Game: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Release date: 2013
If I were to boil down this review to a single sentence, it'd probably read something like this: A Link Between Worlds is so magical (yes, magical) that it's singlehandedly rekindled my long-lost interest in the Zelda series as a whole.
This could hardly be considered much of a review if I stopped there, though, so I guess I should get to typing. But where should I start? Here's as good a spot as any, in my humble opinion: A Link Between Worlds, as you may have heard, is a years-in-coming follow-up to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, aka one of my all-time favorite games.
The thing is, that 1992 release is one of the few Zelda games I've ever enjoyed (with the others being the series' very first game and the original Nintendo 64 version of Ocarina of Time--although I've got to admit I haven't spent enough time with A Link's Awakening, Majora's Mask or The Wind Waker to have formed a solid opinion of them). Even then, I came into A Link Between Worlds with monumentally low expectations. In fact, I nearly decided to pass on the game entirely--that's how disinterested I am in this vaunted series these days.
After putting just over 20 hours into my particular copy of the game, though, I can safely say my initial fears--and my aloof attitude--were unwarranted. One of my main worries, by the way, was that A Link Between Worlds would be little more than an unattractive retread of A Link to the Past. And guess what? That couldn't be further from the truth.
Sure, there are a lot of similarities between the two games--they're both set in the same world (although most locations are different), they both feature the same basic gameplay, they both feature the same music and sound effects (although the former are re-arrangements)--but despite that A Link Between Worlds does an admirable job of presenting itself as an engagingly unique effort.
In large part, that's because of this game's signature "gimmick," which allows Link to turn into a piece of graffiti and scamper along walls and shimmy through cracks, but there are other reasons, too. A couple of them: the open-ended gameplay (you can tackle its dungeons in whatever order you choose, basically) and the ability to rent the game's appealing assortment of both old and new items (yep, you no longer acquire them within each dungeon) nearly right from the start.
It's also worth noting that although there's a story that helps move players along, it's the definition of barebones (while still proving to be at least somewhat interesting, of course) and never gets in the way of the action--which is how I like it in my Zelda games.
All of the above takes a back seat to the most important aspect of A Link Between Worlds' appeal, however; that being how it "feels."
By that, I mean that quite literally everything feels great (and "right," if that makes sense) and is a joy to experience in this game--from moving Link around, to slashing at enemies (who tend to bounce away as if they were made out of rubber) or tall clumps of grass, to smooshing anything and everything with the "magic mallet" (my favorite item), to turning into painting and stuttering along walls.
That, to me, was the thing that most blew me away while traipsing through this particular Zelda adventure, and it's also the thing that's most likely to bring me back for second, third and even more playthroughs in the coming months and years.
Sure, its graphics are surprisingly, even shockingly, charming and its soundtrack is filled with tunes that will prompt even most hardened gamer to hum along, but they really just serve to make A Link Between Worlds look and sound nice. Even without those elements, this game would play like a dream, and that's all that should matter in cases like this, isn't it?