I haven't enjoyed a game in The Legend of Zelda franchise this much in more than 20 years.
Yes, I am one of those Legend of Zelda fans – the ones who steadfastly maintain that the pinnacle of the series, despite all the advances of the past two decades, is a 2D sprite-based game for a 16-bit game console.
It's not that games like The Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask and The Wind Waker aren't excellent games – masterpieces, even. I'm playing through the HD remake of Wind Waker right now, and I'm having a wonderful time. It's just that The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo was perfect.
No camera issues to worry about. No wrestling with moving in a 3D space. The visuals were crisp, clean and colorful. The world was large, but not so much that travel became a chore. Gameplay was challenging, but never frustrating. Perfect.
I tried to embrace 3D Zelda games, purchasing and playing them as they were released. I enjoyed them for a time, but that time was growing shorter and shorter with each successive title, to the point where Skyward Sword is still sitting on my shelf, wrapper intact.
When Nintendo announced the next portable installment of the series would be a sequel to A Link to the Past for the 3DS, I was incredibly excited, but also wary. I've been playing portable Zelda games for ages, and while many came close to scratching that Link to the Past itch, most were too busy showing everyone how clever they were to fully satisfy. Look, Link can shrink! Now he's on a train! Now he can turn into a painting and walk between worlds! Just give me a game that's essentially A Link to the Past updated with modern aesthetics and features, and I'll be happy.
That's where I was when I started playing A Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and now I'm very, very happy indeed.
This is the happiest of homecomings, returning to this particular slice of Hyrule after so many years. In a way it's just as I remembered it — it's as if Nintendo painted over the original sights and sounds with a thick coat of dreamy nostalgia. The remixed music is gorgeous. 3D graphics add new life and depth to familiar scenery and creatures. Everything is so familiar, yet so much more refined. If this were simply a remake of A Link to the Past, as originally planned, I would have been supremely satisfied.
This is no remake, as familiar as it may be. Six generations have passed since the events of the 1991 game, and a new hero rises. Well, as new a hero as the series gets — he's still a young lad wearing a green tabard and pointy hat who may or may not be named Link, but that's just a coincidence, I'm sure.
This new Link has new problems to deal with as well. A villain named Yuga has invaded Hyrule, using the unique ability to transform living beings into impressionist art to capture the Seven Sages, who happen to be the ones responsible for keeping an ancient evil in check. In order to save his world, Link must journey to the mysterious land of Lorule (really?), where Princess Zelda's sultry dark-haired doppleganger Hilda holds sway.
Okay, so it's a bit formulaic. After his initial trials in the land of Hyrule, Link travels to a different-yet-similar world, where he has to do at least seven things, which likely means at least seven dungeons to delve. What's different in A Link Between Worlds is how Link approaches these challenges: however he wants.