviously considering Zelda games are long.

ferna1234
ferna1234

looks like "·$% id rather play the snes version. which is the same.

digits52
digits52

I feel cheated... i was expecting two hours of gameplay, damn u gamespot.. damn u right in the face!

translucent17
translucent17

brings back some nice old memories, link to the past was one of my all time favorites

Tacomonga
Tacomonga

I can't wait for this game.... my ds has collected a serious amount of dust since launch. There were some good games that I just haven't checked out to be fair. I am sure that this will make me want to dust it off and go adventuring though.

sjawz3288
sjawz3288

Even though they stated the game was going to have completely new dungeons, just watching that little video of gameplay makes me think it's more of a HD remake. Regardless it's my favorite game of all time. I'll still buy it, but I don't entirely believe it's a "new" game.

Standalone88
Standalone88

Why guys love zelda and still dont have 3ds, at least to support nint :D

OHGFawx
OHGFawx

LttP is my favorite Zelda game, and easily in my Top 5 greatest games ever. I really need to borrow a 3DS.....and this game.

BlackGenjii
BlackGenjii

If I had a 3DS I would absolutely play this, in fact I would probably just go to the store and buy it. Love Zelda, and have ever since the N64's Ocarina Of Time.

Trickymaster
Trickymaster

I dunno, guys. I would give this a chance if I had a 3DS. It looks like they put a lot of effort and thought into this concept.

simulacraman
simulacraman

I'm sure it has been observed, but I didn't notice until now - that wall mechanic reminds me of Roadrunner cartoons. That, and Link looks like Andy Rooney.

HAMMERCLAW
HAMMERCLAW

This is what Zelda is suppose to be. It's aimed at the same targeted demographic(kids) and you can indulge your inner child with it at any age. Just don't expect the franchise to grow up with you. Who would want a "Dark Knight" reboot of Zelda, anyway?

AzatiS
AzatiS

Theres more.... milkage.. That is. Im pity of Nintendo loyal fanbase , playing the same games again and again while praising Nintendo for it... Such a shame really.

Will47
Will47

@ferna1234 This is a sequel and a totally different game. How are they they same beyond some familiar locations?

Willy105
Willy105

@Tacomonga Bad news, you won't be able to play this in your DS. You need a 3DS or 2DS. 

bshoc4ever
bshoc4ever

@sjawz3288 How is it an HD remake when it's not on a high definition console?  

 And how is it even a remake?  Have you actually read up on the game?  Aside from having a similar overworld to A Link To The Past, they've changed tons.

digits52
digits52

@BlackGenjii Since Ocarina Of Time? You are missing out to the prior and arguably superior Nes and Snes greats lad.

No_SuRReNDeR
No_SuRReNDeR

@Kalan_Arkais I think it fits, that kind of basic naming convention thing is very retro. Game designers did that all the time back in the day.


Weskerzx95
Weskerzx95

@Kalan_Arkais There is also Hilda, I don't know, I think it doesn't fit the character.

ogalon
ogalon

@HAMMERCLAW Look up Hyrule: Total War. A lot of people want a much darker Zelda game.

JunoWalker
JunoWalker

@HAMMERCLAW Almost anyone that played Zelda when it was first created would have some interest in possibly playing a darker and gritty version of Zelda. I for one would think that it would make more sense. Zelda is about saving the fair princess and saving the world from total darkness, both concepts used in the new Batman film trilogy. He fought to save his city from all evil and fell for the hottie thief. Often being alone on his fight as he is the chosen one. So, yeah it would be epic.

Jah_Glow
Jah_Glow

@HAMMERCLAW I would prefer a more Braid-esque telling of a tale -- a serious look at the many concepts that players take for granted in the land of Hyrule.

JunoWalker
JunoWalker

@AzatiS And I assume after the 1 or 2 new fighters added to each new Tekken game it's completely different from the last?? Get this Tekken on PS1 is the same as Tekken 6 on PS3. 6 only looks better and has more fighter/ stages and some online multiplayer as god forbid friends hangout in person again.

atopp399
atopp399

@AzatiS Sounds like the other consoles.  Same old FPS games year after year, or sports games or whatever.  The difference is Nintendo games remain fun.

wexorian
wexorian

@AzatiS Tough guy huh? post on company that you hate few words and run. So mature run like chicken :)

zeldafan195
zeldafan195

@AzatiS Why do you even bother looking at these articles if all you're going to do is insult it no matter what? I looked at this article because I was actually interested in it. When i see a COD article, i don't go on it and post comments about it milking. I don't look at it in the first place because i don't care about it. If you don't care about Zelda, then you shouldn't care about this article.

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

@AzatiS It's not the same game. The dungeons have been changed and there are new gameplay mechanics like walking in the walls.  You should just go back to playing Tekken or COD... because those games are always so fresh and not the same reheated shit every new release.  smfh  

toshineon
toshineon

@AzatiS Maybe the Nintendo fans praise Nintendo so much because they deserve it, ever thought of that? No... you just see "Zelda" and assume that they're milking. But let me tell you something, most Nintendo fans doesn't see it that way. We see another title that we're sure to enjoy because the previous (most of them, anyway) entries were good. If you don't like Nintendo at all, then I can understand why you wouldn't see that. Then again, if you don't like them, then it's of no concern to you. You don't need to care. Spare your pity for someone that needs and wants it.

BigBossWato
BigBossWato

@AzatiS This coming from a person with a Tekken profile pic, you do know you are a Hypocrite.  

Kos1c
Kos1c

@Willy105 @Tacomonga It's the reason why I don't see myself experiencing this title just yet. got a DSiXL, and not willing to go out and buy a  cheap 3DS just for one title. =/

hjallenalle
hjallenalle

@toshineon @AzatiSOr maybe it's like that you just see "Zelda" and you buy it. Calling yourself a fanboy is a disgrace to every true fan out there. It's the saddest thing ever seeing little fake nintendo-fans lashing out at guys complaining. 


I understand why. Nintendo has maybe made a decent console but the marketing is shit, the third party support is grade A-shit and now they released a f*cking remake of a 10 year old game to soothe things out and there you go - you jump on it like a bitch in heat.

toshineon
toshineon

@hjallenalle @toshineon @AzatiS No, I don't play Zelda all that much, not since Ocarina of Time, so that point is completely invalid. I'm not a Nintendo fanboy at all, I'd not hesitate to defend any other company either if I think that they get too much undeserved dislike.

amdreallyfast
amdreallyfast

@toffifee @toshineon @amdreallyfast @AzatiS Stale?  It depends on the features you look at.  Mechanically and atmospherically and lore-wise, it hasn't changed much, but does "stale" only mean that things haven't changed much, or it mean "not fun" too?  To me, Zelda is still fun.  Not as fun as when I was a kid, but still fun, so not stale to me.

toshineon
toshineon

@amdreallyfast @toshineon @AzatiS Yeah, I know. But seeing someone calling a franchise "milked" always upsets me a bit, I can't help feeling that much of it is a huge misunderstanding from people that simply doesn't like the series.