Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds absolutely blew me away when it launched last winter. I had been looking forward to it throughout all of 2013, though I was admittedly more focused on the release of Pokemon X & Pokemon Y.
Still…an all-new Legend of Zelda, specifically designed using the features of the Nintendo 3DS? To say I was excited would be putting it lightly. I followed the game very closely, but not so much that the thrill of playing for the first time would be tarnished.
At first I was concerned that ALBW would focus too much on the nostalgic aspect – specifically the familiar setting, themes and characters from Link to the Past. This proved to be anything but the case; the latest installment was incredibly unique, and utilized a lot of clever ideas and new mechanics to change the series’ admittedly repetitive and linear formula.
I enjoyed collecting rupees to rent and then purchase my own arsenal from Ravio. I spent a lot of time searching both Hyrule and Lorule for all the hidden Maimai creatures, using them to unlock weapon upgrades for all of my items.
Weapon upgrades are something I always wanted in the Legend of Zelda series, and A Link Between Worlds was a lot more interesting as a result of their boosted power. I really enjoyed the upgraded Bow’s triple-arrow shot, the extended blast radius of the powered-up Bomb, and the extra power of the improved Fire Rod and Ice Rod.
I searched high and low using my items and Link’s merge ability to find most of the Heart Pieces and hidden places; I even found all four pieces of Master Ore, used to fully upgrade the Master Sword. Best of all, I was constantly forced to think outside of the box, which felt very refreshing as a Zelda series veteran.
I also loved the added replay value with the StreetPass functions – defeating the Shadow Link characters of my friends was a lot of fun, and it was even more interesting to try the different ‘challenges’ by equipping specific item and meeting certain conditions – take no damage, use no items, and so on. Earning these little “achievements” added a decent amount of time to my experience.
Finally the “Hero Mode” unlocked after completing the game was an awesome bonus that I have really enjoyed playing; I still have not finished it, but the extra challenge has been very refreshing, encouraging the use of everything at Link’s disposal.
My Favorite Part Was When…I was backtracking through a room in one of the dungeons and realized that there were more than three different ways of getting from A to B. This open-ended design was the highlight of the game…that is, until I actually reached the final boss and the ending. I will spoil nothing – suffice it to say that the final scenes were some of the most compelling in any Zelda game, and left me speechless.
If you were to buy a Nintendo 3DS today and ask me the very first game to buy, chances are I would immediately say A Link Between Worlds. As a lifetime Zelda fan, I think it is not only the best game in the series, but by far the best game on the 3DS: if you want beautiful 3D effects, nifty StreetPass features and the perfect experience for portable gaming, look no further.