Let me start by saying the it has long been my secret shame that I have never finished a Legend of Zelda game. There, I said it, I feel better now. It’s out in the open. I feel that I can now move on with my recovery.
It’s not that some of the Zelda games have not been awesome experiences for me. I really enjoyed playing A Link to the Past, Spirit Tracks, Skyward Sword, Four Swords, Twilight Princess, Windwaker, Phantom Hourglass. Started all of them and thoroughly enjoyed most of them, but never finished any of them. I am hoping that this time will be different.
Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is, on the surface, just like every other Zelda game…and then you start to play it. You start the game and you can’t swim, you have no weapons, and things look pretty grim. Then the story/mechanics start to reveal themselves. You have to learn to swim somewhere along the way, you have to rent weapons from a shopkeeper, Ravio, who basically invokes Squatter’s Laws on your damned house while you’re gone, and some puzzles in this 3D world are only solvable in 2D. So some interesting things happen in the first hour of gameplay. You quickly learn that not only do you have to rent your bow, but you lose it every time you die and you have to rent it all over again. So rupees are real dang important. You find yourself constantly swinging at the grass in the hopes of finding more rupees. Zelda just became another of 2013′s games based on capitalism and there is no getting around it.
You also quickly see that while this Zelda feels more open world and that you can go anywhere you want, whenever you want as long as you have rented (or, later, bought) the tools necessary to gain access. But, in this game going anywhere you want is not always the best of ideas. You will quickly learn that just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. You will often find yourself facing monsters that can basically kill you with 2 blows or less, sending you bowless back to the squatter store that now functions out of your home to chalk up more rupees to re-rent your bow. I have to admit that my need to explore places that I have no business going into kept me broke for the first hour that I played, but it allowed me to use the cute little push pins to mark the map with the places that I wanted to go back to as soon as I had the proper tools to do so.
As for the narrative, it really is more of the same with a bit of a twist. Save the Seven Sages from the wildly evil, heavily made up, transgendered wizard, Yuga, who is hellbent on capturing all of the beauty in the world for nefarious purposes…oh yeah and Zelda. This all makes perfect sense because Disney already told up that transsexuals only want to steal all that is beautiful to hide their own heavily made up ugliness, right? And, as usual, the princess herself will need rescuing because after 26 years she still hasn’t learned to protect herself. (And as a peek ahead there is a centen-mom, like Octomom only with 100 kids, whose children you have to go out and find because she can’t keep with her own damned babies as she just sits home and does nothing, but you do get richly rewarded for every 10 babies that you return). Impa, Zelda’s nanny is back but she falls down on the job and fails to protect Zelda, or herself. We also see (briefly and intermittently) the “Blacksmith’s Wife” who has also lost her young child, Gulley, and enlists the aid of Link to find him. Why can’t the women in this game keep up with their damned children? And these are only the female characters that I ran into in the first hour of gameplay and in the first world.
Problematic representation of women aside, A Link Between Worlds is one of the best (if not the best) Zelda game that I have ever played. The need to move between 2D and 3D worlds in order to solve puzzles keeps the game fresh. You don’t feel like you are repeating shoot arrow, push block, and jump over and over again. But be advised that when you are in dungeons with multiple levels (which is any time that you are in a dungeon) you may need to actually turn the 3D on in order to see where one platform ends and another begins. This can be a problem if you, like me, find that the 3D effect on the 3DS gives you a headache, but what I have learned is that I can usually turn it on, survey the layout, and then turn it back off. This has resulted in my walking off into nothingness more times than I care to remember, but better that than a headache in my book. For this reason I imagine that this game would be a bear to play on the 2DS or for kids under 7 with the 2D off.
That’s about it for now…I’m off to Lorule!