Patrick Hope: You can go home again: A Link Between Worlds
By Patrick Hope / Our Town Columnist
Back in early 2007, I was looking at the Virtual Console on my Wii and went to go buy the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. But I couldn’t because, as it turned out, my friend John had already bought it and had completed about half of the dungeons.
The game had just been released on the Wii at that point. He had immediately purchased it and knew the game so well that he could effectively speed-run it. Link to the Past (LttP) is one of the few games that, even many years after its release, still evokes these feelings. It also remains one of the most beloved games ever made.
So when Nintendo announced that a direct sequel would be coming in the form of Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, people were somewhat skeptical. Would it be a cheap nostalgia cash-in? Would there be anything to set it apart from its legendary predecessor? Well, in Link Between Worlds, Nintendo has silenced any doubts and created not only the best Zelda game ever on a portable system, but also one of the best the series has ever produced.
Link Between Worlds was released on Nov. 22 on the 3DS. As the name implies, there are two worlds. There is Hyrule, which looks much the same as it did in Link to the Past, and the LttP Dark World-inspired Kingdom of Lorule.
Link travels between the two worlds through cracks in walls that he can only access by turning himself into a wall painting. And that is Link Between Worlds’ big gimmick.
Due to an event early in the game, Link can flatten himself out into a painting and travel along walls. This is an amazing idea that allows for a whole new dimension in puzzle-solving. Need to cross a gap? Just slide along the wall along the gap’s side. Need to get to a higher level in a dungeon? Just attach yourself to the block that moves to the upper level and go all three-dimensional once you get to your destination.
In a series that is always looking for new mechanics, this is one of the better ones that I’ve seen in recent years. It’s definitely better than the trains in Spirit Tracks and the wolf in Twilight Princess.
And painting Link is not the only change. After decades of hiding Zelda items in dungeons for players to find, Link Between Worlds throws most of that out. You’ll still get the Bow, Bombs, Hookshot and other series staples, but now you have the ability to rent them from Ravio, a rabbit-mask wearing ... dude who takes over Link’s house to turn into into a shop.
Now you can stock up on almost all of the game’s equipment right from the get-go. But there’s a catch: if you die in battle, Ravio takes all of your stuff back and you have to re-rent it if you want to use your gear again.
You do get the option to buy your stuff eventually for really high prices, but this is almost definitely the better option as you will have more rupees than you will ever need. Also, buying the items is the only way you’ll ever be able to upgrade them via the game’s big item-collecting quest, so you really should go on a spending spree as soon as you can. This rental system also allows you to tackle the dungeons in any order you want, which is a great feeling of freedom that we haven’t experienced in Zelda in quite a while.
But all the talk thus far has been about what’s different. And if Link Between Worlds were a standalone entry in the series, it would still be extremely good, but the setting in the LttP world is one of the best moves the designers could have made. There’s an incredible sense of familiarity when you learn Hera’s Tower is the third dungeon and, just like in LttP, its boss is a Moldorm. In the Lorule Thieves’ Town dungeon, you still have to lead an imprisoned woman through the dungeon, though this time she isn’t revealed as the boss. Some NPCs say a variation on, “It’s a secret to everybody.” Sadly, no one says “I AM ERROR,” but you can’t have everything. The music is even largely rearranged versions of the iconic LttP soundtrack.
I can honestly say I never thought I’d see a sequel to LttP, and certainly not one as good as Link Between Worlds. It seamlessly blended old and new into an experience no one who plays it will soon forget. It should be in the running for game of the year. It’s the best Zelda game since Wind Waker. And it’s an absolute no-brainer recommendation. Because, as I’ve been reminded countless times over the years, every game has a story.
Only one is a legend.
Hope is a Dickinson attorney and video game enthusiast. Have a game you want Patrick to review? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.