Release Date: 22 November 2013
Where to get it: eShop/anywhere that sells 3DS games
Price: £31.99 (Game.co.uk download code)
Pretty much everyone knows about the Legend Of Zelda now, the series has been running so long that the official timeline is more convoluted than the Castlevania story so why should we care about another entry into the series - let alone one that has a pun in the title? Hit the link to find out.
A Link Between Worlds (ALBW from now on) is a by the numbers Zelda game on the 3DS built along the same lines as A Link To The Past. I personally don't hold much love for the latter, preferring Link's Awakening on the Gameboy far more but ALBW still holds up well on its own.
For the most part it shares a world with ALTTP, though the dark world (now known as Lorule, clever Nintendo, real clever) has seen significant changes to make it more challenging to explore with cracks in rocks allowing jumps between worlds and huge chasms blocking you from making a quick jaunt across Lorule a simple A-to-B walk.
This all ties in to the new central mechanic of being able to step into any flat surfaces with enough space such as walls and blocks and walk around on them to bypass holes in the floor or traps or enemies. This new mechanic is also central to more than getting around, it's been smartly worked into several puzzles without being overused.
All in all the puzzles are fairly simple, probably for the best considering that almost every room contains some kind of puzzle, but there's enough challenging ones spread throughout the game to make finding a solution satisfying from time to time and keep interest in pushing forwards high. Only once I found myself getting frustrated and I had to step away and even then the solution was laughably simple once I came back to it.
Combat and general exploration has carried over from ALTTP pretty much unscathed, though there is much more freedom in what order you tackle dungeons or side quests thanks to the new way item acquisition works; you now rent items from a character called Ravio, who you know is a stand-up guy because he wears a pink bunny suit (it's less horrible than it sounds).
Rented items are reclaimed by Ravio upon your death however and you must go pay the rental fee again if you die. Later in the game you can permanently purchase items from him for higher prices which then ties into the game's gathering quest; a world spanning adventure to gather little baby Malamai creatures from their hiding spots around the world. Returning ten of these to their mother in a cave rewards you with an item upgrade for an item you own.
It's nice and straightforward, with a map overlay breaking the world down into zones complete with a number to show how many Malamai are still left in an area. The creatures also cry out when you get close, making the quest more challenging for those who don't have the speakers turned on but not impossible to finish without the sound cues.
I didn't bother seeking out all the Malamai on my initial run through and still came away with five upgraded items with only picking up the Malamai that I came across while adventuring. It's a fairly generous system and so long as you pick the items you use the most first you probably won't miss the remaining upgrades at all.
It's not just the puzzle difficulty that has been toned down, many recycled bosses and enemy attack patterns have made the enemies laughably easy to defeat for veterans of the series and even newcomers will adapt quickly.
Money and health drops have also become easier to acquire; the money pouch no longer needs upgrading and the default holds 9999 rupees while health is similarly generous with heart pieces and whole hearts seemingly being handed out like candy for anyone who takes more than a cursory glance around for exploration opportunities.
I died a grand total of zero times throughout the story but came close a few times in boss battles towards the end of the game, with faerie bottles helping save my life on a couple of occasions.
The lowered difficulty may be off-putting to fans of Majora's Mask but it makes the game more relaxing to play and far more welcoming to newcomers to the series and younger gamers alike.
Graphically and sound-wise the game is also very welcoming, with warm colours and cute characters inhabiting Hyrule, making the game very kid friendly despite being largely centered around stabbing, burning and exploding a bunch of stuff so hard they explode into dust.
The tunes never really came off as anything special, besides the remixed Zelda theme that remains as good today as it was back in 1986. The sound effects meanwhile seem to
have opted for keeping out of the way, aside from the occasionally repetitive cry of "Hyaa!" from Link they're mostly unintrusive and not something that'll be missed even if you play through the whole game muted.
As you've probably guessed the story is pretty by the numbers for a Zelda game, though there's a couple of unexpected events and a surprisingly mature but still feel good happy ending, it wouldn't be a Zelda game if everything didn't end all shiny.
Overall ALBW is one of the finest Zelda games ever made but doesn't really do anything special besides its new approach to items and the new gimmick of stepping into walls. Thankfully those are enough to keep the game afloat and a harder difficulty, Hero Mode, is available when the game has been finished once.
Zelda veterans will probably blow through the game in a couple of days but newcomers to the series will find ALBW to be the best starting point for delving in, equal parts new and classic without compromising either aspect.
Nintendo have managed to work their magic again, Zelda's rarely a disappointment for gamers and ALBW holds the series high and plays a little tune. There's something for everyone to like and despite not having the substance of larger Zelda quests from the N64 or Gamecube era it more than makes up for it in broad appeal and overall polish.
Score: 9 out of 10 Sheiks.