The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds review

  • Fun puzzle elements with new items and abilities
  • 3D effects are some of the best the system has seen
  • Outstanding soundtrack
  • The overworld feels too familiar
  • The excitement of finding new items in dungeons is lost

Making the direct sequel to one of the most highly praised Zelda titles of all time can't be an easy task. Like seriously, ask any Zelda veteran to name their favorite games in the series and A Link to the Past will be up at the top. But once again, Nintendo delivers an unforgettable adventure set in the world of Hyrule. A Link Between Worlds takes the strengths of the 2D classics, adds innovative, puzzle-solving gameplay, and brings the outstanding visual and musical presentation that the series is known for. In short, Link's next adventure a must play for portable gamers.

A Link Between Worlds doesn't take any plot risks right off the bat. You can probably guess how it starts: Citizens of Hyrule have been kidnapped by a trickster named Yuga, who has aspirations of becoming the ultimate evil and conquering the world, and a young boy garbed in green must venture out and save them. No surprises here. But that's just the beginning. While the story is straightforward for the majority of the game, revelations about the characters and plot twists trickle in towards the end. You'll have to wait awhile until the plot develops, but in the end the progression creates a captivating conclusion that you'll definitely want to see.

For those familiar with the SNES classic A Link to the Past (which was freaking awesome), ALBW has plenty of nostalgia that's wrapped up in beautiful, cartoony 3D visuals. It's a delight to visit shops in Kakariko village, lose your way in the Lost Woods, and warp back and forth through the rift between Hyrule (the light world) and Lorule (the "dark" world) to unlock the game's 10 labyrinths. But with all that nostalgia, you also get the somewhat unsatisfying feeling of retreading old ground. The Zelda series has always been about exploring a mysterious new world, but because ALBW is so closely tied to A Link to the Past, the layout of the environments and secrets felt somewhat predictable. That mystery behind finding the temples, exploring new areas, and meeting other characters in an unknown world was sorely missed.

While there's a lot of familiarity, there are several changes that open the game up, allowing you to tackle dungeons in whichever order you choose. It's a neat callback to the original Legend of Zelda that provides an enjoyable break from the linear formula of the more recent titles in the series. And it's all thanks to a charming, costume-wearing character named Ravio. Ravio sets up an item rental shop from which you can rent the series' mainstay items like bombs, the boomerang, and a fire rod. You can even load up on all of the items almost immediately, which is unheard of in a Zelda game. The new found freedom is a welcome change, but the downside is that you miss out on the excitement of discovering the hidden items in the dungeons.

The dungeons themselves are surprisingly different from the rest of the series, and are both challenging and thrilling. First, the dungeons are shorter than they normally are in a typical console Zelda title, taking around 20 minutes to complete--a reasonable amount of time for the gamer on the go. Also, the puzzle variety focuses on using the multiple floor levels in each dungeon, which can be more of a brain-twister than the typical block and switch manipulating of ALBW's predecessors. But like the previous games, each temple is themed after an item in Link's inventory, which must be used to get through the challenges. The dungeons rarely force you to combine the abilities of more than one item, which is a disappointing limitation of the renting system, but you will have to combine your items' abilities with Link's unique new transformation skill.

Early on in the story, Link gains the power to flatten himself onto walls as a painting, allowing him to move horizontally to squeeze through cracks and traverse platforms. The new mechanic blends well with the exploration aspect of the series and is easy and entertaining to use. You'll find yourself swapping forms to reach every corner of the dungeon to scrounge up all of the hidden chests and rupees--plus, the ability to flatten yourself against walls spawns mind-bogglingly challenging puzzles. I've been playing Zelda games my whole life and I generally find the typical Zelda puzzle to be a breeze. But, thanks to the new mechanic, there were definitely some instances that left me scratching my head.

Outside of the critical path, A Link Between Worlds also provides entertaining minigames, engaging side-quests, and intense Street Pass battles to take part in. The Street Pass feature allows you to send your Link to other players' worlds as a Dark Link, who passers-by can challenge in a player vs. AI battle arena. This mode makes for an entertaining distraction from dungeon diving and it's a great incentive to find the most powerful items and equipment in your playthrough. The typical Zelda collectible quests also return, and they are just as rewarding as ever. Whether you take the time to hunt down every possible heart piece or try find all 100 babies belonging to Mother Maiamai (a new character to the series), it's well worth the trouble. With Mother Maiamai's quest in particular, she'll reward you by upgrading equipment you own as you rescue her cute, little, squid babies. She can change a single shot bow to a triple shot, or improve the damage and range of your fire rod, which can be incredibly helpful down the line. Because of rewarding upgrades, the constant lookout for crying cephalopods is easily one of the most addictive side-quests in the series.

Link's new adventure is equally impressive outside the core gameplay. With the series' classic isometric perspective, A Link Between Worlds makes excellent use of the console's 3D capabilities. As a 3DS owner, I rarely push my handheld's 3D slider up beyond the halfway point, but the beautiful 3D effects of looking down on Hyrule and the multi-layered dungeons showcase the system's 3D feature fantastically, so I crank that thing up to full. Link pops out of the screen as he's launched into the air, flying enemies hover over the hero as they wait to attack, and there's a fascinating sense of depth as you look down from mountaintops and into bottomless pits. On top of the game's visual prowess, the music stacks up as some of the best in the series. The orchestral Hyrule and Lorule overworld melodies bring back memories of the SNES's A Link to the Past, and the themed dungeon music sets the mood for the fiery-, icy-, and watery-themed challenges that await with beautiful renditions of both new and classic tunes.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds takes you back to the rich, dual world of A Link to the Past, and brings interesting gameplay elements, outstanding 3D visuals, and challenging puzzles to make a fantastic Zelda title. If you've played the SNES classic, you might find the remade overworld a bit too familiar, but with Ravio's item rental system, tight dungeon design, and addictive overworld distractions, A Link Between Worlds stands strong on its own merits. This is definitely an adventure that every 3DS owner needs to play.

More Info

Release date: Nov 22 2013 - 3DS (US)
Available Platforms: 3DS
Genre: Adventure
Developed by: Nintendo
Franchise: Legend of Zelda
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Fantasy Violence

Zelda: A Link Between Worlds brings the outstanding gameplay of the SNES prequel to the 3DS in a well-crafted adventure that will give you a rush of nostalgia. With interesting new characters, atypical series gameplay elements, and fantastic 3D visuals, Link's next adventure is a must play.




  • Jackonomics - November 17, 2013 2:23 p.m.

    Even if I ever own 3DS, I don't like Overhead Zelda, it's too shitty.
  • shawksta - November 17, 2013 7:50 p.m.

    Heh, you sound like my Brother. He was surprised how well Link Between Worlds did, with the whole open world choice based system, and he knows its impressive but he just doesnt like top down Zelda so he's reluctant to to try the game when its available.
  • Trixtor - November 23, 2013 9:02 a.m.

    U miss spelled Different.
  • Jackonomics - November 23, 2013 1:09 p.m.

    I just don't like Overhead Zelda
  • fullmetallegend - November 25, 2013 3:27 p.m.

    I definitely understand where you're coming from, if it wasn't for the $30 of eShop money I had received, I would've never bought this game. However, now I can't put it down, simply because it's updates to the Zelda formula, as well as great puzzles, are just so... great. What I'm really trying to say is, you should definitely be excited for the next true 3D Zelda game, because if they apply the new features in this game, and then some, it will be the best Zelda game ever.
  • CitizenWolfie - November 15, 2013 7:01 a.m.

    Sorry about the double post but I forgot to ask: Can you finish the game without renting items? It sounds like an interesting idea but I like the tradition of working my way through the dungeons in order.
  • GR_LorenzoVeloria - November 15, 2013 9:52 a.m.

    Nope, you will need to rent items. Some dungeons require certain items to enter then you'll need to use those items to get through the puzzles. It's breaking tradition a little, but there is no real order to the dungeons.
  • CitizenWolfie - November 15, 2013 10:10 a.m.

    Thanks for that. I'm a little disappointed but I guess it'll be interesting to play Zelda in a new way
  • CitizenWolfie - November 15, 2013 6:59 a.m.

    I sometimes feel like the only Zelda fan in the world who isn't keen on A Link to the Past :( I've tried many times to get into it but I just can't. I'm really looking forward to this though. I'm glad the 3D effects are used well as I tend to play with the slider about 3/4 up. The story sounds like it could be important as well so this is definitely going to be essential in my (finally) growing 3DS collection.
  • D4XX - November 15, 2013 12:12 a.m.

    Great review. I for one am super excited for this new addition the franchise. I sort of did a step back and went from Skyward Sword to the original DS to play Phantom Hourglass (it's the only Zelda DS game I can find locally), and I hated the touch screen controls but loved the game regardless, so going from that to this new addition has me a little crazy :) Not entirely sure how I feel about some of the more simplistic additions I've been hearing about, but it looks great. Can't wait to try it.
  • Shigeruken - November 14, 2013 10:33 p.m.

    Man that 2d mechanic just looks insufferable. I think that would completely break my immersion in the game. I'm glad the game itself is good though, if the digital version isn't marked up by a ridiculous amount for NZ I might play it.
  • Nikku7 - November 14, 2013 4:14 p.m.

    Graphical style in Zelda games has never bothered me very much. I just like that they change it up. There are some styles i have liked more than others but none so far have put me off of a Zelda game. My only concern with this one is that item renting system's potential for ruining the fun of discovering new items. But item upgrades and the late story twists sound about the most exciting thing there to me.
  • PlainLikeVanilla - November 14, 2013 2:55 p.m.

    Been hearing a lot of mixed things about this one.
  • shawksta - November 14, 2013 3:55 p.m.

    It really depends on how you personally look at it. Otherwise most of the reviews were all positive, with Destructoids being only mixed. In the end of the day, it depends on what your going into it expecting, Link between worlds is a homage to Link to the Past build from it for a sequel with it's own surprises and a new spin on the item system. Go into it expecting something else entirely like a brand new never before seen experience, of course your gonna be disappointed. Especially if you don't like how it's borrowing from Link to the Past since this is the point of the game.
  • Earthbound_X - November 14, 2013 6:55 p.m.

    Really? Cause all I've seen so far is 2 nines, and a perfect 10.
  • Earthbound_X - November 14, 2013 6:58 p.m.

    So far it has a 91 on Metacritic 31 positive, one mixed, where's the a lot?
  • g1rldraco7 - November 14, 2013 1:23 p.m.

    What a great review by a Zelda fan, thank you Lorenzo :)
  • larkan - November 14, 2013 12:56 p.m. looks like they Yoshi 64'd this game in terms of cute graphics. Not a compliment.
  • talleyXIV - November 14, 2013 12:55 p.m.

    It's really incredible that Nintendo has never slipped up on a Zelda game, every single one is just gold.

Showing 1-20 of 49 comments

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