Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 5, 2014

Email: Link Between Worlds Review

Malstrom, please allow me to supplement the Video Game Critic review of Link Between Worlds for you. He is more or less correct. But you need more information than this if a 3DS purchase is on the line. You and I have similar feelings about Zelda so you can confidently trust my judgment. Plus I want that intern at Nintendo that has to read your blog to pass on this info to the big shots.

There are many areas where this game has fixed long-term problems in Zelda games. Combat is back! Sean, I had a gameplay experience that I haven’t had in ages in a Zelda game. My first time in the dark world I got my ass handed to me. The bomb-throwing giants are actually more dangerous in this game. I had to run away! I was not powerful enough to defeat them. Does this sound familiar? Not since the NES games have we seen this! One nice addition is the marriage of analog controls with overhead combat. You can deck your enemies with sword beams from the opposite corner of the screen because of the precise aiming.

There is finally an interesting overworld as opposed to Skyward Sword which didn’t even have one. The problem with overworlds was that they were getting too spacious. But here you are weaving between rivers and hills and cliffs and fighting the same enemies over and over as you go (which is fine because it’s fun). And most areas have something to find or do. No vast expanses of grass and horse paths.

The “art style” is awesome mainly because there isn’t one. Link is no longer an ugly football-eyed cartoon but they didn’t try to make him all Lord of the Rings. He just kinda matches the artwork from the NES or SNES game manuals. No one tried to showcase their creativity here. And I think the effect is that the game is actually more immersive. The one area where Aonuma sickness creeps in is the design of the villain. We know the games have gotten fruity in a general sense, but specifically what is with this obsession with transvestites and androgynous characters? Tingle, the two guys at the cannon in Twilight Princess, half the characters in Skyward Sword … is this some homosexual (or homophobic maybe?) agenda? Just weird to have this stuff in a high-fantasy setting is all.

There’s an overall sense of polish that was really surprising. The music sounds the best of any Zelda game so far. You can even go to a restaurant and pay a guy to play music from the game on guitar and flute, and it seems like you are hearing live musicians (you can even hear the flute player taking breaths). The music is mostly rehash but it’s really well done. The classic overworld theme was something I loved the first few times but then started thinking “I am going to get tired of hearing this.” Imagine my surprise when it was completely replaced by a new one halfway through the game!

The biggest problem in this game is the item store. Keep in mind that this is not really a new concept and it doesn’t pose a problem on its own. The first handheld Zelda game, which was awesome, actually let you buy the bow and arrow from a store(!). But this time the items are all taken out of the dungeons and made available right away.

This really does break Zelda. Typically in Zelda the player must decide that they are going to venture into a more difficult part of the game in order to obtain something that will make them stronger, more mobile, or more resistant to enemies. The item is challenging to obtain but when you get it, it changes everything you’ve already seen. So you can imagine that without this mechanic, dungeons don’t really have much of a point. You feel like you are just “advancing the game” and not really expanding your character.

I think it’s because designing dungeons that way is hard. This game has the least-developed dungeons I’ve seen yet. I don’t actually mind puzzles here and there … the ice dungeon in Link to the Past and the water temple in Ocarina were awesome to me because they were hard. Searching forever for that last key is another legacy of Zelda. What I do hate are stupid time-wasters like building a block puzzle with a picture of a ghost on it. It is basically the game telling me “I know you are having fun but please stop for a minute to complete this chore.” This game has some of that–like how you have to win a difficult and stupid ball-under-the-cup game to get to the master sword. But for the most part the dungeons are just uninspired. In one case you literally get the boss key about 10 feet in front of the boss door.

There is simplification everywhere. You no longer collect bombs or arrows. Everything drains from a common meter that recharges in about 10 seconds. What’s so bad about finding and killing a guy that shoots arrows in order to get more arrows?

The wall drawing stuff is not really a big issue. The puzzles that use it aren’t difficult at all and you don’t feel like you have to use it constantly. There isn’t a lot of gimmicky 3D stuff either, but what I did find is that the verticality of the 2D games was something we’d lost and it’s really cool in this game. The 3D polygons in a 2D perspective allows you to sometimes feel like you are miles above the ground and using the stereoscopic 3D on top of that really enhanced it for me.

So all things considered, I can’t deny that Link Between Worlds has gotten more elements right than any game since the N64 days. But at the same time I still have a feeling they don’t understand what makes a Zelda game fun. It’s enjoyable but it’s not a “classic” and I’m not sure I will want to replay it much. It’s a solid game with good content but it’s not the return to glory for Zelda. What I can say is that their next big seller on 3DS is sitting right in front of them. One package with ports of all the NES and Game Boy games redone with the quality level of this game, and maybe some difficulty options, but otherwise the same. That would be even better than this game is!

I think The Critic is responding to the game as many of us did to NSMB DS. NSMB DS is not the greatest 2d Mario game. There are many problems with it. However, it indicates a movement in the right direction for the franchise which is why so many people responded positively to it. I think the same applies to Link Between Worlds. It’s not so much we like the game as we like the direction the Zelda series is going with it.

I actually think Twilight Princess was a move in the right direction in many ways. While I despised Wind Waker and even fell asleep playing it, I did enjoy Twilight Princess. The ‘flaws’ of Twilight Princess are the remaining Aonuma ‘nuggets’. Of course, Aonuma viewed any and all criticism of Twilight Princess to mean that people really wanted more Wind Waker.

What I’m hearing from most people is that people want Nintendo to go further with the Zelda series by stripping out even more of the Aonuma nuggets.

Imagine we are at Cafe Nintendo and the chefs have prepared us a meal called ‘Zelda’. Ever since Aonuma became the head chef, Zelda has tasted funny. Aonuma keeps putting in his ‘special sauce’, while the dish looks like Zelda, it doesn’t TASTE like Zelda. Games like Twilight Princess or Link Between Worlds is like Aonuma cut down on the ‘special sauce’. Instead of the Zelda dish being all Aonuma, it is half Aonuma and half Zelda. It tastes much, much better than before. However, if you are used to the primary Zelda dishes, the reduced ‘special sauce’ dish still tastes wrong.

To conclude, if food compromises with poison, which is the victor?


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