Written by: J.H. Longman
As of this moment, I now have four handheld Zelda games and having played Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks via the means of roms and emulators, I can honestly say A Link Between Worlds is The Best handheld Zelda game. Before we go further, allow me to clarify, even on handheld Ocarina & Majora’s Mask are truly amazing, but they are both re-released remakes, whereas ALBW is both an indirect sequel to ALLTP, and a remake, it is still an original canon title to the ongoing Zelda series.
There is no denying it, it is essentially a modernised version of A Link to the Past, featuring so many of its best elements, but it also has the tie-ins to Ocarina of Time, but with the feel of Wind Waker, which is all just part of that magical combination that really ties the game together and makes it that something great. A Link Between Worlds just has this way of making you say “Wow! Now that’s a good Zelda game.” It and Tri Force Heroes may share the same hero and general look, but there is no denying it, ALBW is just on a level far beyond Link’s latest outing.
No matter how hard I tried, I could only think of just one thing wrong with it, just one and that would have to be the game, this game, it’s just too good to be limited to handheld. There have been quite a number of good handheld games, but A Link Between Worlds is just too good, it’s great. All I could think about is how much it felt like Wind Waker and having played the HD version on the Wii U, I really would love to see this on the Wii U, it has story, character and the puzzles it has as well as pretty much everything else. Not only would it be good on Nintendo’s console, but I reckon a lot of people would say it would be a lot better than Wind Waker and even Skyward Sword. I would be lying if I said I would hate to see a re-release of a HD version of this on either the NX or whatever console would come after that.
But we’re getting carried away, so it is time to talk about the story. The story dates back to the events that followed after A Link To The Past, a time when Link had set off to unknown worlds, having the adventures of a lifetime and he took us with him. Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages and of course Link’s Awakening. To make sure evil would never rise again and seek the Triforce, the royal family choose to split it, an act which saw the Triforce pieces to return to their rightful owners. Power went back to the defeated Ganon. Courage went back to Link, where it would stay and be passed on through his bloodline. As for Wisdom, it stayed within the royal family. Six generations after ALTTP, there is a young, lazy boy by the name of Link, the apprentice of a blacksmith. Late for work, his boss’ son Gulley, later revealed as a Sage, comes and wakes Link up and makes sure it turns up for work.
After a brief discussion with the Captain of the royal guard, the Captain leaves and fails to release he has left his sword behind. Instead of getting an earful, Link is then tasked with taking the sword to the Captain, but upon reaching Hyrule Castle, he is told the Captain can be found over at the Sanctuary, but upon making it there, the trouble starts. Having to find another means in as the front door is barricaded, Link lays eyes on Yuga, a magically enabled and mysterious man, revealed later on to be from an alternate kingdom by the name of Lorule. Yua, having already turned the Captain into a painting, turns his attention to Seres, another of the seven sages and turns her into a prized painting. Link, in a moment of bravery, tries to fight Yuga, but he is no much for him and is easily defeated. When Link gains consciousness, he finds himself back in his own home, having been discovered and taken back to his own home, by another Lorulean named Ravio. Ravio then bequeaths upon Link a bracelet for allowing him to stay at Link’s house and urges the young hero to report everything to Princess Zelda, an act that upon completion, sets the quest in motion and what a quest it is.
Ah ha, I just thought of something else I hate about this game, the fact that it really makes me struggle to name just what is my favourite thing about this game. The wall merging is great, I especially enjoyed the 3D to 2D effects, when battling against Yuga in the final battle, when you are firing the light arrows at him. The first time I saw him shielding the arrow that was fired directly in front of him, it was just a spectacular moment, only bested by the fact that you then turn round and fire off another arrow, one that will whizz round the entire room and hit him in the back. But then there’s the fact Link can join fight club, (the first rule of Fight club, you never talk about Fight club).
It may not be the fight club, but battling in the Treacherous Tower, well it is child’s play for a Hero of Link’s standing, especially when your Master Sword is at level 3 and you’re wearing the red mail (which is a total shame, because I really liked the blue one, however I do wish to mention something. Ocarina featured the same three coloured tunics, red, blue and the ever present green, just like in TriForce Heroes. Maybe one day we’ll actually be able to wear a purple tunic as well, find it in a chest halfway through the game, I bet even Ravio has a purple tunic, worn underneath his thick cloak). But Treacherous Tower, fighting all those wave of enemies, it’s one of my favourite things to do in a Zelda game, I can’t get enough of these “Cave of Ordeals.”
Then there are the other aspects of this game that are also worth mentioning, like the fact Link can wield a baseball bat, sadly not against enemies because Link with a baseball against Yuga, it would have been a total knockout in the very first encounter but with Yuga passed out on the floor and not Link. He can use the bat when playing the fun Lorulean mini-game of Octoball Derby and it’s a good thing there are no post-boxes in this game. If there was, Link would not rest until he has found a ridable steed and smashed everyone to a pulp with his recently acquired, but stolen bat. I also enjoyed the inclusion of Master Ore that rare material you can only find in Lorule, which goes a long way in making the Master Sword stronger than ever, whilst also giving us insight into just what materials the legendary blade was in fact forged from.
Oh and then there are the Maiamais, those adorable little crustaceans that have lost their way and need rounding up. They are so cute, from general appearance to the sound of their cries, hoping for you to find them, be it hidden under tiles, on top of statues and trees, or just hidden in the grass and on walls. Walls you with have to merge with and then pop out. More than just a collectable and a nice homage to collecting one hundred Skulltulas in Ocarina or even Hyrule Warriors, or the 60 poes in Twilight Princess, these guys are worth collecting. Take enough of them home to mummy, Mother Maiamai, and she will upgrade your weapons, provided you’ve actually brought them from Ravio and aren’t just renting them because believe me, the upgrades you get in return are worth it.
Wait, I’ve got it, I know what my favourite thing about this game is, well actually it’s two things, but these are what really take this game above and beyond, the first being the fact that by being able to rent the items from Ravio pretty much from day one, it just opens up everything. You can almost go anywhere you want, collect whatever heart piece in the order you choose to. You can choose which temple or dungeon you wish to visit first, second, third, the list just goes on. This game offers your freedom, choice, it opens the world up to you just by making all the usual and the newest items available to you for rental, before soon enough, you can buy them outright, but yes there is freedom to this game, a true freedom that none of the last few Zelda games touched down on.
As for my second tied first favourite thing about this game, why it just has to be battling the Dark Links via Streetpass. Obviously they aren’t the real Dark Link, but the Links of other players, who have saved their character, with their chosen battle items and are sending him out to battle, but they are still a pleasure to wage war against. Whenever that red light flashes and I find that sign in Kakariko Village just waiting for me, it makes me tingle, right before I have to know exactly where they are waiting for me and set off to hunt them down. There’s even an “achievement” system of sorts associated with it, “deal the finishing blow with the nice bow,” and so many more.
The game does not fail to amaze and pull you in and the replay value and general experience of it, is enough to make you complete every last aspect of it, before choosing to set out and do it all over again in Hero Mode. You know, that awesome implemented game mode the Zelda series started to implement in their more recent games and why shouldn’t they? Link is a born, forever reincarnated Hero, Hero mode should be all he knows. Normal is too easy for him, even Tingle could pass normal, mind you, I got to be honest, I wouldn’t want to see Tingle in a portrait mode, doing an “Egyptian dance” as he slipped into a crack and burst forth into another world. (Urgh, shivers. Just messing, Tingle is pretty cool, sometimes).
I’ve done a whole lot of chatting about this game and now, now it is time to see just how it fairs. It is time to put this legendary game to the test as I break out my Pros and Cons:
-The wall-merging is an ability that was truly a game changer and really helped to make ALBW stand out.
-The puzzles were some of the best I have ever come across and I really enjoyed having the Hint Ghosts on hand, just in case I met my match with a puzzle and couldn’t solve it on my own.
-A Link to the Past was a revolutionary game in its own right, and this is just as much so. Similar story driven plot, but with the whole new world that is the stunningly destroyed, Lorule.
-The weapon upgrade system. I really enjoyed collecting materials in in Skyward Sword to fix up my items, so it was really cool to have weapon upgrades once again, but this time instead of collecting items, it’s lost Maiamais and when you’ve found enough, it’s owned items levelling up time.
-The reveal of Ravio’s true identity is great, second only to just what he offers the game. Collecting a weapon per temple had become the norm in Zelda games, but the ability of being able to rent them pretty much straight of the bat, well it is freedom served up on a hot plate.
-I’ve touched on this already, but Lorule is just a great and fascinating place, a place whose Princess Zelda referred to their own Legends and heroes. I can’t help but wonder what those Legends could be and what kind of trials the Lorule Hero could have faced. In the name of Hylia, I really, really hope one day we will get a game set in the world of Lorule, regarding one of its own Legends.
-Link in this game is back to his usual self, his old self and he is just as lazy as ever.
-The graphics revival of an old world, with the added bonus of 3D is just too good. ALTTP has evolved and the evolution proved fruitful but more than that, it is still the Hyrule we loved back in the nineties. Still the same story, just a whole new way of going about it.
-Battling other players under the guise of Dark Link’s was just brilliant, who doesn’t enjoy a good clash of steel upon steel against a Dark Link.
-The inclusion of the Hylian shield and red mail, ie a red tunic, just another reference to Ocarina of Time.
-Should be on home console. HAS to be on home console. I long for such a day to occur.
We all know where this is going to go, A Link Between Worlds is going to score high, no doubt about it. The only question is, how high? The answer to that, it comes in at a pot smashingly great score of 9.5/10.0 lost Maiamai’s and as for its Zelda score, it comes in two full points then its sequel, earning itself an especially great 9.3/10.0 which earns itself a solid place in my top six Zelda titles. A Link Between Worlds played a large role as to why I got my New 3DS XL, my Zelda addiction craved new Zelda games to play and it did not disappoint and for anyone who hasn’t played this little gem, or haven’t got themselves a handheld, you might want to put one on your Christmas list, because you are really missing out on something special.
But as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of my own and it is encouraged for you to make your own. And should you wish to see our Zelda rating chart, which includes Hyrule Warriors, then peek below:
The OFFICIAL Miketendo64 Zelda Series Chart: (by J.H. Longman)
(1998) Ocarina of Time 9.9/10.00
(2000) Majora’s Mask 9.6/10.00
(2006) Twilight Princess 9.8/10.00
(2011) Ocarina of Time 3D *To be determined upon review
(2011) Skyward Sword 9.4/10.00
(2013) Wind Waker HD 9.1/10.00
(2013) A Link Between Worlds 9.3/10.00
(2014) Hyrule Warriors 9.5/10.00
(2015) Majora’s Mask 3D *To be determined upon review
(2015) TriForce Heroes 7.3/10.0