Hyrule saved, again

Zelda-A-Link-Between-Worlds-box-artThe Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds has quickly climbed to become one of my favourite Zelda games. It’s an odd beast really – set up as a sequel to A Link to the Past on the SNES, it’s clearly very traditional, and it marks a welcome return to the top-down Zeldas of old. But it’s also quite revolutionary in the way it approaches the tried and tested gameplay – for the first time (as far as I’m aware), you’re allowed to tackle the dungeons in any order. Not only that, you have access to all of the various weapons and equipment from the outset.

At first, I regarded this development as a travesty. After all, part of the joy of Zelda is acquiring a new bit of kit and then working out how to use it. Giving you all the weapons straight away is the equivalent of eating all the advent-calendar chocolates on 1st December – there’s nothing left to look forward to. But once I’d let my indignation subside, I actually began to regard it as a canny and brave move, and really the first major shakeup to the perhaps a little-too-staid Zelda formula in years. I liked the freedom to swap between dungeons, and because I was travelling all over the place to search out new levels, I got to know the game map really well – by the end, Hyrule (and its dark equivalent) felt like a second home.

The fact that you had to buy the weapons and equipment also gave more meaning to the game’s economy – hoarding ruppees has an essential purpose. The only thing I might change is to remove the option to ‘rent’ the equipment for a pittance – this might give you the chance to experiment with the various tools on offer, but it also cheapens them, and thus lessens the excitement of finally managing to buy them. Essentially, it’s diminishing the reward. Also, losing any items you’ve rented when you die is a massive pain.

Choose a weapon, any weapon.
Choose a weapon, any weapon.

I loved the graphical style of this game, and in particular the way you can turn into a painting, an ability that was used masterfully in several puzzles. Just playing the game brought a smile to my face – yes, it’s Hyrule again, but it’s also a Zelda game, and that means quality and a big dollop of fun. And to cap it all off, A Link Between Worlds has hit on the perfect right mix of nostalgia and innovation.