From a gaming standpoint, I lived 2012/13 in a strange limbo between trepidation and unadulterated excitement. I’ve long been an adversary of ‘the remake’, so it was a strange feeling hearing that Nintendo would be releasing what, on the surface, appeared to be a remake of my favourite Zelda of all time, A Link to the Past. Like many others, I’d seen the screenshots and a few in-game videos online before release, and while it looked visually stunning, I found it difficult to shake the feeling that I’d end up paying full price for a game I’d essentially already purchased a couple of times before.
In July 2013, I popped my Comic Con cherry in Manchester and I had a blast nerding out for the day; talking to some up-and-coming artists, admiring the awesome costumes on display and sneaking a hands-on peek at some new games. Pikmin 3 had just been released on the Wii U and was getting a lot of attention, as was The Wonderful 101, but I headed straight over to get to grips with A Link Between Worlds to see what I’d be getting myself in for later in the year.
I stood and waited for a 3DS to become free, trying to get myself in the right mindset — I needed some perspective. I’ve always considered myself a realist, but in that queue I struggled with my expectations; was this going to be a fantastic reimagining of my youth or just a fresh paint job on an old product to rake in the pocket money of another generation?
Eventually a console became free — I stepped up, took a deep breath and pressed ‘Start’… and was delighted to find out it was most definitely the former.
I was immediately impressed with the demo; the sound was wonderfully remastered and the visuals really popped, not to mention the fantastic new play style brought about via the mural mechanic. From the moment I hit ‘A’ and saw Link merge with the wall to become a shuffling Aztec-style painting, I knew this was going to be a game changer. Nintendo had quite literally added a new dimension to one of the greatest video games of all time.
I was grinning from ear-to-ear and chatting away over my shoulder to my friend, giving a bit of a running review as I was going through the dungeon. Apparently, my commentary grabbed someone’s attention, as the next thing I knew I had two reps, one armed with a hefty camera, interviewing me about the game. They asked a few questions about how I thought it fit in with other games in the series, how it compared to the original and what I thought about the work done in reimagining it. The interview ended with a question on whether I’d be buying the new game and I said emphatically that I would; I pre-ordered it that very afternoon, in fact. I have no idea what happened to the footage but was very chuffed with the game was looking.
I got my copy through the post that November (albeit a few days after release due to a problem with the distributor) and absolutely ate up the game. Whilst I enjoyed Skyward Sword, I always felt it was too formulaic — too linear — but this was entirely different. There was an openness to the world; choices of which dungeons to complete when and which items to take with you. There were intriguing new characters and wonderful new aesthetics, all complimenting the new mechanics that created a whole new game from a very well made old one.
The puzzles were simple in their nature but challenged you to think outside of the normal Zelda model — it reminded me of playing Portal for the first time; leaving me feeling a little like an idiot after struggling with something that turned out to be a simple matter of perspective. A Link Between Worlds was a fantastic addition to the franchise and, for me, is far-and-away the best installment for years.
With Breath of the Wild still relatively under wraps, could another equally impressive change of perspective be coming on the NX? I certainly hope so!