Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 11, 2014

Email: Impressions on “A Link Between Worlds”

I was bit hesitant on writing to you regarding the latest Zelda game on the 3DS, since I assume you have received plenty of correspondence about this game.
I read some online reviews before purchasing it, and quite a few of them claim that is best Zelda game in years. After playing it for eight hours, I have to say that I completely agree with such statement, and that is exactly the problem. If this is the best game in series in years, than it clearly proves how far the series has fallen. This game shows of how far Nintendo as fallen as a game developer.

The first strange thing about this game, is the plot. It blatantly obvious that at some point during development, this game was going to be a remake of the AlttP. For some reason though, the developers decided to make it a sequel from a narrative standpoint, even though it severely hurts the continuity established in AlttP, especially in two main points:

– The most glaring one, is that Lorule looks exactly like the Dark World in AlttP.

– The plot revolves around the unification of the three triforces (Wisdom, Courage and Power). In a AlttP,
there is mention of only ONE triforce (which you recover from Ganon at the end of game).

I fail to understand why didn’t Nintendo just remake the original game, instead of coming up with this extremely poorly written diatribe of a plot.

Gameplay wise, the game is a carbon copy of AlttP, with the developers having tweaked only a few things. The biggest change to the typical Zelda formula, is that now the player virtually start out with all the items that typically have been kept hidden in dungeons in previous games. I do believe that this is the highlight of the game, but also comes across as a wasted opportunity. It seems that the developers did not think it through very well on this one. Most dungeons still revolve around one item, and some of them will even tell you which item you need before entering it. Also, by giving you the items right from the start, the feeling of being increasingly more powerful as you progress through the game is mostly gone.

Another addition is the “stamina gauge” which replaces the magic gauge. I believe that this mechanic breaks the game, since you no longer need to ration consumables. Since you never run out of arrows, it becomes almost pointless to use the boomerang. Or better yet, since you cannot run out of magic, you can keep on using the Fire Rod to kill enemies in the game, as it overpowers most of them (especially after you upgrade it). If it wasn’t for the delay when using the Fire Rod, you wouldn’t even need to swing your sword at enemies.

But enough with the bad things. The great thing about this game is that it reminds you as to why this series was so popular to begin with. During the majority time I spent with the game, I had a blast rediscovering Hyrule. I literally could not put this game down. The game cuts with a lot of the fluff that was been killing the series since Ocarina of Time. The dungeons, for the most part, are once again designed as mazes and not as a collection of solve-this-puzzle-to-advance rooms. The game’s plot might be a poor retelling of AlttP, but as long as you manage to ignore it, it does not interfere with your progress. The game also does not take the player by the hand like the most recent entries in the series (i.e. Skyward Sword), and by having most of the items available from the get-go, the player is free to go anywhere in the game, much like the original Zelda. Unfortunately, unlike the original zelda, the game is way too easy. I still remember how, in the original Zelda, you could go to Death Mountain right from the start, but once you got there, the Ghinis and the Lynels would make short work of you. it was the game’s not-so-subtle way of telling you that you were not supposed to be there yet. In comparison, in this newest entry, you can easily dispatch a Lynel with the Fire Rod. Sure, you can swing the sword at them several times, but why bother? I felt that the game wasn’t isn’t even trying, so why should I?

Another issue I take with this entry (albeit a personal one) is that the darker tone of AlttP is completely gone. I always loved how that game, despite its cartoony graphics, had some relatively dark moments (i.e. seeing the Flute Boy dying right in front of you in the Dark World). What does this game offer instead? Characters like Ravio.

Although not as fruity as Tingle, his attempts at humor are awful. This is just the kind of stuff that need to be completely taken out of Zelda games. I really dreaded going back to Link’s home since I knew that I would have to put up with him.

Overall, this game is to AlttP what NSMB is to SMB 3: a half-hearted attempted at recapturing what made the series so great. The really sad part about this game, is that it feels like a symptom of whatever management issues Nintendo is currently facing right now. How can Nintendo compete against other companies, if they cannot even compete against themselves? This product is clearly inferior to another product that the company made more than twenty years ago. And no, I not being blinded by nostalgia: the first time I played AlttP was when it was ported over to the GBA, and the first Zelda I ever played was OoT. I am currently replaying AlttP right now, and the further I get into the game, the more I realize how much Nintendo phoned it in on this game.

It seems that we consumers will only experience disappoint with Nintendo games unless there is some drastic change inside the company. How the might have fallen.

Very good review.

The reason why Nintendo can’t do a remake is the same reason why all game developers can’t do a remake. Every game developer believes he or she is a special snowflake, brimming with ‘creativity’, and wish to impart their dashing personality onto the game. Starcraft fans are greatly annoyed at Starcraft 2 developers for replacing units that shouldn’t have been replaced. Maybe not a full remake of Starcraft, but there was no need to replace Dragoons with Stalkers as they are the same unit. Bringing back some of the Starcraft 1 mechanics wouldn’t be a bad idea especially compared to the Starcraft 2 ‘ball of doom’ boredom.

Everyone believes they are interesting people. The truth is that most people are dullards. In show business as in sales, you have to have an above average personality. My suspicions are that the early game developers were not average people. But now that we have game developers whose life experience has been other video games, the personalities border on average if not below-average. This is why I think we see all this immature dull crap in video games now. (This also includes the indie games which may have solid mechanics but immature content.)

My 13 year old nephew has this Zelda game, and he told Uncle Malstrom that he likes it a ton except that it is way too easy.

I think you hit the nail on the head when describing Link Between Worlds as the ‘best Zelda’ in a long time but falls flat when compared to the classics. Simply REMOVING THE AONUMA DESIGN CHOICES already improves the fun a thousand-fold. Just like the reappearance of 2d Mario with NSMB DS, it was easy to acknowledge that the basic 2d platforming mechanic is VERY FUN. But that is all it is: a mechanic. There needs to be more. NSMB Wii at least brought in 4 player mode which shows some ambition. Since then, it has been EA Sports iterations for NSMB and other Nintendo series. There is no passion. No ambition. The only passion and ambition is for these social losers to impart their ‘creativity’ and ‘personality’ in the video game. The games have a personality of a dud because they are made by people who have personalities of dullards.

“That is so mean, Master Malstrom!” the reader weeps bitterly at me. But it is not mean. Look at Shigeru Miyamoto. The guy is a character. He has a bountiful personality. Look at other major oldschool game developers, and you will see the same thing. Richard Garriot is not an average personality. He makes haunted houses, dresses himself up all weird, flies into outerspace, and calls himself Lord British. Interesting people make interesting games.

I think you are right in pinpointing how Zelda LBW lacks the sense of growth since you ‘rent’ items. This highlights the missing RPG aspect to Zelda. Zelda is about you growing in power and strength. Even Miyamoto used that definition way back when in describing the early Zeldas. Zelda is not Shadowgate where you get items to solve ‘puzzles’.

I hear also that in this Zelda, you can avoid the enemies and largely avoid combat. That’s a damn shame. No wonder people say the game is so easy.

I’m not sure how Nintendo is interpreting people’s response to Link Between Worlds. Maybe Nintendo thought it would do numbers like NSMB and consider the game a failure since it doesn’t pull those numbers. But Nintendo has to be hearing the praise and dislikes for clearly falling with the praise being on the Old School values side and the dislikes for the remaining Aonuma values side.

Why couldn’t the game be harder? Or, rather, why couldn’t we start the harder version at the beginning instead of playing Boring Mode first?

What is so wrong with RPG values in Zelda? We’re not talking level raising like in Zelda 2, but just ‘better stuff’ to make you overpowered at combat. Zelda always was a little Diablo. For challenge, people would not use items or not gain heart containers. But that element has been lost with the Aonuma Design.

I am constantly amazed how Nintendo will take risks with Zelda to do all sorts of crazy things such as cell shaded graphics to flooding the world with water to flooding the world with trains to touch screen only Zelda but stubbornly refuse to take the risk of incorporating old school gameplay. What you are saying, emailer, is that Link Between Worlds is a step in the right direction, but it is only a step. It is as if Nintendo is so scared to fully jump into the arcade/RPG gameplay.

I really dislike the lack of RPGs on Nintendo systems or ‘long term games’. Nintendo does great with short term games such as platformers. Zelda gave us a RPG experience. Metroid did too in a way as Metroid is about gaining new weapons and strengthening yourself.

Super Paper Mario was the biggest miss I’ve ever seen. That game would have been perfect for a 2d Mario RPG. But in Nintendo’s eyes, RPG stands for ‘tons of annoying shitty dialogue’ and ‘crappy story’. Nintendo’s been doing both those things with Zelda and Metroid lately. “Super Metroid is not about Samus getting abilities and powering up her suit. Super Metroid is about maternal instincts,” Sakamoto informed us.


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