A Link Between Worlds Review

What do you think of A Link Between Worlds?

Okay, a lot of the mechanics interact nicely, a lot of the enemies and bosses are designed nicely, but it’s way too easy. They don’t ramp up the number of hearts you take in damage in the late game, so you can steamroll nearly anything. It reported when I finished that across the game I had only died 5 times.

The item economy for renting is really lax. There’s a funny trend over time with games, where currency systems in older games feel really tight and limited and in later iterations they’re bloated and pointless, like hearts in castlevania, rupees in zelda, coins in mario, gold in D&D, blood orbs in DMC1. In DMC3 and 4 (especially 4), you get a ton of blood orbs and it’s like, why would you ever buy an item? In DMC1, there’s a bit more serious consideration there. In the original Zelda, Rupees were rare and precious. They were your arrow ammo. In Link Between Worlds, I’ve never seen so many silver rupees in a zelda game before (interesting to note, in LttP, you can unbox a green rupee with a 100 written on the sprite that gives you 100 rupees, means they don’t have to explain to you every fucking time how much the rupee is worth). I bought the equipment almost instantly after it became available to buy. Of course I died so little, it didn’t really matter.

Some things leave me questioning, like why is quick equip unlocked like partway through the game? Why not have it from the start, but just have the tutorial later on? Why limit the initial item slots to only 1 item? I understand not wanting to overwhelm the player, but this is rather pointless from a replayability perspective.

The ability to move along walls and the new emphasis on verticality works great. They somehow made a really solid mechanic in the form of wall merging and found a lot of ways to play on it.

Every item has multiple uses, and most have some tricky more specialized use. Tornado rod functions like a jump, but also stuns enemies and puts out fire. Sand Rod raises sand blocks from the ground that can also be used as walls. Ice rod lets you drop blocks of ice from above, affecting things on higher vertical layers than you, which is really cool. Fire Rod is chucked and creates a pillar of fire that extends upwards and through grated platforms. Pegasus Boots can’t be used to jump (at least nowhere useful) like the original game, but the slide function can get you straight over certain gaps. Hookshot no longer stuns, good move, has more unique functions based on the enemy.

Boomerang is useless, overshadowed by the other items. I don’t really know why it’s in other than tradition.

The feeling of the sword swing is great and enemies are designed nicely around promoting that you swing at the correct times rather than swing a bunch in place aimlessly. Some tougher enemies like the cyclops and the lynel can be stunlocked by swinging, then moving forward and swinging again. The best way to beat them is trapping them in a corner. About half the enemies require that you move in some way after each time you hit them. A number copy the old design where they have swords in front that repel you if you swing in the wrong place. Some have shields. Solid stuff, mostly inherited from LTTP.

The bosses are mostly great, with a few weak entries. Yuga form 1 is lame, just shoot arrows at him.

Moldorm is a classic who works as well as he always did.

Margomill is a boss in the same vein as moldorm design-wise and he works pretty much just as well, with the added twist of trying to use the tornado rod to jump up onto him. You gotta slash at his body sometimes and he can use puffs of air to keep you out and blow you off. It’s a neat design.

Yuga 2 is pretty nice. Has nice projectile patterns. Keeps you moving around. You can always stay safe as long as you attack one of his duplicates. There’s some way to keep track of what the real one is, because I saw it in a speedrun, but I don’t know it. Summoning enemies worked out nicely too.

The Gemesaur king has a neat design, but so little health you don’t really have to deal with it. You gotta bomb it first, which is so-so, then in the second phase you need to move in to slash its face and avoid it chomping on you as you get pushed back too far to slash again, but still in range for it to hit you. It will also put out the lights requiring you to light them again while it rampages around the room, but it has so little health that this hard to avoid phase doesn’t matter.

Arrghus is a classic, pull the eyeballs off it to attack them, they have eyeball attacks too. It’s possible to pull multiple eyeballs or deliberately bait eyeballs to attack them. Its second form you gotta move out of the way of it trying to stomp you, and the pushback is really high, so it’s hard to get in more than one hit. Avoiding the lasers and working in hits can be really dynamic too.

Stalblind is like, half stupid 3d zelda boss, half really cool 2d zelda boss. The first half is entirely just merging with his shield then attacking him, then suddenly he realizes this is stupid and the real fight begins. He gains additional sword slices, a spin attack, his head detaches and starts spewing toxic smoke as it spins. Similar to Gemesaur, Stalblind doesn’t have nearly enough health to really show off his full potential, and his body gets really passive when he detaches his head.

Knucklemaster is legitimately hard, left me with only half a heart left. His highly telegraphed wall punch is easily avoided, but his ground slaps are much trickier, and in the process of moving out of the way to avoid them, it’s easy to lead him over the cracked spots in the floor and destroy your walkable area. Though you can cheese this by using the wall merge. They probably could have made it less viable to stay in the wall by having him slap more frequently.

Grinexx has a simple first phase, and a pretty cool second phase. Hard to avoid his head snapping as you try to get hits in. Hazards make avoiding his spinning kinda tricky. His big explosion attack fits nicely as a mixup between that and spin attack. Could stand to spend less time transitioning between these.

Zaganaga constrains your movement between the platforms using the sand rod, requiring you to work out the right way to move across them to merely get to him, and adding a time limit on how long you can stand on the sand, then has flying enemies assault you on the thin platforms, which makes it so you can’t go out and assault them, and your attention is divided between them and the boss. Phase 2 is where it gets cool and he starts shooting lasers and spitting out more enemies. Depending on your path to him, you can leave yourself with no way to avoid the lasers, making it even trickier to path to the boss. The laser could stand to have a higher turning speed, and the boss could stand to have some type of “get off me” attack against link managing to close in so damaging him is more complicated than mashing once you get up close.

Dharkstare, has neat triangular AOE attacks, when his ice is melted he has a nice hopping pattern to run away and enough pushback that you can’t mash slash. If he hits you, then he can push you clean off, and the whole floor is slippery making movement challenging too. Nice Hexagonal platform with some ice in the way to make it tricky to move around. Not enough health. Could use a little more attack variety.

Yuganon’s like, the only boss that actually killed me. The first time I fought him, I was really cavalier about not really trying to evade his blows, because I could tank a ton of fucking damage in general and didn’t really give a shit, figuring I could probably kill him on pure damage before he kills me. I tried blocking his attacks, though some are unblockable. I died to him twice I think, and in the final battle only lost a heart or two due to the ping pong sequence. His sword attacks work out pretty well, you can move around them to whiff punish them rather easily once you know the timing. The trident toss is nice, hard to avoid if you’re trying to punish him at the end of it. The trident being used to block attacks also works out nicely. The projectile attacks work out well, nice shmuplike pattern. I think the ping pong sequence is lame. the timing is really well signaled, but it’s nothing compared to the original aghanim boss battle where there were 3 of him throwing orbs around and 1 was real, and some orbs would explode on you. The final phase where you shoot the arrows of light at him is gimmicky.

The use of the purple item resource bar is great, sets definite limits on how much you can use all your resources, but also prevents the aggravation of running out of items and needing to farm more.

The structure of the world is neat. I think they give warp access too early, but the new checkpoint save system is perfect, just what the series needed. They require you to push out to find new warpable points, work out what items you need for traversal, and links between worlds are hidden and need discovering + they don’t always work both ways and can help get to vertical areas you can’t otherwise.

Link Between Worlds is the most recent game in the series (apart from triforce heroes) and probably in the top 3 best games across the series. It has a lot going on that the 3d games don’t, though a lot of that can be owed to copying its predecessor. Is this hope for the next 3d zelda? Probably not. It’s more puzzle focused than LTTP was, albeit using better puzzle mechanics than most 3d zelda games, in the form of items that have a variety of applications and interaction with other elements, however I still found it a really tame game overall. It didn’t hook me enough to want to replay on hero mode. A Link Between Worlds is a step in the right direction. It has the basics of what a good game should have, but it lacks the ambition to be truly great.

I think the space for 2d topdown games is rather undeveloped right now. Games haven’t really explored what’s possible in that space. Zelda games have almost always shown promising things in that space, but they don’t tend to develop them as far as they could go. I’ve had conversations with friends about what the deepest 2d topdown perspective game is, and I’ve always been tempted to say a link to the past, or oracle of seasons, or link’s awakening (and now ALBW), but felt like they lacked that quintessential spark, because they’re so rote in a lot of their structures and have a lot of mechanics with a few interesting quirks that create depth, but don’t have interactions between those mechanics or develop those quirks to their full potential.

Also, what the fuck happened to roc’s feather and roc’s cape? Those would be perfect for a game like this, but I don’t think nintendo wants link to jump. In the 2d games featuring roc’s feather, there was no 3d simulated space, enemies in the air were just invincible, you couldn’t jump up and hit them, ledges were really just walls and you could slash through them sometimes too. In LBW, enemies can be higher or lower in space, but the attacks don’t play with that very much except for the ice rod and tornado rod (which treats higher and lower the same, so kinda moot).

LBW creates a ton of interesting interactions because its mechanics have such a degree of nuance in the way they were made, but it fails to capitalize on them, like most zelda games. End result is, at least you get a cool speedrun:

2 thoughts on “A Link Between Worlds Review

  1. MasterPokey July 10, 2016 / 4:13 pm

    I’m more than halfway through the game, and I agree with many points. My girlfriend beat the game on normal, so I’m playing on Hero mode. On Hero mode, you take 4X as much damage, so you actually have to play carefully at times, however, fairy bottles undermine this to some extent. I feel that the world is very fun to explore, and they’ve added new things to do in most of the space so that it doesn’t feel too familiar. There’s a good mix of old and new here. I also really like how you can tackle dungeons in any order. I also like the designs of most of the bosses, however I can’t remember how many of these are ripped from the original. However, I feel motifs from Ocarina are shoehorned in too frequently. A link to the past stood on its own without these things.

    Compared to the original, it is definitely lacking in many ways. Nintendo made this a game that, in many ways, seems to be made specifically for babies. Link, NPCs, and many monsters are modeled ultra-cutesy, which in my opinion is so much worse than the original’s style. Monsters and NPC’s in the original looked far better and more detailed as sprites, and had almost a creepy strange quality about them which is sorely missing in ALBW. Also, the game does many things so that’s it’s not too complex like you mentioned, including hiding your other item slot and the quick switch system. And I don’t think Nabbit is interesting and fits in with the world at all. On that point, the new villain is basically a lamer, less unique ginger kefka.

    Okay, back to the positives: I had a lot of fun with the dungeons, and I like how well the dark world and light world are integrated. I don’t think humans should exist in the dark world though, as the point is that the dark world morphs people into a form most befitting their spirit. Link began as a rabbit in the original because he’s pure and innocent.


  2. MasterPokey July 10, 2016 / 4:16 pm

    Also, I feel like Link’s Awakening would have been better for a remake/sequel. That is by far the strangest zelda, and the most overlooked, and the 2d jumping parts really added variety. I loved how it had many strange mario elements thrown in, because they were so out of place and played with expectations. Link’s Awakening is my very favorite zelda, mostly due to the strange dream world that doesn’t really fit into the zelda cannon as nicely.


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