The Gamer’s Corner: Zelda Links Its World In 3D
Even though it’s a direct sequel to “A Link to the Past,” the greatest of all 2D Zelda games, “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” feels way more like a second quest than an all-new game.
“A Link Between Worlds” is heavily chained down to its predecessor for better and for worse. An exhaustive amount of features are pulled either directly from, or were heavily inspired by, “A Link to the Past,” which includes the following: the structure of the story, the music and sound effects, the art style (now presented in 3D), and most significantly, virtually the entire layouts of both overworlds. Many of the items, enemies and even secrets are found in the exact same places from 21 plus years ago.
As I wandered through the overworlds of Hyrule and Lorule (the latter essentially a renamed Dark World), I found myself increasingly disappointed by this return trip. “A Link to the Past” felt (and continues to feel) like an epic adventure through a colorful and fully realized world. “A Link Between Worlds” on the other hand feels decidedly small and uninspired.
Whenever something is different from the original game, the broad strokes are always disappointingly the same. For example, instead of finding a bug catcher kid sick at home, a wacky beekeeper lives there now. Also, instead of talking to the Zora King to get the flippers, you’ll go to virtually the same spot to get them from the Zora Queen. There are no surprises to be had since everything is where it has always been. Every location also loses some of its luster as the limited 3D graphics don’t inspire your imagination as the old 2D graphics did.
Thankfully, the dungeons and a majority of the cave interiors are all brand new, even if their names aren’t. Each dungeon has its own gimmick, but nearly all of them place an increased emphasis on verticality and really ask you to understand the 3D spaces you are in. Even though this has always been a feature of the 2D Zelda games ever since “A Link to the Past,” it is more pronounced than ever thanks to the new ability to merge into walls as a 2D painting.
The wall-merging mechanic always feels good to work with as it really adds a new dimension to consider as you solve puzzles. As a result, “A Link Between Worlds” 2D dungeons are the most engaging ones developed since “A Link to the Past.”
The other brand new aspect, the item rental shop, doesn’t dramatically shake up the classic formula as you might imagine. Basically, instead of finding all of the items in dungeons, you are allowed to rent (and eventually buy) them from a shopkeeper. Since I had enough money when renting became available and I never died afterward, I rented all of the items once and had them forever. The experience feels anticlimactic by comparison.
Overall, “A Link Between Worlds” doesn’t work as a sequel to “A Link to the Past” because its ambitions are diminished by clinging too tightly to the past; however, its alternate take on the classic formula proves to be both ultimately fun and worthwhile.
RECOMMENDED: Excellent dungeons and puzzles mitigate disappointing overworld exploration.