Back at E3, our team got to try many of the upcoming Nintendo titles, and A Link Between Worlds was the one we were most excited to get our hands on. Before getting into the details, I have to admit that I’m not a A Link to the Past fanatic, so to speak. I’ve only played the game once and I liked it in many ways but for me it wasn’t the champion of old-school gaming as so many other Zelda fans claim it to be. So if you’re all about A Link to the Past, you might feel very different towards the sequel on a fundamental level. With that out of the way, let’s talk about how the game felt.
First off, I have to say that the controls feel really good, which has always been a big deal to me. There have been many games which are heralded as the greatest of the decade such as Skyrim that I just can’t get into because the controls feel stiff to me. I admit that I’m picky about this sort of thing but I think that’s what happens when you grow up on Mario and Sonic on 16-bit consoles–you come to expect excellence as far as controls and navigation is concerned. In this game, Link moves around quickly and swinging your sword is fast and responsive. The faster pace of movement is appreciated, as it makes me feel able to circle enemies or run away, should I deem it necessary.
As you probably know by now, this game doesn’t use ammo; instead, all items require Stamina. This means you can only shoot so many arrows in a row before you have to either retreat and let the meter recharge, or engage enemies in close combat. There might be a bit of a learning curve here; whenever arrows stop shooting when I continue to hammer X or Y, I immediately assume I’m out of ammo, only to realise after the fight is over that this game is different. That being said though, I think it’s a pretty good decision since you’ll never risk running out of ammo and get stuck in the middle of a dungeon. Hopefully they’ll have other things to spend rupees on; possibly expensive stamina meter upgrades, who knows?
Speaking of the items, there were four of them in this demo and you’re able to hold two at any given time. Switching between items is done by using the touch screen which is not ideal for switching items on the fly, especially since you have to drag and drop the items into your X and Y item slots. The items in this demo were the bow, bombs, a shield and the fire rod. The first two work the same as you’d expect. You place bombs and shoot arrows. The shield works pretty much like in The Minish Cap except you can move around with it now, albeit slowly. The fire rod is awesome. It has a short range but it’s really powerful, able to take out a knight in a single hit. Combine that with an area effect and some impressive 3D effects and you have yourself a weapon of choice. Not that the sword is a bad choice either. Like I said before, swinging is fast and responsive and does the job well. Adding to that, the sword beam is amazing and left an impression on me. It plows through grass like an out-of-control lawn mower, making your search for hidden goodies so much easier… until you take a hit, of course. I always wanted to keep the sword beam around when I was playing. With a high speed it really feels like a force to be reckoned with. Looks great visually, too.
I was previously very sceptical about the visual direction of this game, because it felt like Nintendo just took A Link to the Past and added 3D without asking if it was really the best way to present it. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks good and the graphics aren’t a problem. It looks okay, but nothing more, which is unfortunate since many of us have envisioned a remix of A Link to the Past to look something like this:
Last but not least, let’s talk paintings. The brand new mechanic that lets Link turn into a painting and walk on walls: criticized by some, well liked by others. Personally I really like this mechanic; it gives dungeons a greater focus on exploration than actual puzzle solving. You need to be on the lookout for things in the environment and envision the area in 3D when you see it through a top-down perspective. The demo provided some pretty fun challenges that weren’t all easy and I hope these challenges are just a taste of the tricky puzzles they have in store for us. To sum things up, this game feels very new in the way it plays, but old in the way it looks. Familiar yet exciting, and I for one am eager to get my hands on the final game.