The past returns in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

/ Updated: November 26, 2013 1:23 PM PST
Nintendo

There's a lot of clutter in the world of games this month. It's easy to become distracted by the latest and greatest home console offerings with their flashy graphics, big promises, and high price tags.

For the most part, Nintendo has sat out this recent affair, digging in its heels with the intent of weathering the storm. It's a strategy the company has mostly been forced into practicing, but thanks to an impressive one-two punch of software -- Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U and now this new 3DS Zelda offering -- it might just pay off.

It's safe to say 2013 has been the year that the 3DS has really come into its own. And while there has been a steady stream of worthy software available for the platform, I'm not sure a single title has deserved the crown of "best-in-show." I think it's time for such a declaration, and I think A Link Between Worlds has earned it.

Nintendo

Back in May I got the chance to interview Eiji Aonuma about what Zelda fans should expect from A Link Between Worlds, the 21-year spiritual follow-up to 1992's A Link to the Past. The big takeaway from that talk was the overwhelming effort made to preserve the tone first explored in A Link to the Past. A Link Between Worlds somehow creates a time machine effect that jolted me back 21 years, where I revisited the same sense of achievement and exploration.

To the audience who can recall what it was like playing A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds is an absolute love letter to you that recalls the familiar music, game mechanics, and other tips of the hat that will have you smirking with nostalgic joy. Perhaps most impressive of all the things there are to like about the game, it's the fact that the makers so effortlessly achieve a strong sense of familiarity, all while polishing the game up for a modern audience.

The standout feature of A Link Between Worlds is Link's new ability to transform himself into a 2D animated drawing that can stick to walls and maneuver where 3D Link can't. It's a major thematic device throughout the game, and its introduction to the dungeon-ridden environment of a typical Zelda experience is a monumentally welcome breath of fresh air.

Nintendo

Even if you ignore the brilliant dungeon and level design, the awesome controls, and the homage paid to the game's predecessor, you can't deny that A Link Between Worlds is an impressive technical win in its own right. Just from a performance standpoint, the game runs beautifully, especially on a big 3DS XL screen. There's an ultrasatisfying frame rate that the game runs in, and it perfectly personifies the level of product and polish found within.

A Link Between Worlds is now the best reason to own a 3DS, and likely the best bang for your buck you'll get this holiday season. If you own a 3DS there's really no excuse not to play. If you don't own one, there's never been a better time.

CNET verdict: A must have for 3DS

A Link Between Worlds is the best reason to own a 3DS this holiday. It successfully combines an accessible world to jump right into, all while maintaining respect for the original game it proceeds.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • ESRB RP
  • Context fantasy
  • Genre action - adventure
  • Subcategory Role-Playing
  • Developer Nintendo