The Legend of Zelda has had a special place in my heart since I was just five years old. I was born too late for the original top-down adventure and even for A Link to the Past; my first steps into the legend came with the N64 title Ocarina of Time, which I’ve played every year I’ve had the chance since release.
That game, of course, was remade and released on 3DS back in 2011 and since then everyone has been wondering where the handheld series of Zelda games would go next. A Majora’s Mask 3D remake or a sequel to Spirit Tracks seemed likely and although either of those would have been good, a sequel to A Link to the Past was a brilliant, bold move by Nintendo which no-one could have predicted.
More importantly, it’s a move that’s definitely paid off. A Link Between Worlds is a fantastic fit for Nintendo’s handheld, with fast-paced puzzles and action in dungeons that might not be as intricate as the third person Zelda games, but still feel as fresh and fun.
The top-down view, surprisingly, is wonderful when coupled with the system’s 3D effect. The dungeon on show featured a lot of jumping between different floors by using bounce pads, meaning Link would almost jump out of the screen as he hopped between floors with a sublime animation. From the fields of Hyrule to the darkest dungeon, the 3D effect takes top-down Zelda games to the next level.
The gameplay itself is just as refined, with snappy yet simple one-button swordplay and plenty of room for hammers, arrows and the other items Link will no doubt find along the way. Puzzles are never too hard but are very rewarding, with just the right balance of strategy and action required to progress.
The game echoes A Link to the Past fantastically, with brilliantly colourful visuals, screen scrolling and beam attacks when you’re at full health. As well as the previous top-down Zelda games such as Minish Cap and the aforementioned A Link to the Past, the game plays an awful lot like 3D Dot Game Heroes (naturally) without the 3D pixel style, which is exactly what I wanted to see.
In fact, the visual style of A Link Between Worlds is rather impressive. The visuals are crisp and clean without signs of aliasing found in many 3DS titles and the colours are striking and bright. It’s perhaps one of the nicest games I’ve seen on the system; it really feels as though there’s a fully 3D world below the top-down view.
And, sure enough, you’ll sometimes get a glimpse of that world, as the camera pans down when Link enters the wall, becoming a stylised drawing version of himself as he does so. This gameplay element allows Link to reach far away areas, providing there’s a clear distance of wall in between. It seems to be a core feature, much like Link’s wolf transformation in Twilight Princess or the titular instrument in Ocarina of Time.
A Link Between Worlds is a surprisingly fresh take on the Zelda series that manages to retain the immense gameplay of previous titles. It is in effect a brand new experience that you already know how to play, and one that every 3DS owner should keep an eye out for when it releases later this year.