I’m a shitty Zelda fan.
Believe me, I do my best. I haven’t missed a Zelda game since Ocarina Of Time (my NES and SNES days are a blur of relying on adults to determine what games I should play), and I try my damnedest to finish them.
But there’s always been an odd exception that forces others to question not only my love for the series, but also for Nintendo altogether.
I haven’t played A Link To The Past.
If the leading game journalist were to climb atop a mountain,stone iPad tablet in hand, I imagine what I’ve failed to do would be one of his ten commandments.
I’d be stoned to death, or at the very least berated on Twitter.
As my buying habits dictate, I bought the game two years ago on the Wii Virtual Console, but I’ve only managed to put an hour or so into it. Story of my life.
Regardless, I ran head first into A Link Between Worlds. So, for my part, I can say that the love surrounding this latest entry is fueled by more than nostalgia.
A Link Between Worlds is good. StickItInYourPocket.com Game Of The Year good (hint hint).
Since most praise is prefaced by damning its visuals, let me begin mine by saying that I disagree with those claims. While simple, the game hardly approaches ugly. It’s very cartoony, with most everything looking very rounded. I like it, and I think it suits the Zelda series nicely. Is it the best it could be? No, it probably represents the poorest art direction the series has taken. But it looks good enough, especially when placed alongside such terrific gameplay.
The move to an overhead camera is a blessing. A Link Between Worlds has cemented the idea that yes, this is how I prefer my Zeldas. As much as I love my 3D Zelda games, the act of exploration and puzzle solving takes a serious hit. I feel that it’s hard to get a grasp of what is required of me in a 3D Zelda. It’s difficult to really ‘take in’ my surroundings, get a good look at the room and all its details. Meanwhile, with an overhead camera everything is laid bare. Within only a few screens are all the information I need. It’s not as easy to miss that important mechanism from this viewpoint, something I may need to go searching for in a game like Skyward Sword. I can see and track my enemies, with no concern of being attacked from outside my camera’s view. It just works so well, and it’s great to see that Nintendo hasn’t given up on such an ‘archaic’ camera just yet.
But fancy camera work means nothing if the world is a bore. Maybe its similarities to ALTTP‘s map makes it less impressive to those versed with that title, but coming I’m fresh, I love how everything connects so well. People speak fondly on Ocarina of Time‘s Hyrule Field, this massive expanse that tied the separate regions together. As impressive as it was, traversing it was less enthralling. While A Link Between World‘s map is small, I’d argue the better word is condensed. It takes no time to travel from place to place, but there isn’t a single screen without something to do or see. And with the way the game handles items, there’s no need to make a mental note to return later at an undetermined time with the right item.
I had my doubts about A Link Between Worlds‘ rental system. I figured I’d trudge my way into a dungeon, figure out I needed a different item, then drag myself back to Ravio’s item shop. Thankfully, the minds at Nintendo aren’t as narrow as mind. The world map is littered with save points, which also act as quick travel points. It’s possible to rent a ton of items at once, but the risk is losing them all should Link die. Conversely, you can buy them outright…for a pretty big sum. It’s a fun system that let’s the player choose what’s important to them. While you may not need every item at once, it’s great finding opportunities to use them in dungeons and speed things up.
While dungeons are item specific, an important element that plays into their puzzles is Link’s ability to ‘become one with the wall’. It’s a great mechanic that adds an extra wrinkle to the dungeons no matter what item you have in tow. It’s the strongest ‘hook’ in the Zelda series in a long time, since Minish Cap personally. I can’t imagine working on those dungeons though. Someone must have been the wall police; “No! You have to block off that wall or else the whole puzzle is ruined!” It must have been a super headache to make sure the game can’t be broken at any instance by being ‘Wall Guy’.
A Link Between Worlds just may be the type of Zelda I need. It may lack the beauty of Skyward Sword, or the intuitive controls of Spirit Tracks (yes, I really like that game), but it’s such a tight little package. There’s no downtime, I always feels like I’m working towards something. Through the item rental, I can be equipped for any situation, which is super empowering. I’m strong enough to face off against anything, but I never feel as if there’s nothing to work toward.
Brilliant work, Nintendo. Hugs and kisses.