Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Legend of Zelda: Link Between World Review

As some of you are aware, I like this game. I really, really like this game. As a matter of fact, I gave it my number 5 spot on my best games of 2013 list (which you should totally still read). So that begs the question; why am I reviewing this game if I've already said that this is a good game? Well, to make a long story short, it's very rare to see the evolution of a franchise, and I have a strong feeling that more Zelda games are going to be similar to Link Between Worlds, and that's not a bad thing in the slightest.

If you're wondering about what the game's story is, then I just need to tell you it's a Zelda game and you already get the gist of it. Link has to save the world from an evil force and save Princess Zelda. Same old formula that's been done plenty of times before, but the main twist is that like Link to the Past, a game that is HEAVILY drawn upon, there are two separate worlds to explore. You have Hyrule, the first over world, then once you reach a certain point in the game, you can freely travel to Lorule, or the dark version of Hyrule. The plot is very minimalistic, but that's one of the best tings about the game. Instead of focusing on an emotional riveting story like the console Zelda games, LBW instead focuses on improving its gameplay exponentially.

The biggest addition to the game is the introduction of Ravio, a man wearing a bunny hood that sets up a rental shop in your house. After a certain point in the game, you can go to your house and rent items from him to use in dungeons. You can rent the hookshot, bow, bombs, fire rod, and pretty much every important Zelda item in existence. Now instead of having to go to a dungeon, obtaining an item, then going back to the over world to use said item, you now have the ability to just go wherever you want to go and use whatever item you want. The only catch is that if you die, Ravio collects the items that you rented from him and you have to rent them again, unless you decide to buy the items from him for a much higher fee.

This concept art is beautiful. And yes, I have this in poster form.
Speaking of going wherever you want to go whenever you want, that's exactly what this game encourages you to do. After beating the first dungeon, you can travel to whichever dungeon you want in whatever order you want. You can even opt to not do any dungeons and instead just explore around the world collecting pieces of heart, which improve your overall health, or collecting little creatures called Maiamais. Maiamais work in the same ways as the Golden Skulltulas in Ocarina of Time. There are 100 Maiamais scattered between Hyrule and Lorule collectively, and for every 10 you collect, you can permanently upgrade one of your items. However, you actually have to own the item instead of renting it for the power up to apply. If you don't want to do any of that, then the dungeons will most certainly satisfy your thirst for adventure.

While there are plenty of dungeons in this game, a staggering 12 as a matter of fact, where this game does stumble is its dungeon design and difficulty. Most dungeons are fairly simple dungeons that don't really test your prowess or ability with an item. The dungeons are just very nicely designed puzzles that won't take up much of your time or pose a challenge. While each dungeon way have a unique idea behind it, they're usually too underdeveloped to be memorable. Take the Ice Ruins, arguably the best dungeon in the game. From the very beginning of the dungeon, you acquire the Boss Key, but you have to work your way down to the bottom of the dungeon by shifting platforms, falling down holes, and working on different floors to make a clear path to the boss. That's a solid idea for a dungeon, and one that hasn't been done before, but the dungeon is too short and easy that it doesn't leave much of an impact besides "That was cool".

It's a shame too, because if there's one thing Zelda is known for, it's having great dungeons. The Ancient Cistern, The Water Temple, Arbiter's Grounds, The Palace of Winds, and Stone Tower Temple are all phenomenal dungeons that are some of the best parts of their games. Here, there is no one dungeon that is memorable or will have people looking back on it with fond memories, at least in my case. What's even worse is that the overall difficulty of the game is severely lacking. Not only are the dungeons easy, but the bosses don't even pose a challenge half of the time. I only died once against a boss, and that was because I was experimenting with how to actually beat it. What's worse is that the boss was just an updated version of an boss in Link to the Past, so it being an "original" boss is dubious at best.

Depth is a feature that is played with a lot in this game.
My gripes with the difficulty and dungeons aside, I can't really think of any other criticisms with this game. As a matter of fact, I want this game to be the template that all other Zelda games are designed around! What do I mean by that? Well, this game is a simplification of the Zelda formula in nearly every single way. Instead of using magic to use your items, you use a stamina meter that depletes when you use an item and refills over time. It adds more strategy to the game and makes using items more of a risk reward system. There's much more of a focus on player choice and where to go, and items are now easily obtained without much trouble. I would absolutely love it if this is how Zelda games are designed from here on out. Get all of the busy work out of the way in the first hour, like obtaining items, and that'll free up most of the main game for better designed dungeons and stories while also giving players multiple ways to get to dungeons. If future Zelda over worlds were deigned like this, then it'd be a joy to navigate the world to make it to a dungeon. Even if its a linear experience, like going only to one dungeon at a time, I'd be okay with that if the game gave an over world that was worth exploring, like Skyward Sword. 

I don't think that Link Between Worlds is one of the best Zelda games ever made. I'm personally someone who likes console Zelda more than portable ones, but that doesn't stop LBW from being a phenomenal game. I went into this game with hesitation that it was going to be recycling Link to the Past in order to make a quick buck, but I was wrong. It draws upon what makes Zelda great, and improves it for a modern age. If you have a 3DS, then this game is a must buy. If you don't have a 3DS, consider buying one just to play this game and other outstanding 3DS games *coughKidIcarusUprisingcough*. The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds, get a very well deserved 4 out of 5.

Can't wait until Nintendo reveals the next Zelda at E3!

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