Hey, folks. Delbert's my name and gaming's my....well, game. That didn't flow as well as I would've liked, but I needed an introduction since I didn't like how this felt without one. So, a bit of background on your new resident gamer. I've been playing games since I was too young to know my age. The first game I remember playing is Pokemon Blue, and I grew up fighting Metroids on SNES. At the moment, I own every Playstation (PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4, with two PSPs and PS Vitas) with a Wii, a 3DS and a DS. I can't say I'm an expert on games - I doubt anyone can claim that - but what I can say is I enjoy a large variety of games and have no problem giving a genre I don't like a try. So, that's enough about me for now - I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities to talk about myself later - so onto what you came here for, the review of A Link Between Worlds!
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, released November 22, 2013, is a sequel to the hit 1992 Zelda classic, A Link to the Past. It is the second in the Zelda series to be released on the 3DS, behind the critically acclaimed Ocarina of Time 3D.
Set six generations after the events of A Link to the Past, ALBW follows the series 'veteran' Link in his quest to save two worlds. It starts humbly enough, with this incarnation of Link being an apprentice to a blacksmith. We are introduced to the standard top-down gameplay that has been a staple of many Zelda games for years, and soon we are introduced to the main villain of the story.
Yuga (Spoilers In Link-through URL)
Yuga is a mysterious man with the ability to transform people into paintings. After some exposition on him, we eventually chase him into another world: Lorule, a broken mirror of Hyrule, and the other world hinted at in the title of the game. Without getting into details, we eventually have to find the Triforce - a returning staple of the series - and defeat the villain, which leads to more exposition that gives backstory than the rest of the game up until that point.
The writing of the game was spectacular. There was very little information given into the story until that last cutscene, but the game didn't suffer for it. Indeed, the game was better than ever since the gameplay wasn't bogged down by hours of dialog. All the necessary info comes in small snippets over the course of the game, and wraps up nicely with the ending scene.
Speaking of gameplay, the combat is roughly the same as every other Zelda game. The B button controls your sword skills - hammering it gives a consistent set of strikes, holding it down charges up your spin attack - with A being your interaction button, the X and Y buttons act as your 'gadget' buttons (The X isn't available until mid-game, but due to that your interaction with the puzzles get more interesting after that), and the R trigger controlling your shield blocks. The L trigger acts as your dash, but that also requires a short sidequest that you could easily finish the game without doing. You are eventually able to switch between gadgets on the fly while moving - it's faster to use the pause function to do it, but if you're in a hurry (or know what gadgets you need next and have it set up properly) you can easily switch in the spaces between rooms and be ready for the next spot.
One big gameplay element comes early on in the game. Your first true meeting with Yuga makes it clear that you're not prepared for a true showdown quite yet. However, it introduces the merging addition to your repertoire. It gives Link the ability to merge with walls to move past obstacles. A few of the dungeon bosses are made simplistic with cunning use of this ability, though it must be used sparingly because it drains your stamina meter, which is also used to power your gadgets - yes, no more need to farm for arrows or bombs here either!
Ravio (Spoilers As Above)
A major shift in the gameplay is Ravio, a merchant that discovers us passed out in the road early in the story. He takes us back to our house and soon sets up shop in our bedroom. He's noteworthy because he acts as your open ticket to the dungeons. In most instances of this series, the path you take is linear. You start with one dungeon, get an item that opens the rest of the dungeon, then use that bit to get to the next dungeon, et cetera. In ALBW, you can rent every gadget in the game from nearly the beginning, removing the linearity of the game - barring a couple big turning points, such as the trip into Lorule. There are still some blocks to true open world (such as needing to enter the Zora's Domain in order to start swimming) but those sidequests are very simple to find and complete.
Another big change from previous entries is the lack of rupee cap. As readers may know, previous games capped your wallet at certain points, only opening up once you purchase new wallet upgrades. In ALBW, the only limit you have is the amount of patience you have to cap it. At the end of the game, it tells you how many rupees and deaths you had, which is a neat way to measure your progress. With all the in-game purchases, I never kept more than 2,000 rupees, so I never had an issue with the 9999 rupee cap built into the game.
One of my favorite portions of the game, however, is the magnificent soundtrack. The series has always had a powerful soundtrack, but the full orchestral arrangement for every song you hear in this game is a real treat. Furthermore, the attention to detail is clear when you merge with a wall and the soundtrack gains a tinny quality when you do so - almost as if it's losing the depth it had before. It took some shifting for me to notice it first, but when I did, it added even more depth to an already enjoyable experience.
I would definitely recommend this game to everyone who loves this series. The soundtrack is one of the strongest in the series, and the changed gameplay elements work well to refresh a series that some believe has stagnated after over 30 years of games. This game proves that the series still has life and knows how to innovate, and hopefully they continue to do so over the next 30 years - hopefully starting with the next entry, coming to the Wii U sometime next year.