Despite spawning nearly 20 titles since its 1987 debut, The Legend of Zelda series has seen surprisingly little innovation since fans first fell in love with its princess-saving, Triforce-collecting, Ganondorf-defeating formula. Sure, the graphics have improved and new narrative twists and gameplay mechanics have been introduced over the years, but the core dungeon-crawling recipe has largely remained the same. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds — the sequel to fan-favorite Super NES chapter The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past — finally tweaks the franchise’s tried-and-true template, and the results are as magical as a Fairy Fountain.
This 3DS follow-up to the 1992 classic retains many of its beloved predecessor’s elements — from enemies and environments to its top-down over-world — but doesn’t rely on simple nostalgia to draw players in. Instead, it builds on the appeal and personality of A Link to the Past with some of the series’ most clever and engaging design decisions to date. Toss in a vibrant, high fantasy-flavored presentation that benefits from the portable platform’s oft-criticized extra-dimensional tech, and this absorbing adventure may find some gamers abandoning their new next-gen home consoles for Nintendo’s comparatively underpowered mobile device.
Like most entries in the enduring action-adventure series, A Link Between Worlds introduces a defining feature that affects both story and gameplay. In this case, the Hyrulian hero can transform into a painting capable of navigating otherwise inaccessible areas; this could see him morph into a wall mural to cross a chasm or maybe turn into a 2-D painting to slip through a crack. An inventive mechanic that perfectly complements the franchise’s focus on puzzle-filled dungeons, it also looks damn cool every time Link goes from three-dimensional avatar to flat cave scribbling.
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