As we celebrate 20 years of Ocarina of Time, another game is celebrating a milestone as well. Granted it’s only at its fifth year, but an anniversary is an anniversary nevertheless. Of course, I am referring to A Link Between Worlds.
Realm of Memories is a series where we reflect on our absolute favorite moments in The Legend of Zelda games. These could be the times we first fell in love with a game, were moved by the events of the story or actions of a character, felt triumphant when overcoming a tough boss or challenge, or we had an experience so unique that the adventure truly became our own. The Zelda series has touched our lives in many ways, and just as Hyrule has endless stories to share, so do our writers!
Now I know the consensus on A Link Between Worlds is generally that it’s alright or it was fun enough, but it is often overshadowed by its more successful predecessor, A Link to the Past. Well, not to me. I think A Link Between Worlds is fantastic, and it’s one of my favorite Zelda games to date. Not only that, but it’s the first ever 2D Zelda that I’ve ever completed and a companion in a time when I really needed it.
I got my 3DS quite late in the game compared to everyone else. With the announcement of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, I finally decided to grab myself a 3DS. I got it about a year or so in advance so that my wallet could recover after purchasing the system along with two games: Fire Emblem: Awakening and A Link Between Worlds.
I played Awakening first since I heard such good things about it and it’s been a while since I had played a good Fire Emblem game. Needless to say, I was in love with it. In fact, I’m at it once again, replaying it to get all the supports! But Awakening wasn’t the only game that would capture my attention. Once my third semester of college started again, I brought A Link Between Worlds with me for my hour-and-45 minute train commute. I stuck it in my 3DS and was instantly engrossed.
I’ll admit, most of the time I can’t bring myself to complete 2D Zelda games because either the graphics are so outdated and difficult to translate or it feels a tad clunky to me compared to the console games I knew so well. With the clean graphics and smooth gameplay of A Link Between Worlds, I no longer had that excuse. This was the game that was going to change everything.
Then there are the puzzles. When I was younger, my thoughts were if I can’t beat it, sell it. That’s why I (regrettably) no longer have Pokémon Silver or Super Mario Sunshine. While I have mostly put that habit behind me, I will admit that sometimes if I get frustrated with a Zelda puzzle, I’ll put the game away and play something else for months at a time before I get back to it — If I ever get back to it.
There were several times during A Link Between Worlds where I was struggling to figure out some of the challenges the dungeons had to offer — The Ice Ruins, in particular, was a real pain. However, I was stuck on a train for nearly two hours. My only options were my 3DS or my phone which had the then-popular Pokemon Shuffle, which only allowed for limited gameplay unless you paid for more lives. Sure, it was frustrating at first, but I pushed through and wound up having a lot of fun with the dungeons. In fact, the Tower of Hera and Lorule Castle became some of my favorite dungeons in the entire Zelda series! The ability to merge onto the wall made for some out-of-the-box thinking and the themes were all so immersive. Overall, my limitations actually provided for me the chance to overcome my obstacles and see what made this game so fun.
Not only that, but it allowed more time to interact with this wonderful world. I was eating up the story, loving every bit and piece that the game threw at me. The characters were all such a delight, especially my all-time favorite (after Link and Zelda of course), Ravio. There would be times I would catch myself laughing out loud because of something funny Ravio had done or said. He was such a well-crafted character, and Hilda was equally as intriguing. When her true motives were revealed, I felt such an array of emotions. I was angered, then saddened. My heart truly broke for her and the dark world, but was quickly uplifted again by the kind and heroic acts of Princess Zelda and Link.
If I had to put a number on it, I’d say A Link Between Worlds would probably be my third favorite Zelda game, right behind The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. The game has both its strengths and weaknesses, but I enjoyed it through and through. I know it might not be as challenging to classic Zelda players or as engaging as some of the console games, but it will always be a wonderful experience to me and I’m really glad that I bought it when I did.
College was not the best time of my life. That year in particular I was struggling with overwhelming amounts of required credits, a sociopathic professor that made me miserable to the point of crying in front of my class multiple times during the year, and an overall loss of self-worth and identity, just trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do in life. This game helped me escape these issues for a good two hours every day on my way home. I looked forward to that short period of time each day where I could get lost in a world where I was a hero, helping others and having fun, putting a smile on my face if only for a small while, and I’ll always be grateful for this.