Personal Review: IGN's Top 25 3DS #1: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

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In late February, IGN updated their list of their top 25 Nintendo 3DS games. Since then, I have been playing through the list on my updated New Nintendo 3DS XL, trying to extend the longevity of my games and look at games more critically. Today, I’m starting at the top with #1, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

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Having never played A Link to the Past, the world in which I was diving into was totally new, yet somehow familiar. When I stepped out of my house, the world was completely laid out on the bottom screen. Some places were inaccessible due to lack of items, but I immediately felt limitless in my ability to adventure and become a hero. A world that empowers a player, rather than constricts, is always good in my book.

I didn’t leave the local area to ascend mountains or anything far out of my comfort zone right off the bat though, I went where the story dictated I go. Nothing about following the story felt hindering, I have always felt that The Legend of Zelda games have done a fantastic job of giving players a sense of purpose while avoiding menial tasks, and Link Between Worlds is no different. The world is set up quickly and precisely so the story can take center stage. While the story is by no means complex, I wouldn’t call it bad either. To me, the twist at the end was cute, not suspenseful or climactic.

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But thankfully, the meat of Zelda games usually aren’t the story, but the dungeons and solid mechanics. In Link Between Worlds, a new item rental system is introduced that has a certain risk-reward factor to it, you can buy all the items and be super powerful, but if you die, you lose all the items and have to spend more Rupees to acquire them again or go without the power you once had. I appreciate the idea and the bigger ramifications a system like this shows within the Zelda series, that old conventions can be totally upended to make way for new and unique mechanics. I think the system works great in A Link Between Worlds, but I don’t want an item rental system to become a trope for the Zelda series. It seems great as a one off, but could easily become stale, although I suspect that the larger affect the rental system had on the story will confine it to this single game. If you were confused about that last part, play the game, and you will understand. The second new mechanic that is introduced is the ability to turn into a flat, mural-like Link and walk across walls. I love the concept and I feel there are some good uses implemented in puzzles and secrets, but I felt the mechanic wasn’t as fleshed out as other quirks from past LoZ games were. If I was ever stumped on how to reach a heart container or figure out a puzzle in a dungeon, I could usually just morph into the wall and walk to the solution. I never felt like there were many scenarios in which I was challenged, which speaks to my larger issue with the game.

For the great design of the over world, I thought the dungeons were easy and straightforward. I found myself breezing through two dungeons in a hour, which is a decent chunk of the game when there is roughly 10 dungeons total. I attribute my frustration to the series trying to modernize itself. At the beginning of every dungeon, there are large pillars that clearly illustrate what tool you will need to complete it. For convenience sake, the pillars are fantastic, you know what you need before getting too deep into the dungeon, but when you encounter an obstacle, the solution is usually the item you knew you needed, or the wall merging ability. The dungeons and puzzles are well designed, but ultimately do themselves a disservice in the name of progress.

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It’s hard to be mad at A Link Between Worlds for sacrificing difficulty in order to appeal to a broader audience, especially when everything that makes up Zelda’s charm is still present in full form. The story has great pacing and very rarely does the narrative let you stay complacent, even if it isn’t the most riveting. A beautifully lush world begs to be explored and their are often rewards for taking the path less traveled. Everything that makes a great Zelda and a fantastic game hits a near perfect balance with innovation and revitalization of the series in A Link Between Worlds.

Pros:

  • Beautiful world
  • An enabling sense of adventure
  • A story that progresses in a logical manner, albeit not the most interesting
  • New mechanics show intentions to innovate

Cons

  • Some innovations cause dungeons to become simple
  • Overall lower difficulty

Score (out of 10): 9.2 Fantastic

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