Nintendo's new Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's are due to come out March 3. Gamers have been excited for both game and console for some time, and the new trailers and the game's imminent release have everyone in a #Zelda mood. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good time to revisit one of the more popular incarnations of Hyrule... or rather, its direct sequel.
Go Hero or Go Home
Let me start off by saying two things:
One, I am a huge fan of A Link to the Past. It was one of my first video games, and it holds a very special place in my heart because of that, so I came into this not expecting A Link Between Worlds to surpass the original.
Two, I enjoyed it my first time around, but not as much as other 2D Zelda games. Overall, I found it to be a disappointment, even if I had fun with the game.
This time I played on Hero Mode, and it makes all the difference. Normal Mode is simply too easy. This mode requires you to stay on your toes. You die—you're constantly in danger and that makes you more engaged with the game. The challenge of Hero Mode makes the game fun.
A Return to Hyrule
The map of Hyrule is completely derivative of A Link to the Past, but that's also where its charm lies. It's fun to go back and visit the old locations again, and see new faces and subtle changes to certain areas. The desert being walled off and only visited later as part of Lorule's dungeons was a nice change of pace, and a creative way to design a new dungeon in an old area. I also like how they didn't reuse the dungeons from the original game; even the ones you visit again (like the Tower of Hera) are totally different in their design.
A Darker World
However, the derivation ends with the game's second world. Unlike the oppressive Dark World, Lorule is a beautiful place. In my personal opinion, it's much more enjoyable than the series' other parallel universe of Termina, which was seen in Majora's Mask. I love its use of purples and blues, and it's visually distinct enough that it doesn't feel like a retread of A Link to the Past's second world at all.
One aspect of the fallen kingdom that really sold me on its atmosphere was the fact that it's crumbling away, with endless chasms dotting each corner of the world. It really made me feel like Lorule was a dying place, and inspired me to continue on my journey to save it.
I have two complaints about Lorule:
First off, the name is a really stupid pun. Hyrule is like high, so Lorule is like—yeah. Ugh, it's so cheesy. Hyrule on its own is a unique fantasy name. Majora's Mask's Termina is named for the world's terminal state. Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages feature Labrynna and Holodrum, which have a nice, whimsical cadence to them. Lorule just sounds dumb in comparison, and it sort of even cheapens Hyrule by extension.
Secondly, despite what I said about it being a nice change of pace from The Dark World, it's also true that the idea of a darker, alternate world parallel to Hyrule is a bit too similar in concept to A Link to the Past to be entirely believable.
The portrait mechanic is something I initially didn't like, as I felt it was too much of a departure from A Link to the Past's mechanics. However, this time around, I really warmed up to it. Zelda is at its best when it takes a gimmick and runs with it, whether it be time travel, transformative masks, changing the seasons, ocean traversal, or whatever - and this game not only takes Link to the Past's alternate world traveling gimmick, but also adds one of its own with the portrait wall crawling. It added its own unique flair to solving puzzles and felt like a fresh experience.
A New Way to Discover New Tools
The rental system, on the other hand, was a mixed bag. It was a nice idea in concept, and I don't dislike it. The non-linearity it offers is as refreshing as the new portrait mechanic. However, it also took away the charm of finding a new weapon in a dungeon, and renting items over and over again when you die could get tedious.
Despite the tedium of re-renting items upon your death, Hero Mode made the concept more fun, as in Normal Mode you are never in any real danger of losing your items, and there is much more of an incentive to save up rupees to buy them.
I also very much liked the item upgrades and how they were performed - finding lost Maiamais was one of my favorite things to do. It took the collectathon concept and made it feel substantial by giving you a useful reward for every ten Maiamais that you find. The Maiamais were also adorable.
Warning: Spoilers follow in this section. If you want to avoid them, scroll to where spoilers end.
The Story Of A Dying Kingdom
The story was more absent than it has been in recent Zeldas, but more present than it was it was the classic games, which was a nice compromise between new and old. Hyrule's cast of characters was relatively bland, but where the game really shone brightest was in the inhabitants of Lorule and the story behind their kingdom and its Triforce. Hilda and her last minute betrayal were well done—I never saw it coming the first time around, and she was effective as an empathetic villain.
The ending makes her entire scheme seem intellectually bankrupt, however, as Link and Zelda use Hyrule's Triforce to wish Lorule's back into existence. Why didn't Hilda do this from the beginning? Ravio and his existence as the "other Link" is probably my favorite plot twist in any Zelda game, if only for the fact that we technically get to see an incarnation of Link speak. Yuga was a decent antagonist, I guess, but Ganon, Demise, Ghirahim, Zant and Vaati were all more interesting villains than he was. Yuga came off as kind of an incompetent clown.
Lorule's "Triforce trio" was ultimately a refreshing new take on the three characters we've grown attached to over the course of several games, and their subdued personalities were a thematically appropriate inverse for a world that had its own Triforce shattered. Ravio lacked courage, Hilda lacked wisdom, and Yuga lacked power.
Overall, it was a fantastic game, and a nice return to the "Fallen Hero" timeline of the original games. Perhaps Nintendo will visit it again in the future. One can hope. I personally think that Breath of the Wild will take place at some point in this timeline, but we'll have to wait until March 3 to see.
How are you passing the time before Breath of the Wild? How did you like A Link To The Past and A Link Between Worlds?