Let me start off by saying this is the best 3DS non port title I have ever played! If you own a 3DS this is a must have for your library! Now that I'm done gushing, let's review this title properly because as great as it is, it is not without its faults.
A Link Between Worlds (LBW) starts much like the Super Nintendo classic A Link to the Past (LTTP), one of the greatest console games to ever be released. LBW takes a whole lot of gameplay and inspiration from LTTP. This can be a blessing for those looking to just blow through the game, but I found it kinda disappointing because there was no drive for me to dig into the story. In fact, outside of the paintings, I found nothing super entertaining about the team of villains bent on Hyrule's destruction (up until the finale, at least, which I will not ruin here!). The game does pay great homage to LTTP, but the story really feels like a well done reboot. This means for me or anyone else that's played LTTP, you're not really getting anything new.
Story Score - (6/10) It's good but I've already read this one...
This is where LBW really shines. The swordplay and item system are solid (except for upgrades...I'll get to it). Exploration is fairly open right from the get go, letting you dictate how you consume the game. This is something I really love that is missing from a lot of newer titles. I don't need you to hold my hand! Let me explore this great world of yours and make it my own by going where I want to! LBW does this so well that near the half way point of the game I slowed my story progression and went Maiamai (goofy looking octopus babies) hunting to try to upgrade most of my equipment. I grabbed a ton of those little guys, got a few key items upgraded, and jumped right back into the story. I never felt like I broke the game nor did the game compel me to resume my quest; it just let this hero of Hyrule do his thing as he saw fit.
Onto the upgrade and item system. A lot of the classic items return and no matter which Legend of Zelda you've played you'll feel right at home with the hookshot, lantern, bow, and boomerang just to name a few. There are also a few really unique and new items in LBW like the sand and tornado rod which allow you control over their respective elements. This does make for some interesting puzzles later in the game, but overall they feel under utilized. I think the worst part of the item system is by far acquisition. How do you get these great items? You go rent or buy them from a very eccentric little shopkeeper who sets up his business in your home, of all places. There are a few items discovered in dungeons, but overall your job is to grind for rupees and go shopping. This just felt lame, like anyone with cash could be the hero of Hyrule, not a brave adventurer willing to brave deep, dark dungeons for their untold treasures. Item use in general is pretty basic. The game tries to ramp it up by adding an upgrade system, but it doesn't really do anything but make your items slightly cooler or more powerful. While I appreciate the idea of renting items and using the Maiamai to upgrade my stuff, at the end of the day it felt like these wrinkles were added because they felt like they had to do something different from LTTP, not because it was fun or cool. I really never got to feel the pain of rental because I never died (which causes all rented items to be repossessed), so I never lost my stuff. However the game does not reward you for that. You instead get to buy your stuff twice so that on the off-chance you die you keep it.
The best thing about the gameplay is the heart of the game's theme...Wall Merging! This particular mechanic is handled so well that it is super easy to overlook the flaws in the other components. From exploration of the two main overworld to the amazingly well done dungeons, the wall walking never gets old. The game does such a good job of making you use this ability in conjunction with your other items to get through each dungeon that it quickly becomes your go to move when stuck. In particular, I loved this because it made the dungeons seem much bigger. The same room could be played over and over again because it became a new experience every time you gained access to a new part of the wall. This game should be a lesson to any game designers looking to make a great game. Make sure to focus on that core of your gameplay and do it well. It makes it so the player is so immersed in that one component that the others take a back seat and won't feel broken or annoying if they are not done to the same great quality.
Gameplay Score - (9/10) One Great Component done very well mixed with a serviceable support system
This game is beautiful! I loved the look of everything. The music and sound effects really helped immerse me. A lot of the music will feel familiar to anyone who played LTTP, but all the scores are upgraded and wonderfully handled. As for visuals, the color palate is selected beautifully even in the dark land of Lorule (Hyrule's doomed counter part). You can really tell that the land used to be vibrant and beautiful, just like Hyrule, until it fell under dark influence. It would be a great looking title even if it weren't on a handheld!
Graphics and Sound Score - (10/10) Can't think of how I would have changed it for the better!
This game will make those of us born in the 80's feel like a kid again! For those experiencing the greatness of Legend of Zelda for the first time, this game is a wonderful introduction into the universe (Now go play all the old titles you young whipper snappers!). This game reminds me why Nintendo has survived some of the very poor decisions they have made over the years. When they make a great game, they make a really great game! So thank you Nintendo for LBW it is truly a title that will never leave my library and will be visited over and over again!
Overall Score (9/10) I want to give it a slightly lower score but I just can't. Even with its flaws, this game plays near perfect when all compiled together!
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