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Latest Zelda: Old Dog, New Tricks

By Alex Sferrazza
On January 21, 2014

"The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds" marks a triumphant return for one of Nintendo's most storied franchises. Infusing the long running franchise with a breath of fresh air while remaining true to its roots, "Between Worlds" might just be the best piece of software ever released for Nintendo 3DS.
A direct sequel to the SNES classic "The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past", Between Worlds features the same over world of Hyrule that first greeted players over 20 years ago. Set centuries after its predecessor, you are once again put into the shoes of yet another incarnation of the legendary hero, Link, in a quest to save Princess Zelda and the land of Hyrule from the forces of evil. The "dark world" where much of "A Link to the Past" took place does not appear but its place is taken instead by "Lorule" an alternate version of Hyrule ruled by Zelda's counterpart, Hilda.
"The Legend of Zelda" has long been the crown jewel of the Nintendo franchise line up. While it has never achieved the unrivaled popularity of the "Super Mario" or "Pokemon" titles, nearly every single installment has been welcomed with an unprecedented streak of universal critical acclaim, with multiple entries frequently cited as contenders worthy of the title "the greatest game ever made".
However with such great success, critics have been quick, almost gleeful, to criticize new installments in the series over the past few years for a perceived lack of innovation. Whether or not you agree with these sentiments, rest assured such claims are no longer with merit.
"Between Worlds" greatest accomplishment lies in its remarkable ability to remain fresh and innovative while staying true to the legacy of the franchise and conjuring up nostalgia for long time fans.
The game shakes up the traditional "Zelda" model significantly enough to consistently feel fresh and exciting while never abandoning the core mechanics that have made the series what it is. Classic items such as bombs and the boomerang can be acquired fairly early in the game. No longer do you have to wait to clear a certain dungeon to obtain an item. For the most part, the game's dungeons can be completed in any order whatsoever. You're allowed to chose where and when you go to each, a luxury which hasn't been seen since the original "Legend of Zelda" on the NES.
The puzzles in the game are some of the most ingenious seen from the series in years. Many of which utilize the game's brilliant new ability to have Link transform in a flat 2D drawing (resembling an Egyptian hieroglyphic) and walk around walls. Better yet, the helpful hint system from "Ocarina of Time 3D" and "Skyward Sword" return in case you ever find yourself stuck. On the downside, this is a very likely prospect as "Between Worlds" is one of the most difficult series entries in years.
The story and writing are brilliant, as expected from the series. As a warning, with wonderful references and homages, the title will be best appreciated by long time fans. Consider catching up on the main titles in the series before you try "Between Worlds".
The nostalgia inducing art style updates the classic look of "A Link to the Past" and the title continues Nintendo's fantastic implementation of 3D effects in their games.
The title is rapidly paced, always entertaining, and doesn't overstay its welcome. Accomplished players with complete the main story around 15 hours in, not counting the countless hours of additional content provided via minigames and side quests such as the baseball-like "Octorok Derby". It's a little bit short for a typical Zelda game but it's still more than worth the price of admission.
Long story short, "The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds" is the best handheld installment in the series yet. It's a must buy for long time fans, and if you've left the series and have waited to return to something fresh and new, you couldn't have picked a better time.

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