The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Doesn’t Abandon Tradition Entirely

By Robert Ward . November 12, 2013 . 9:32am

Nintendo has a tendency to follow a very particular formula when it comes to advertising their new games. That process typically starts by unveiling an underwhelming trailer for a game starring one of the company’s several iconic mascots, often showcasing all-too familiar gameplay mechanics and worriedly nostalgic music. Then, several months down the line, they release a new trailer for said game. There’s a sprinkling of quirky characters, some mysterious story elements are revealed, and re-mastered music that makes the heart stir.


My experience in the first five or six hours of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is not unlike this process. It began in familiar territory, walked me through the basics I’ve come to expect, and then suddenly took most of the assumptions I garnered along the way and threw them back at my face. This latest entry in the Legend of Zelda franchise may not be the prettiest, but it nonetheless embodies and elaborates on what I’ve come to know as the “Zelda charm,” and does so beautifully.


Part of this comes down to the characters. Nintendo has a way of making Zelda characters memorable. Majora’s Mask had the creepy mask salesman. The Wind Waker brought Tingle’s odd… everything… into the limelight. Spirit Tracks had phantom Zelda and the Rabbitland Rescue man. Skyward Sword had Batreaux, a monster with a mouse complex. And now, A Link Between Worlds has… well, a lot of interesting characters, to be frank.


The characters in this game stick with me. The witch and the fortune teller have a heart-wrenching history. Meanwhile, there’s a masked cult in the Thieves’ Village of Lorule whose declaration of affirmation is “mumbo jumbo”. The game’s world may look like it has borrowed a lot from A Link to the Past—which it may have geographically—but even that game can’t hold a candle to the characters that bring the world of A Link Between Worlds to life.


Although I haven’t experienced the full breadth of items that A Link Between Worlds has to offer, I have, in my time with the game, also enjoyed exquisitely the fluid combat. The game’s frame rate (that’d be 60 frames-per-second, for those of you who haven’t heard) makes the stereoscopic 3D effect flawless, but you can feel its effect on gameplay during combat as well. Link’s movements aren’t restricted to a grid, as they were in A Link to the Past, and the player has far more control over his actions than they did in, say, Phantom Hourglass or Spirit Tracks. The result is an odd feeling that you’re playing a full-fledged console game, but viewing it from the top down.


The 3D effect not only creates depth to the world, but seems to provide structure in the game’s first three dungeons. I’ve had to pay close attention to how my actions on higher floors affect lower ones. Some chests can only be reached by falling between floors. Link’s new signature ability, which allows him to stick to walls and move along them as a painting, is used in predictable ways, but has produced some pleasant surprises. I can’t wait to see what how it develops in future dungeons.


The thing that really has me staring dreamy-eyed into my 3DS screen, though, is the new item-rental system. Ravio, a travelling merchant resembling New Super Mario Bros.’s Nabbit, moves into Link’s house and sets up shop while you’re off saving the world. You can rent items from him, for a modest handful of rupees. You can also buy them for eight times their rental value, if you want—otherwise his bird buddy swoops down and reclaims them from your unconscious body when you get a game over.


The item rental system not only redefines the way you’ll explore the two lands of Hyrule and Lorule, but also puts something at stake while you’re adventuring.


If you want to have every item with you, you risk losing it all—forcing you to reinvest in rentals after a game over. This has made the latter half of the game an exciting experience, and I look forward to seeing how it plays out in the game’s greater narrative. Keep your eyes fixed on Siliconera for more coverage on The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

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  • Nana

    Great article, I look forward to playing this game. Particularly exploring with all the items early on – no risk no gain!

    Only one thing, though – ” Link’s movements aren’t restricted to a grid, as they were in A Link to the Past” – you mean the pixels? Because I don’t recall him being limited to a grid on the SNES. The GBA ALTTP I have here has perfectly smooth control and no grid movement as well o.O

  • Göran Isacson

    Oooh, dying costs you all your rented items… wonder if that could get irritating if you run into a boss you just can’t beat, or one that you are like ONE single heart away from defeating and then he sneaks in a cheap shot. If you lose a life, can you choose continue to keep the items or do you really lose them all if you run out of hearts, no exceptions? I can see how that could be both challenging and frustrating, especially to those who weren’t fans of Majoras Masks three days system.

    That aside, purchasing the items for a pretty penny means that finally gathering absurd amounts of rupees can mean something. Looking forward to how this one will play out, I am…

    • That’s one of those ‘put down for a week’ scenarios.

      At least for me, it’s my alternative to the common ‘kill the console and/or controller’ one.

      • Thrasher429

        Agreed its either that or one of those “oh no my battery ran out and turned off the system now I have to restart from my last save” moments

      • Göran Isacson

        Man I envy the people with the kind of will-power to actually put down a game. Whenever a boss kills me I just go into “ignore all else”-mode and play and play and play until I damn well beat the bastard. That’s usually good for my ability to finish a game, less good for my blood-pressure…

        • This would have been me back in college and before that when I had the time to do so. Anymore, though, it’s basically that – I don’t have time. Once I’ve reached the point that I died after a good long time I’ll assess whether it’s worth it or not for me to keep going typically by checking the time and seeing if what I have in front of me is cheaper than hell or not.

          If it sounds like it’s going to be a long song and dance, I’ll wait til another weekend or something.

    • I always found in Zelda games: It “coincidentally” gets easier the more hearts you get. So hopefully that’ll help mitigate some concerns.

      Anyways, I’m personally not keen on the graphics (they look like FIscher Price toys up close), but I can’t wait to explore Hyrule and (*groan*) “Lorule” again. SNES Zelda was one of the titles that got me into gaming as a wee little lass. So yay!! I’m super-duper psyched.

      • Thrasher429

        I’m curious how Lorule was even formed. It looks exactly like the dark world which should have turned back into the Sacred Realm after aLttP

      • Göran Isacson

        Ha ha, true that- get enough hearts (and/or potions and fairies) and you can pretty much brute force your way through most bosses.

        I get your point about the graphics, the 3D makes it look a liiittle bit too plastic-y, doesn’t it? Still, I too have massive nostalgia memories from A Link To The Past, first Zelda game I can actually remember playing, and not to mention that I followed the Nintendo Power comic… that is to say, “Nintendo-magasinet” since that was the Swedish name for the magazine that had all the Nintendo ads reviews. And then it got cancelled JUST as they were two chapters away from the conclusion. Such frustration.

    • Robgoro

      The only way you can avoid losing items is if you purchase them from Ravio. If an item is rented, you’ll lose it when your last heart disappears – no exceptions. I’ll be commenting on more of the game later this week in a playtest, but! Rupees are not few and far between, and your wallet has no limit from the get go.

      • Göran Isacson

        Understood, then they’re REALLY designing this game with rupee-collection in mind. Then again, I don’t think I’ll be having that many problems, zelda bosses don’t usually kill me… though who knows, they might have upped their boss-game with this latest game.

  • Eric Rodman

    So, what’s place to stop someone from farming rupees and just buying everything early?

    • almostautumn

      Probably the same thing as it’s been with every Zelda game; your wallet is limited, with expansions found applicable to the game’s progression system.
      It’s a Nintendo title, man; don’t overthink it. What they’ve done before they’ll be doing again.

      • Sergio Briceño

        Also, there might be a chance of items growing progressively more expensive with each dungeon you complete. Forcing you to put more thought into what items you take with you and even go for larger wallets first, like you said.

        And there is no risk of getting all the rentals for cheap in the beginning either, as I’m sure they can come up with a work around for this. I don’t know, maybe let you just rent 4 items at any given time.

        • Robgoro

          An interesting proposal, but not the way it plays out in the game. Again, the price tag on every item is eight times that of its rental price. The difference is, these prices range from 400 to 1,200 rupees per item. You’ll hear more about how this works in the game on Thursday, though! :)

      • Nana

        Links Awakening or Zelda 1 sure didn’t prevent me from farming. I see no reason for such a mechanic to begin with, anyway, you can easily circumvent it by farming 1 item, buy, 1 item, buy, etc. I mean, who is hurt here if someone farms? Nobody. It’s a single player game, if somebody doesn’t want risk and instead wants to farm for a few hours, nobody is harmed.

      • Donalyn Dovale-Brown

        It’s already been confirmed that there is no wallet in this version..unlimited rupees right from the start..

    • s07195

      Nothing, I think, but the risk of losing everything in a game over. Haven’t got the game myself to confirm, though.

  • JohnNiles

    New characters? Just show me more Hilda, please.

    • Robgoro

      Ahhh…about that…you’ll know on Thursday, as soon as the playtest is posted. :)

  • Happy Gamer

    I dunno this game looks just fun to me. Love the ability to upgrade ala Skyward Sword which I felt was very needed upgrade from the traditional games. I still love the “traditional” mechanics of puzzle solving and it’s class-A pacing. No need to go “open world” in my opinion. But technology and gameplay of games have evolved, and would be nice to see the next flagship title expand within the “linear” world if it can. Skyward Sword definitely did this for me little bits here and there with upgradable items and collections.

    • Robgoro

      I will say, upgrading is one of my favorite things in A Link Between Worlds, but, honestly, if you don’t upgrade them at the right times, they can feel pretty worthless. I guess it’s like Skyward Sword in that sense.

  • WyattEpp

    “Link’s movements aren’t restricted to a grid, as they were in A Link to the Past”

    Sorry, what? Did we even play the same game? Even Link’s Awakening allowed you arbitrary movement.

    • leingod

      Maybe he meant analog movement, as opposed to the regular 8-directions on SNES?

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