Nintendo have not one, but two Legend of Zelda games heading out to their consoles this year, but neither is entirely new. For Wii U owners, there's the HD remake of Gamecube classic The Wind Waker, while Nintendo 3DS owners get the far more interesting A Link Between Worlds.
The latter revisits one of the greatest games of all time, the Super Nintendo's A Link To The Past. Between Worlds will recreate (almost in its entirety, aside from a few minor changes) the overworld map from the 1992 classic, as well as remixing some of its old dungeons and adding plenty of new ones to boot.It's easy to look at Between Worlds as purely a nostalgia trip, but its worth pointing out that while this wizened writer remembers A Link To The Past from the first time around, there will be plenty of 3DS owners too young to have experienced it on anything other than digital downloads or emulators.
For them, Zora's Domain and The Lost Woods will be all new areas to explore, and the densely packed world will be a true gaming treat for them to sink their teeth into.
But even returning players will get more than just a kick of nostalgia from the title, as a number of new systems will change the way those returning to this familiar world will approach it.The most significant change is hero Link's new ability to press himself flat against walls and become a hieroglyph-like version of himself. Though the game is primarily played from an overhead perspective (with subtle depth effects added throughout), activating this new ability sees the camera swing in close to Link, letting him shuffle across brickwork in his new form. It was a skill used with aplomb in the puzzles I took on during my demo time with the game, with Link using the skill to do everything from squeezing through a barred window to hugging close to a rising cube without a foothold, allowing him to reach a higher part of the dungeon. Considering the game Between World's is riffing on is a throughly 2D affair, this simple addition literally adds another dimension to gameplay, forcing you to consider the gameworld on a 3D as well as 2D plane.Another small but significant change is the removal of a finite magic meter. Instead, the use of Link's abilities and magical items is governed by a slowly recharging magic meter, depleting as you fire off arrows, use special weaponry or activate the wall-picture ability. On one hand, it frees you to use your more powerful items more liberally (providing you can wait for the bar to recharge), and on the other adds moments of desperation to the wall-hugging ability - it's terrifying to send Link teetering across a wall of unknown length high above the clouds, unsure whether he'll make it to the end before returning to his full-fat self and hurtling to the ground far below.It's all looking great too, with visuals that both update the classic Super Nintendo title and draw upon new entries into the series. I certainly felt a whiff of the underrated Minish Cap in here, and the game's 3D effects look great in motion, adding character all Between World's own.
I was skeptical going in, but found myself totally engrossed with A Link Between World's by the time the demo drew to a close. Feeling fresh yet evocative of a game now older than many of those set to play the new title, A Link Between World's should be on all 3DS owner's radars.The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds release date is set for sometime in November 2013. We'll have a full review closer to release.