Author’s Note: Since I don’t have a capture card for my 2DS XL, I only have pictures of the game taken with my cell phone. The quality is iffy to say the least but it gets the job done.
Link’s Awakening on the Switch did something to me last year. It gave me an itch for 2D style Zelda games that I could not scratch no matter how hard I tried. As I desperately looked for a solution to my problem, I spied my 2DS XL sitting on the shelf and a marvelous thought struck me. I took the 2DS down and, with the intention of playing an older 2D Zelda game from the Virtual Console catalogue, I spied A Link Between Worlds on the eShop. I looked at the description and the screenshots and it appeared to be exactly what I was looking for. I rushed to my local Best Buy (yes, I still buy physical versions of games like it’s the early 2000s) and picked up a copy. I returned home, plopped the cartridge into my 2DS, and was transported into the magical world of Hyrule.
The reason I fell in love with 2D-style Zelda games is the same, I’m sure, as many of you out there: the dungeons. I love starting a new dungeon and trying to figure out how to solve it. Deciding which rooms I should unlock first, what path I should take, and which item I should use make completing a dungeon an absolute joy. There aren’t many games out there that give me the same feeling as completing a dungeon in a Zelda game. I have not had a bad experience yet with a dungeon in this series.
Which is lucky for me since all of the dungeons in A Link Between Worlds are absolutely fantastic. I had just as much fun exploring them in this game as with Link’s Awakening. In fact, I think I enjoyed them more in Worlds which is saying a lot. There was one (the lava-based dungeon called Turtle Rock) that I didn’t enjoy as much as the others but that didn’t stop me from having fun. I loved every second of the dungeon exploration and I couldn’t get enough of it.
The dungeon exploring process in Worlds is a little different when compared to the other entries in the Zelda series. Usually, Link (Johnny once again for me) has to complete the dungeons in a set order to get specific items which are then used to open up new areas of the map. Not so in Worlds. All of the items are available almost immediately at the beginning of the game. This is due to the appearance of a masked and mysterious character named Ravio who hilariously takes over Link’s house early on in the game. Once settled into Link’s house, Ravio opens up an item rental shop where you can (get this) rent all of the items in the game. Rentable items include many series staples like bombs, a bow and arrow, the hookshot, sand rod, and boomerang, etc.
I read online that many players didn’t enjoy the rental system in A Link Between Worlds. These naysayers liked the old way of receiving new items upon the completion of a dungeon. I disagree. I really enjoyed the rental system since it made all of the areas accessible and open from the get-go. It not only made it possible to complete the dungeons in any order I wanted but also made me think more critically when confronted with a challenge. In other Zelda games, the solution to a new problem usually entailed using the last item I found. In A Link Between Worlds, it could be any of the items in my inventory (or even a combination of items) and thus I had to use trial and error to solve the problem. It was a new wrinkle in an old formula and I really appreciated it.
As I said, most items have to be rented from Ravio. The catch is that, should you die while adventuring, Ravio’s friend Sheerow will come and take all of the items away from you. This adds a layer of risk since, should you lose all your hearts in a dungeon, you will have to return to Ravio’s shop to rent those items again. This may seem annoying but the game isn’t too hard so that shouldn’t happen too often. It is the only downside to this system but it really isn’t that much of a problem. I personally only died twice so it didn’t affect me that much. The relatively easy gameplay is my only complaint with the game. If dying and losing the items does prove to be an issue for you, however, the option to purchase items outright does become available later in the game.
There is one other quirk to A Link Between Worlds other than the item rental system and that is wall merging. After being turned into a painting (yes, you read that right) by a dimension-jumping magician named Yuga, Link gains the ability to merge into walls. Once in a wall, he can move back and forth within it. This simple mechanic opens up new ways to explore and allowed the developers to hide items in interesting places.
Areas that seem inaccessible at first glance may be reached from a platform that is on the other side of the room, for example. Although, like I said, this mechanic is simple, I really enjoyed using it. It was especially fun to use whenever moving platforms were involved as it introduced a timing element to it. This was heightened by the fact that using items and merging into walls are tied to Link’s energy gauge. You have to be careful not to do too much at once since you will be at risk of running out of energy and then perishing in an untimely manner. Unfortunately, Link’s wall merging ability isn’t used very much in the boss fights (with the exception of two of them).
A Link Between Worlds is set in the same timeline as A Link to the Past. Consequently, it has the same map as that famous game. This is the last and only time I’ll mention A Link to the Past since, and I need you all to get ready for this, I’ve never played that game so I personally don’t know where the similarities end and differences begin. What I do know, however, is that A Link Between Worlds is a good game.
It was important to mention that the two games were connected since Yuga (that magician I mentioned before) has come to Hyrule to capture the seven descendants of the sages who helped a different Link defeat Ganon in the past. Despite his limited screen time, Yuga is a great character who has one of the best villain laughs I’ve ever heard. Link must use his new ability to save the seven descendants and stop Yuga from using Ganon’s powers to change the world. In case you’re wondering, the reward for beating a dungeon is one of the seven descendants, not an item.
The plot thickens when Link discovers that Yuga came from a kingdom in a parallel universe called Lorule. This kingdom even comes with its own princess named Hilda. Link partners with Hilda to save both the seven sages and Princess Zelda. Did I forget to mention that Yuga took Zelda? Well, he kidnapped her as well. There, I said it. By using his wall-merging power, Link must travel between both Hyrule and Lorule to rescue the prisoners in order to save both kingdoms. Even though there aren’t many cutscenes, the story was very enjoyable. There is a little twist to the tale which made it even better but I won’t spoil it here. You’ll just have to play it yourself to find out what it is.
A Link Between Worlds is, of course, full of all the weirdos you would expect to find in any Zelda game. In Hyrule, there’s the guy who dresses as a bee and wants Link to collect those insects for him; Irene the Witch who is essentially the Uber driver of this world and who always has a quip at the ready for Link; and, of course, Ravio, the item rental guy. What makes it even more fun is the fact that all the characters’ personalities are flipped in Lorule. If they’re nice in Hyrule, they’re grumpy and unhelpful in Lorule. It was always fun seeing the Lorulian counterpart of a resident of Hyrule. In Lorule, the Thief girl and the monster cultists were my favorite characters.
The icing on the A Link Between Worlds cake is the soundtrack. It is absolutely delightful (as would be expected from any Zelda game). My two favorite pieces were the Lorule overworld and Lorule Castle themes. Not only is the OST good but the sound effects were great as well. All of the sounds perfectly suited the game and made it fun to just to walk around in the game.
A Link Between Worlds is a great game. It features the trademark Zelda dungeon exploration, the variety of items, the wacky and charming characters, and a story that puts just a little bit of a twist on the traditional Zelda story. Not to mention the fact that the wall merging mechanic was fun to use and opened up new ways to explore the map and to solve puzzles. The only downside that I can see to A Link Between Worlds is the fact that it is a bit on the easy side. The real shame is that the game is stuck on the 3DS which (and let’s be honest here) has been phased out in favor of the Switch. If you do happen to be in the market for a 3DS though or already have one and don’t own A Link Between Worlds, then do yourself a favor and pick this game up. It’s not one to be missed.
Final Score: 9.5/10
- Item Rental System
- Wall Merging Mechanic
- Story & Characters
- Yuga’s Laugh
- A Little Too Easy
Thanks for reading and welcome back to the Pretend Gamer in 2020! I want to post more stuff this year on a regular basis so hopefully I can keep to the schedule and all of you will continue coming back here for my award-winning analysis and reviews!* Thanks again for reading!
*Not actually award-winning.