The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a harmonious blend of nostalgia and innovation, seamlessly weaving the enchanting threads of its predecessor, A Link to the Past, into a captivating tapestry of its own. From the fluid sword combat to the ingenious puzzle-based items, the game strikes a delicate balance between honoring the series' roots and forging a path of its own. The soundtrack, though a rehash, resonates with timeless melodies, elevating the atmospheric charm of Hyrule and Lorule. Despite graphical debates, the art style remains distinct, and the dungeons, a hallmark of Zelda games, shine with intricate design and variety. The narrative gracefully navigates between open-ended exploration and a compelling storyline, and the addition of Ravio's Bracelet and Maimai enriches the thematic and sidequest experiences. In this review, I, Brighton Nelson, will delve into the heart of this masterpiece, exploring why A Link Between Worlds stands not only as a tribute to Zelda's legacy but also as a certified classic deserving of its place in gaming history.
Combat - 8
This game has excellent combat, even if some other 2D Zelda titles do it better. While Link to the Past has better combat-specific items than this title, this game also has much smoother sword combat, more upgradable items, and player choice on which items the player gets first. Also, this game has cooldowns on items instead of a more traditional MP meter, which switched it up a bit but didn't increase or decrease my overall enjoyment of this combat. Another thing to note is that this game is significantly easier than its predecessor, which already wasn't a challenging game to begin with. The bosses are of similar quality, however. Ultimately, I like this game's combat equally as much as Link to the Past's, mainly because it's smoother and more customizable, even if it isn't as intricate or rewarding.
Music - 10
Yes, this soundtrack is a rehash, but it does such a phenomenal job of remastering the soundtrack found in the original. Each song in this game is impeccable, with the Palace themes all being some of my favorite tracks in the series. This game's soundtrack is just as great years later, and it certainly deserves the highest praise.
Items - 10
As much as I love the traditional formula of acquiring items in dungeons and using said items to complete the dungeon's puzzles, I adore the way the developers mixed up the formula here. Due to the approach of the items in this game, the world really opens up, and the player can complete dungeons and overworld puzzles in any way they desire. This creates my favorite form of the Zelda adventure to date—it is non-linear and open-ended, yet at the same time, it tells a linear story and allows for traditional dungeons and puzzles. This game has a perfect blend of the feel of the original Zelda, Breath of the Wild, and the typical Zelda formula, and these fantastic items are a significant contributing factor to that. Another thing I love about these items is that they are more puzzle-based. Sure, they have applications in battle, but due to the items being more centered around puzzle-solving, this game has much more exciting puzzles than the combat-focused A Link to the Past. Like most Zelda games, there are passive items and usable items. There are multiple variations of swords, shields, and gloves, as well as Pegasus Boots and Zora's Flippers that allow for more dynamic movement. There are more quirky items like a bottle (as always), hint glasses, a bug net, various fruits, and Ravio's Bracelet, which allows you to travel between worlds, eponymous with the game's title. Then there are the dungeon items acquired from Ravio, including the Bow, Bombs, Boomerang, Hookshot, Hammer, Fire Rod, Ice Sand Rod, and Tornado Rod. And, of course, there's the Lamp, which, when upgraded, becomes overpowered in this game for some reason. All of these items are incredibly fun to use and stand as one of my favorite sets of items in a Zelda game to date.
Art & Graphics - 8
Many people say this is like the New Super Mario Bros, with a generic graphical style that spits on the face of Link to the Past's pixel art. That argument is flawed at best. This game looked entirely distinct from any other Zelda title, and only two games were used. This style, unlike New Super Mario Bros... and most of the complainers are fine with other graphical rehashes in the series...? I don't get the hate. I realize the SNES pixel art is charming, but that does not mean this game has awful or generic graphics. While it doesn't have the beautiful looks of Wind Waker or Breath of the Wild and its sequel or the atmosphere of Majora's Mask or Twilight Princess, it is still a great game that looks undeniably timeless. As a whole, while this game certainly isn't one of my favorite-looking games of all time, it still looks great.
Dungeons - 9
This game has a fantastic array of intricate dungeons that perfectly utilize the game's items. While they aren't exactly the best in the series, they are easily some of the best 2D Zelda dungeons ever crafted. Each item is used so well, and every dungeon is very memorable, with great music, puzzles, combat, and wall-merging. With a staggering twelve dungeons, this game has some of the most variety in the series, with the Thieves' Hideout, Swamp Palace, Desert Palace, Tower of Hera, and Lorule Castle being standouts. The dungeons in this game are fantastic through and through!
Story - 7
This game is able to balance open-endedness with a cohesive story and unique items, something Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom severely struggled with. This story doesn't suffer from non-linear storytelling, unlike those games, and instead, it has an exciting story with a couple of unexpected twists. This game may not have an outstanding story, but I don't have any problems with it. It had its highlights, and for that, this story deserves a score of 7 out of 10.
Theming - 9
This game takes all the exciting ideas of A Link to the Past and adds Ravio's Bracelet to it. This means that there's not only the Dark World but also wall-merging, a unique new mechanic that plays into puzzles and switching between worlds. Of course, on top of this is the slew of special items that distinguish this game from the others with its non-linear dungeon progression. This all combines into a fantastic experience that is equally memorable and engaging—this is one of the standout Zelda games in terms of its theming.
This game shares the same world layout and many Heart Piece locations with A Link to the Past... so what makes this game stand out? The Maimai. These little critters are hidden across the world of the game, making the world more full of life than before. These Maimai allow the player to upgrade their items as they wish, making them much more useful in combat. These upgrades incentivize exploration more than the majority of games in the series—a shocking fact for a game series so focused on world exploration. Even without the Maimai, this game retains all the great sidequests from A Link to the Past and expands on those sidequests in a meaningful way. Ultimately, this game may not have the best sidequests in the series, but it comes pretty close to matching the greats due to how much fun upgrading the items turns out to be.
Quality of Life - 9
My biggest issue with this game is how much Rupees you need to grind sometimes to rent or purchase items. However, as long as the player doesn't die too much, this shouldn't be a big deal. Outside of that, this game is less tedious than most other Zelda games, with fast traveling making this game's snappy pace even better. Unlike many early Zelda games, the hitboxes and sword combat here actually make sense. In the end, this is a very well-polished game.
Fun Factor: 10
Overall Score: 89%
Letter Rating: S
As somebody who played both Link to the Past and Link Between Worlds growing up, I like this game a whole lot better. This game takes everything masterful about a Link to the Past and cranks it up to eleven, making for one of my favorite entries in the Zelda series and my second favorite 2D Zelda. This game may not be one of the most discussed Zelda games, but I doubt I'll ever stop ranking it among the best. I recommend this masterpiece to anyone wanting to get into the Zelda series or anybody who already loves Zelda and hasn't given it a chance... it is a certified classic.
Want to check out this underrated Zelda masterpiece and support our website in the process? Check it out in the link down below!
Primary Version: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)