The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Is Both Nostalgic And New

By Robert Ward . September 3, 2013 . 10:22am

It’s a well-known fact that Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime’s favorite Legend of Zelda game is A Link to the Past. While walking around the Zelda Gaming Lounge at this year’s Penny Arcade Expo with Nintendo’s Krysta Yang, I was told it was her favorite as well.


“I was cautious when we announced [A Link Between Worlds], because I loved the original so much,” she said to me as we made our way over to the demo station. “It’s got such a big name to live up to that I didn’t want to think about the Link to the Past name being tainted. What they created for the 3DS, though, is really amazing, it’s something very special.”


I was generally in the same mindset as Krysta. During last year’s Symphony of the Goddess tour in Seattle, I was surprised to find that the part of the show that brought back the most fond memories was the Link to the Past section. All those latent memories of Saturday afternoons spent playing the game with my older brother suddenly came rushing back to me. It’s safe to say that those memories remain protected by A Link Between Worlds, but at the same time, the game doesn’t rely on those memories to feed the player new experiences.


There were two demo options in the PAX demo I played: field and dungeon. I chose the dungeon demo, since it seemed to be objective-driven and showcased some of the classic puzzle-solving elements that the Zelda series is known for. I was informed that the demo brought to the Penny Arcade Expo this year was the same demo they showed at E3 back in June—so I shouldn’t expect any surprises. It did surprise me, though, and it did so by showing me how a top-down Legend of Zelda game can still be relevant in this day and age.


On the technical side of things, the game maintains 60 frames per-second while the stereoscopic 3D is on. This made Link’s movements feel smooth and satisfying. You get instant feedback from hitting enemies, and the game never slows down when you’re hit or when there’re too many enemies on the screen. It features a new purple gauge that combines stamina and magic as well—no more collecting arrows in the field; you merely have to wait for that gauge to refill once it depletes.


The two things that left the greatest impression on me, though, were the use of the 3D effect to augment vertically-built puzzles and, my personal favorite, the hieroglyph transformation, which turns Link into a flat wall painting and allows him to travel across walls. Let’s talk about the verticality first.


The game lets you smash platform-like enemies into the ground and use them to reach higher levels. When you hit one of these enemies with a hammer, it’ll get smashed into the ground only to pop back out a few seconds later, sending Link flying up onto the next level. This technique is essential in scaling the tower, as timing plays a pivotal part in getting through some of the dungeon’s obstacles.


In other areas, you will have to find ways not only to get up, but to make your way back down in such a way that you’ll fall into parts of previously visited areas you could not reach during your first visit. You can use your hammer to break through cracked tiles, helping you to reach keys, maps, and other treasures that will help you along your journey.


The most exciting aspect of the game, though, was easily the hieroglyph transformation. It’s such a simple mechanic when taken at face value, and one that could easily be called a gimmick, but it gives a completely different impression when you’re playing it. Using it to slip in and out of a building through openings in windows and using it to hitch a ride on a block to a higher level really made the new top-down Zelda design feel fresh. The puzzles still feel carefully crafted and well attended to, the legend of its predecessor still fresh in the mind of its developers.


Taking into account everything I played at PAX, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is probably the game I’m most excited to see come out of Nintendo this year, and to see what they’ve done with it.


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  • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

    Please, stop hyping me up for Zelda.

    Windwaker is such a classic, this is looking superb… eghads

  • Sentsuizan_93

    I can sense the nostalgia in this. I really can’t wait for this! ^_^

  • James Enk

    have i ever commended on how exited i am for this game? yes i have in numerous occasions

  • I am excited for the game and definitely will pick it up but I’ve gotta admit my initial hype got considerably diminished.
    I have yet to see something strikingly unique from the game and it loves to borrow stuff from A Link to the Past. Monsters, items, locations, the overworld and the light/dark concept. In fact, have we seen any new dungeons?

    It’s sort of like how I felt with Phantom Hourglass, except this looks much better built and without silly touch screen controls.

    I love nostalgia but it can only go so far. At least it does for me. PH was a chore to play as due to the lack of new things and the constant reminder it’s “yet another Zelda game”. I reallllly hope this isn’t like that.

    Yes it’s a sequel and this is to be expected but it’s hard to be excited when there seems (maybe due to shortage of news?) to be so little new life put into AlttP’s world.

    Again, I’m excited for the game but I wish it was so much more. Hopefully more information will get me back hyped for the game.

    • Robgoro

      Keep in mind that they were using the E3 build, and that the game in development now is likely not the same game that they showed here – at least not entirely. There’s still a lot to be revealed.

      • Yes I still have the hope my fears will be dispelled.
        There’s quite some way until the game is released.

    • Lashawn Williams

      i have never got why people hate phantom hourglass so much, its one of my favorites.
      if its not to much trouble would you care to elaborate one what was so “same-y” about it.
      thanks in advance

      • Ahh get ready for a trainwreck of emotions from me buddy :p
        It’s far, far from hate. I don’t necessarily dislike the game. At best it could be quite quirky and fun. At worst it would be outright shamelessly ripping off other games.

        I had my worries before but I really started to get aware of the creative problems with items. In Phantom Hourglass you don’t have original items outside the namesake gimmick item. I started to notice this by the second last dungeon that I didn’t have a single item that added something identifiable to the game. And the Phantom Hourglass itself? It’s a timer. It does nothing else. There were no new items. No new weapons. Nothing that could add a large new strategy to play the game.

        The dungeons all felt like rehashes of old dungeons (though I did enjoy the bosses) with some notable exceptions. Some puzzles were more original (the lying town was my favorite) than others but in general they were really obvious and any Zelda fan should solve them immediatly as they provide no real challenge (or fun, for that).

        The plot starts outright having Tetra captured in minutes and making her completely useless for the entire game. Not only is this a lame way to create a conflict but it’s generic and the most basic outline for a plot a Zelda game has. Most other Zelda games have some sort of plot going before Zelda ultimately gets captured. Not here. The whole “go find the three triforce-themed items!” subplot in form of the fairies didn’t help how the feeling of “this is yet another Zelda game”.
        I didn’t feel like it was a sequel to Wind Waker. The character designs were there but the characters themselves weren’t.
        However I did enjoy the ending (the final fight and the resolution of the plot).

        The music also had a couple tracks that were borrowed from earlier Zelda games and many weren’t impressively remixed. Most notoriously the dungeon theme is a remix of AlttP’s cave music, I believe, and it doesn’t sound even half as good. In fact, it sounds repetitive and outright annoying for long dungeons.

        Add to this the overall gimmicky feel of the game trying to promote the DS like “Close the DS!” “Shout on the mic!” “Blow on the mic!” “Rub this!” “Rub that!” and the global touch controls and it just feels…
        Uninspired and gimmicky with traces of creativity. A game that wouldn’t be even noticeable if it didn’t have the name “Zelda”.

        That’s exactly how I felt with Phantom Hourglass.

        • Armane

          I find it funny that most of your complaints could be applied to all Zelda games since Majora’s Mask/the Oracles.

          Wind Waker? Not gimmicky. The Minish Cap? Not gimmicky. Twilight Princess? Gimmicky only on Wii. Spirit Tracks? Well obviously it’s the same as PH (although personally I really enjoyed PH, and thought both WW and PH suffered from poor characterisation, Ganondorf and Linebeck aside). Skyward Sword? Dungeons felt fresher than anything since the Oracles, and the concept of a dungeon-like overworld was exactly what I felt 3D Zelda was missing all this time, but I think everything else applies sadly.

          • Well, it’s not so much “gimmicky” as “originality”, what I try to say.

            However, funnily enough outside Wind Waker I do kind of feel coincidentially the same about the games you mentioned if we replace the word “gimmicky” with “original enough” :p

            Twilight Princess loved to represent Ocarina of Time in an almost upsettingly similar quest going to similar places meeting similar creatures. Again, nostalgia is good but I think it honestly ruins the experience when it extends so far into the game.

            Minish Cap is clearly a rushed game with some ideas that semt new and not but overall seems like a small game compared to Oracle games, honestly. Both creatively and content-wise. I think it’s unfair to put it in the levels of PH and TP but it’s gravitating somewhere around there on my preferences when it comes to originality and execution.

            I honestly didnt play Spirit Tracks yet, so I can’t talk too much about it. I’ll play it soon, though.
            Honestly I had given up on Zelda series after PH…

            …And then SS came. And I loved SS so much because it was so fresh as you just said. Yes it has its moments of “oh hey lets recycle X concept from Y game”…multiple times in fact. But I digress the overall experience felt new and detailed and yet with the distintive Zelda touch. It was something I hadnt seen in years with the brand of Zelda.

            SS IS the game I most enjoyed since MM and I consider it my all-time favorite Zelda game personally

            I really hope A Link Between Worlds is like SS and keeps up with the standards. But I’m starting to have my doubts at this point. I’m still completely open to be proven wrong, though. So bring it, Nintendo!

  • Magnumsally

    so excited

  • linkenski

    The graphics are pretty bad though. But at least it’s stable 60fps :)

    • Robgoro

      I wouldn’t say so, it’s an art style that they tried to build the world around, and it worked pretty well when I played the demo.

    • PreyMantis

      Graphics this, graphics that. Some of the best games out there have worst graphics than this, yet they still far exceeds most super-high-realistic-quality-hd games today. Graphics should be the least of your concern when it comes to games.

    • FutureFox

      Might as well get into LARPing because that’s about as high graphics will ever get.

  • Guest

    Hey guys, is this thing for real ? Cause it looks too god to be true >_>

    • HerosLight

      No its fake.

    • O_O Master Clueless

      If they did that it might as well be like the gba player for GC but for WiiU but only play DS/3DS games

    • Göran Isacson

      Ha ha it even says *Not actually a real device or price. See dreams for details.* Neat, but nope.

  • Jon McGuire

    I have really stupid high hopes for this one.

    I’ve been craving a real top down Zelda for years, the DS Zelda games were so disappointing.

  • thaKingRocka

    “On the technical side of things, the game maintains 60 frames per-second
    while the stereoscopic 3D is on. This made Link’s movements feel smooth
    and satisfying. You get instant feedback from hitting enemies, and the
    game never slows down when you’re hit or when there’re too many enemies
    on the screen.”

    I wish every write-up of a game would include this sort of information. Technical performance is such an integral aspect of the joy of controlling any avatar.

  • Göran Isacson

    Huh. It seems they’re really focusing on verticality and going up and down heights in this one and so far all we’ve seen is the Tower. I wonder if all dungeons will be tower-like structures, or at least structures that primarily are all about descending or ascending.

    Also my inner nitpicker wants to whine and complain that the only way the new meter can be used for shooting arrows is if the arrows are magic instead of physical, but that might be taking things too far…

  • Vic Rattlehead

    I’m just glad it is a new game with new story note just a remake

  • Yan Zhao

    So hype for this game!

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