'Zelda: A Link Between Worlds' is out for the Nintendo 3DS on November 22.
- Classic top-down Zelda look deliberately inspired by 'Link To The Past'
- Many new features including 'wall painting' 2D movement
- Massive, brand-new adventure with lots of new dungeons
- Beautiful retro-inspired graphics
Nintendo is just messing with us now. After this summer's (brilliant) HD remake of a previous Zelda title, and announcement of a new Wii U Zelda in the works, we now have this fresh, world-spanning Zelda game for the 3DS handheld which itself is deliberately inspired by the 1992 SNES game A Link To The Past.
At this point we'd prefer if Link would just figure out the time and place he wants to be and stay there.
Which is not to suggest that 'A Link Between Worlds' is anything other than an extremely strong Zelda game. It is - and at this point you'd be an idiot to expect anything less.
What 'A Link Between Worlds' does is take the DNA of the SNES game - the same top-down look, a consistent plot and virtually the same 'overworld' game-map, and morph it into something subtly new, modern and exciting.
The basic elements of a classic Zelda game are all there. The graphics are sharp, bright, colourful and enchanting. The deceptively small map holds lots of deep, clever and lengthy dungeons which - after a certain point - can be tackled in any order, and Link has immediate access to his famous range of weapons rather than having to battle through the game in sequence to get hold of them. As ever Link will have to fight and puzzle his way through the world of Hyrule (and its parallel, dark sister-world Lorule) to defeat the evil Yuga and his nefarious schemes.
But the game also adds several new elements which dramatically open up the world to new types of exploration. After an early confrontation with Yuga, link gains the ability to turn himself into a 2D wall painting, and traverse new areas by applying himself to the walls, sliding through cracks and avoid enemies.
This outwardly simple addition actually extrapolates into an amazing variety of puzzles and new challenges, and the result is a game which feels larger and more interesting than many of the recent Zelda games. It's also a bit trickier than usual - we found ourselves wandering around for quite some time very early one because we missed a crucial line of dialogue. The lesson? Pay. Attention.
In fact in many key respects the game has a pretty hard core. If you die you lose all your (rented, not owned) weapons and have to go and buy them back. And you will die, because combat is quite hard and you don't have many hearts. It's not excessively long (around 20-25 hours) but it requires dedication and a tolerance for retro-style frustration.
For every moment of annoyance, however, there are probably 15 to 20 of absolute joy. The game is extremely well-designed, with thoughtful puzzles and pacing and many surprises that fans will adore.
Like many Nintendo games, then, it's hard to play 'A Link Between Worlds' and not fall in love with it. The graphics are beautiful, the gameplay is simple but hypnotic, there is challenge but also encouragement, and a great narrative at its heart. It's among the best Zelda games of the last decade, and one of the very best available on the 3DS. If you can raise your game to match its considerable challenge, you'll be rewarded with a genuinely classic video game.