Hands-on with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for Nintendo 3DS

Finally, we have one of the games I’m most looking forward to: The first new proper top-down The Legend of Zelda to be released since 2005.

“Wait,” you might be saying. “What about the two Nintendo DS games?” Well, truth be told, those never quite resonated as well with me, mainly due to the touchscreen controls; those always felt a little more like when you’re shouting at someone else who is playing, and sometimes they do what you want, and other times they don’t. They felt indirect to me, basically.

But not so here; one thing which sets A Link Between Worlds apart from those titles is the return to classic-styled controls. It feels very familiar, yet different; sort of the way New Super Mario Bros. might have felt to some versus the older NES and Super NES games.

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One particular difference I noted was the inclusion of a full eight-way movement. In A Link to the Past, which this game draws much of its world from, you could move eight ways, but Link himself would only face four. This meant that if you fired an arrow, it would only go in one of the four cardinal directions, but here, you get a full eight.

At first, I thought there was actually more, but that turns out not to be the case. That means no fine-tuning your aim a few degrees at a time to target a foe from a greater distance away, though if memory serves, you can charge up the arrow for when you do get the right shot lined up.

Speaking of arrows, Link manages to feel more heavily-armed this time, at least in the demo (I suspect it will take quite a while in-game before you have half the stuff the demo gives you at the outset). In addition to a sword and (I think) shield buttons, you could map other items to other buttons, plus some use of the touchscreen for swapping items out.

I really should have taken better notes on this, but suffice to say that it felt like there was a lot more use of the real estate for equipping your inventory– more than the sword/boomerang combos of old. In truth, it’s probably more in line with the 3D Zelda games, but it feels a little more immediate and ever-present here.

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One feature I’m happy to see return is the ability to fire beams from your sword when your hearts are full. To me, that’s as iconic a move to Link as jumping is to Mario, and I’ll never understand why it was removed from so many games. Nonetheless, Skyward Sword brought it back in grand fashion (swapping the heart requirement for charge time), and it’s here as well. In a neat touch, you can even use the beam to cut down grass and bushes– something it was unable to do in A Link to the Past.

Speaking of abilities, the big one for the game is the ability for Link to turn himself into a sort of wall-painting– the sort like you might associate with an ancient legend (and this image is used as such in Wind Waker)– and be able to traverse the territory along the walls. I was a little worried at how this might play out at first, but it’s pretty handy in practice. It feels like a tool used to get around, not terribly unlike the hookshot in A Link to the Past, as far as utility goes.

Truth be told, I preferred that to the actual 3D mechanic provided by the Moles in the tower dungeon. The game looks stunning in 3D, don’t get me wrong– and if you haven’t viewed the trailer in 3D in the Nintendo 3DS eShop, then you’re missing out on how good the game really looks– but it doesn’t take too long before bouncing Link up at the screen and back down again starts to lose its novelty. Hopefully this will be relegated more to this particular dungeon, and used more sparingly throughout the rest of the game.

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I didn’t get to play the game for too long, thanks to a built-in timer for the demo, so I didn’t get to face the boss. Still, what I did experience was a pleasant blend of the new and the familiar, much like what New Super Mario Bros. first brought to the table after so many years, but before it hit its fourth installment and began to feel a little more routine.

The lay of the overworld was familiar, but had some twists as well, as there were some small changes around, as well as certain sections blocked off. The inside of the dungeon, however, was rather different. Despite the fact that the Eastern Palace’s (A Link to the Past‘s first dungeon) entrance led to a dungeon more like the Tower of Hera (third), which was probably for the purposes of the demo anyway, the interior felt completely different. Besides the addition of the 3D movement on the part of the Moles and using the wall painting ability to get around, it was like they took the enemies and traps of the original to create an all-new tower to go through.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds still has a lot of mystery to it, though word is that it takes place in some lost generation between A Link to the Past and the original NES game. Given that’s probably my favorite portion of the entire Zelda mythology (not going to get into timeline discussion here), I was already eager to return to it, and trying it out for myself has me chomping at the bit for its November 2013 release.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.