Why Zelda: A Link Between Worlds’ Overworld Is My Favorite In The Series

By Robert Ward . November 15, 2013 . 3:31am


In The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Lorule is the game’s version of the Dark World from A Link to the Past—a dark reflection of the land of Hyrule. For instance, the space occupied by a brilliant cathedral in Hyrule, known as the Sanctuary, is, in Lorule, a lonely cave cloaked in darkness. Inside, a philosopher seeks refuge from uneasy spirits floating about the neighboring graveyard, invisible until Link uses his lantern to light a single torch near the portal between worlds from which he entered. Light, to this man, is as foreign and perplexing as a new face.


“Nobody bothers coming to this place anymore,” he admits, “but even I must wonder, have we abandoned the gods… or have they abandoned us?”


Don’t get too excited, though. You’re not going to see a Lorule Historia anytime soon. Unfortunately, the lost kingdom’s lore isn’t as intricate as Hyrule’s, which has been built up over centuries. In fact, you won’t hear more than a passing reference towards how it met such a terrible fate until near the end of the game’s story. Still, I loved the layered humor in putting a dark and brooding philosopher in an equally dark cave, figuratively and literally alone with his thoughts. It’s discoveries like this that make Lorule my favorite overworld map in any Legend of Zelda game to date.


There’s something tucked away in every corner of Lorule. In your travels, you’ll come across things like a baseball mini-game starring an Octorok with a mean fastball and a devilish girl who invites you to partake in the baddy-bashing gauntlets of the Treacherous Tower. To call Lorule its own overworld map, though, would be a half-truth. It is so intimately connected to Hyrule that it’s impossible to mention one without detailing the other. This link between worlds is at the core of, well, A Link Between Worlds, more so than any other element of the game, and it’s the structural relationship between Hyrule and Lorule that ultimately defines the game.


For the first few hours, the experience is pretty straightforward. The game tells you where you need to go (hint: the same places you went in A Link to the Past—the Tower of Hera and the Eastern Palace), and the overworld map is wholly navigable. With the help of a snarky young witch, you can move from place to place quickly as you discover weather vanes spread across the map. This single-world-mindedness changes after confronting Yuga, who’s kidnapped the Seven Sages to summon Ganon, and who inadvertently grants Link the ability to morph into walls by becoming a painting.


With this ability, you pursue Yuga and discover Lorule—a kingdom that exists in Hyrule’s shadow—and the ability to warp in and out of it completely changes the game. Let’s talk about that.


First, it’s important to note that A Link Between Worlds is streamlined for exploration. Unlike Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, in which the top screen was used for navigation purposes, the bottom screen now serves as a hub for your adventure. It displays an overworld map which you can examine closely using the zoom button. The game gives you 40 pins—20 for each world—which you can drag over areas of interest you may encounter throughout your Journey. You can’t leave notes for yourself or draw on the map as you could in previous handheld Zelda titles, but you can change the color of the pin. Red, blue, and yellow leaves you just enough room to mark mini-games, heart pieces, and Maiamai locations. Don’t worry if you don’t know what a Maiamai is. We’ll cover those in a separate report.


The map is an ever-present entity in A Link Between Worlds. Cast aside is the notion of collecting a map in every dungeon. The game throws away tedious necessity in favor of discovery and experimentation. The map is there to help you navigate, but it’s you who has to ultimately make sense of the world. How it is you get from one place to the next isn’t answered with a cursory glance at the bottom screen. It takes some thinking—what some might call “Zelda logic”—to navigate the world effectively. This is especially true for finding your way in and out of both kingdoms, which brings me to my next point.


Unlike Hyrule, which is a single, fluidly-connected overworld, Lorule is physically divided into seven different regions by mountains and chasms. These roughly correspond to the nine regions delineated by Maiamai locations on Hyrule’s map. Each of the seven sections of Lorule houses one dungeon—the Ice Palace to the north, the Swamp Palace to the west, Dark Palace to the east, and so on—but because they cannot be reached through Lorule alone, you must scour the same region in Hyrule for a portal that will take you there. Oftentimes, there are multiple portals, some bringing you to secret locations, others to necessary points of departure.


This is where A Link Between Worlds takes a page out of Skyward Sword’s book.


Every section of Lorule’s overworld is, in of itself, a dungeon of sorts. Oftentimes, you’ll need particular items to bypass certain obstacles. To get to the Swamp Palace, for example, you need to use the Sand Rod (one of my favorite Zelda items of all time that does NOT lose its usefulness mapped onto a button) to traverse the overworld in Hyrule. Just as you completed the Spirit Temple by visiting it in the present and the past in Ocarina of Time, you will need to bounce in and out of the game’s two kingdoms to reach and defeat the boss of the Great Swamp.


To get to the Dark Palace, you need to bypass a series of religious fanatics who worship the Helmasaur King. This brief portion of the game is a callback to stealth scenarios in Majora’s Mask (the Deku Palace) and Skyward Sword (Eldin Volcano). Each area of Lorule has a preliminary puzzle or challenge that you must overcome to proceed. Finding weather vanes will help you “open up” Lorule, so you may return to areas previously visited without hunting for portals. So why, then, does this have me so excited?


Unlike A Link to the Past, or any other Zelda game for that matter, you get to choose how to experience A Link Between Worlds yourself. You can take the unintentional-impractical approach like me and not find the Pegasus Boots or Titan’s Mitt until after the sixth dungeon, barring you from dashing speedily and lifting large boulders for most of the game, or you can just follow your sense of adventure—going to whichever area piques your interest the most.


In the end, the great thing about A Link Between Worlds is that everyone will experience it differently, but equally. The game has some unavoidable structure to it—for example, you will always need to find the sand rod before visiting the Swamp Palace—but only just enough to provide a foundation for your own adventure. You’ll find that Lorule gets bigger and bigger as you discover more of it and begin to stitch its pieces together through weather vanes.


Discovery, in turn, encourages and generates further discovery. It’s magical, and it’s my favorite thing about The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, a new benchmark for excellence in the Zelda franchise. Keep your eyes fixed on Siliconera for more coverage in the days to come.

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  • RovCal

    nice can’t wait to play it

    • Ric Vazquez

      Xtreme Hype!

  • John Diamond

    nintendo be balling with all these great reviews and games

  • d19xx

    There’s just something about overhead action/adventure games that makes it obvious that it is going to be loads of fun and epic.

    I’m not even a huge LoZ fan and I’m excited for this game….

  • Shippoyasha

    Absolutely lovely game design choice to me. Though harkening back to Link to the Past means some people will inevitably compare it and be disappointed as LttP is still considered THE golden standard (and it’s definitely up there for me as well). Still, it’s a great entry to the series. Can’t wait to finish it soon.

  • Arcana Wiz

    Absolutely loved the snes game… cant wait to play this! ^.^

  • Göran Isacson

    Huh, so one CAN go around the world without HAVING to obtain this or that item just to proceed… I think I actually really like that. While there seem to be some guidelines and item you ahve to acquire before entering some places, it actually strikes me as a freer game than Skyward Sword, despite how it seems Lorule cribs some of it’s level designs from that game. Interesting.

  • Crevox

    I heard the game was really easy

    • Robgoro

      It really depends on what order you tackle dungeons. I think part of the difficulty in A Link to the Past came from not really knowing where to go. The puzzles in this game are difficult and clever, more so than any Zelda game to date. The boss fights aren’t too challenging, but they’re fun. Especially the one at the Dark Palace.

    • PreyMantis

      You can always tackle the hero mode.

  • fairysun

    I still remember that map layout from A Link to the Past.

    Lost Forest in Northwest, Hyrule Castle in the center, Kakariko Village in West area of the map, etc ….

    This Thanksgiving, everybody don’t forget to say thank you for the release of a new Zelda game. :D

  • The reviews and impressions have been really good so far. But so were Skyward Sword’s and that game left a bad taste in my mouth. Since I’ve been playing the Zelda games since the SNES games, I think this will be a strange but familiar new take on a classic and I’m crazy excited to play… right in time for exams. :(

    • Robgoro

      Did you happen to play Skyward Sword all the way through? Kris, one of the writers here at Siliconera, and I have had exhaustive conversations about it. He despised it, but didn’t bother getting past Lanayru. I loved every second of it and think that it’s the best Zelda title ever produced (objectively, because subjectively that’d be Majora’s Mask and Spirit Tracks for me).

      • I played through it. It just didn’t do anything for me. I liked all of the new innovations; but I hated the repetition of doing the “Hyrule mile” three separate times, and even repeating boss fights. I’ve loved all of the other Zeldas for the most part, so it’s just my “black sheep” of the series.

        • Robgoro

          I don’t think that “It basically discards all the good aspects of Zelda” isn’t an objective statement. Maybe objective is too strong a word for me to have used. Let me explain.

          In terms of world structure – that is, this idea of every overworld area being a dungeon that can be further explored by using your entire inventory – is something of a new standard for Zelda games. You can feel its influence in A Link Between Worlds. It is undeniable, but it does take a page from Minish Cap’s book in terms of peripheral items allowing you to explore locations you couldn’t before. In any case, the overworld in Skyward Sword was comparable to Metroid Prime (it was designed by the same people, in fact), and in that sense, its structure is somewhat of a masterpiece. You come back to areas and experience them in new and exciting ways, and it feels natural.

          I have to disagree about your statement regarding controls. Skyward Sword’s were superb – but people didn’t know how to use them logically. For example, if you slash from the top right to bottom left, you can’t slash from the top right to the bottom left again – you have to keep in mind where your sword is at all times. You have to obey natural laws that were inhibited or non-existent when mapped onto a button, when you can repeat the same action unobstructed by troublesome things like physical orientation. The beetle, too, was one of the most innovative Zelda items in terms of how it opened the world, and how it provided you with strategies. If it isn’t “objectively better” then it is certainly the most ambitious of Zelda games.

          I do think that Seasons is a masterpiece – as is Minish Cap (though less so, in my opinion) – but they occupy different realms. The handhelds are restricted to a two dimensional space and adhere to a completely different explorative worldview. They don’t have the same problems that three dimensional worlds have, so perhaps it would have been better to have said “Skyward Sword was the most ambitious of the three dimensional Zelda games,” and I don’t think anyone can argue against that. Objectivity might be too philosophical a word for a discussion post on a video game website. XD

          • i said one small paragraph, why am I getting back a wall of text? “It basically discards all the good aspects of Zelda” ….i didn’t even say that….

          • Robgoro

            My apologies, I was responding to a comment awaiting moderation that had not yet been posted.

          • haha thanks for clearing it up; thought we had a conversation i don’t remember having

      • Nana

        How is it the best Zelda, though? It basically discards all the good aspects of Zelda, in favor of aspects that don’t work too well – objectively.

        The exploration is utterly gutted, for example. The area-as-puzzles is a cute idea, but Minish Cap did that one *way* better already (particular the swamp zone). The controls are probably the worst of any Zelda game so far, because they are cumbersome (take flying – you could achieve better controls simply by letting flying or swimming control with the thumbstick)

        The story is a good touch, and alongside the puzzles (less 4 torches, more puzzles that make sense) one of the better aspects, but as a Zelda game, it just – objectively – pales next to, say, Minish Cap (A game I first played this year, so hardly nostalgia goggles) or the GBC Zeldas.

        Subjectively, I also don’t see a single thing it improves on, say, a Link to the Past or Wind Waker.

        And yes, I beat it. It just was one of the weaker Zelda titles, sadly, as much as I wanted to love it. At least it’s better than TP.

  • Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person in the world who loves all the Zelda games. Maybe I’m just crazy.

    I can’t wait to see how the Zelda cycle treats this game.

    • Michael Carr

      I feel the same way (about loving every Zelda game I’ve played), with one exception: Phantom Hourglass.

      But I think the Temple of the Ocean King is nearly universally disliked, so hey.

      • yalissa

        The only reason I liked Phantom Hourglass was because of how funny I thought it was (and it had the most genius and clever use of the the DS ever). Temple of the Ocean King on the other hand was the most tedious thing I’ve ever done in a Zelda game, and I honestly think it’s the hardest temple I’ve ever done in a Zelda game as well.

    • leingod

      Nah, you’re not crazy… just a bigger fan than most of us, I guess. Personally, I love almost every Zelda game, except for the DS ones. Those sucked IMO.

  • leingod

    Can’t wait to put my hands on this next week!

  • Amine Hsu Nekuchan

    Sounds Awesome.

  • Yan Zhao

    So hype for this game!

  • Ryudo9

    LTTP,OoT,LA,OoA,OoS,TP,WW are the only Zelda games I enjoyed. Wind Waker however is my fave in the series. That game is so damn amazing to me. Excited for this one on 3ds. Looks to redeem itself after the horrible DS games.

    • Nana

      So much. This looks like a Zelda title should be, going by what has been said so far. Love the non-linear aspects. A LOT.

    • Ralazar

      “The only”? You named almost half.

  • Kavyn

    The Hyrule/Lorule differences remind me a lot of Oracle of Ages, having you travel between past and present. Except in this case you’re traveling through a reflection which is equally as cool.

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