The latest game in Nintendo's beloved action role-playing series is upon us, and while it contains many links to the past, there are aspects of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds that remain a secret to everybody. You may need a little help.
So here I stand, in a dark cave flanked by a pair of torches, offering you tips on how to get the most out of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Leave your rupees in the hat and read on.
In order to fully appreciate where Link is going, you have to know where Link has been. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds takes place in the same Hyrule as the 1991 Super Nintendo classic, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, only some six generations later. The overworld is largely similar, as are many of the enemies, and the game is riddled with references and riffs on the original story.
Have you ever had someone wink at you, and you have no idea what the wink signifies? That's annoying. This game could have been called A Wink Between Worlds.
A Link to the Past is currently available on the Wii Virtual Console (not the Wii U, dammit). If you threw away your Wii, the original Super Nintendo version and the Game Boy Advance port are both readily available on eBay.
During my initial play through of A Link Between Worlds for review, I found myself sitting outside a business that wasn't opening for another half-hour, so I plugged my 3DS into my car stereo and oh my god. The arrangements of the original music from A Link To The Past (see the first tip) are simply gorgeous. There's a lush vibrance to the sound, as if composer Ryo Nagamatsu slathered Koji Kondo's original work with pure audio love.
The 3DS speaker does not do this music justice. Either plug in some headphones, or come sit in my minivan — there's plenty of room.
As Stephen Totilo pointed out in his impressions of the game, A Link Between Worlds has some of the best 3D of any game on the 3DS. Every time I play a new game on the handheld I turn up the 3D slider and then quickly turn it down again. With this game it stayed up for a good 30 minutes, until it lost a fierce battle with my constant fidgeting.
It's not just a game that looks good in 3D, with its nifty pop-up effects (try stepping in lava) — this is a game that justifies the feature. If you play A Link Between Worlds on the 2DS, you're missing out.
Early on in A Link Between Worlds, our hero gains the ability to transform himself into a piece of mobile wall art. Nintendo didn't just throw that mechanic in for a laugh. Use it.
It's easy to get washed up in all the nostalgia (if you followed that first tip), getting into the mindset that this is merely a modernized take on A Link to the Past, and that any problem can be solved through application of specialized items or swordplay. That's not the case, and the sooner you embrace the fact that there's much more to going flat than just hopping between worlds, the better your game will go.
If you find yourself stuck, stick yourself to the wall.
Where other Zelda games give you objectives one at a time, A Link Between Worlds delivers them in bunches. It's not "Go to the Sand Temple and rescue that one guy", it's "All these guys need saving in these various spots, let us know when you're done."
As long as you've got the right tools, the whole of Hyrule and Lorule are your dual-sided oyster, and that freedom extends well beyond the main quest. There are secrets hidden everywhere in this game, from little critters you have to collect in order to upgrade your weapons, to subtle homages to Zelda games of yesteryear.
Between the power to go flat and the ready availability of items, there is nowhere your little pointed-headed adventurer can't go, so go everywhere.
Yes, the descendants of the Seven Sages need saving, but they're not going anywhere. Those of you really into role-playing might balk at the idea of leaving people in peril while you play a mini-game or spend a half-hour jumping off cliffs holding chickens, trying to fly, but the game is really fine with it. That's why it's open — they want you to screw around.
Link's witchy friend Irene has nothing better to do than ferry him back and forth between checkpoints scattered across the world map. It's what she lives for — her reason for being. Don't you forget about her.
And while we're on the subject of checkpoints, the little bird-themed weather vanes are more than just stops on the Little Witch Express. They're the places you go when you want the game to remember to dungeon you just explored is a fully-explored dungeon, or the item you just farmed 1,200 rupees to buy is indeed yours. They will shake vehemently if you've not saved in a while. Whisper your adventures to them, or risk losing a lot of progress, as I might have done during the hours leading up to my review, dammit.
Everyone in A Link Between Words has something to say. Not all of it is Hyrule-shatteringly important, but barely any of it is mere fluff. Along with hints on how to tackle problems or discover secret areas, clever throwbacks abound, and not just to A Link to the Past. That's all I'm going to say.
Rather than farming items like the Boomerang, Bombs and Hookshot from sequential dungeons, A Link Between Worlds introduces players to Ravio, a bunny-hatted character who takes up residence in your home and transforms it into a store. He has all the items you'll need to take on the game's dungeons, and will gladly rent them to you for a small fee. It's convenient, until you meet that one dungeon boss that keeps killing you, and you have to keep going back to the store to re-rent the item needed to take it down.
Screw that noise. Farm rupees and buy that business outright. Cut bushes, kill baddies, find spots in dungeons that give a lot of cash and replay them over and over again — anything to make sure the items on your person remain on your person in the event of an untimely death.
This one's for the Zelda newbies. You know that special item you had to use to enter the dungeon? Did you have to cross a chasm with the Hookshot, or maybe blow up a barrier with bombs? Keep those in mind when you get to the dungeon boss. I'm just saying.
Every dungeon has a map. Every dungeon has a compass, which reveals treasure locations on that map. Of course you want to open every one of them — you'll need their precious keys to open dungeon doors, and their rupees to pay off Ravio.
But if you see a treasure chest that's larger than the others, drop everything and open that bad boy. It might just be the key to the dungeon's boss chamber. It could be a large amount of rupees. Or it could be the items needed to upgrade your weapons and armor. You'll really want to upgrade your weapons and armor — they make all the difference in the game's climactic battle.
One of my only criticisms of A Link Between Worlds was how easy combat is. Aside from a couple of nasty boss fights, the game's battles were all relatively easy-peasy.
Well don't worry — once the credits roll you'll be able to start a new game in Hero Mode, where the enemies dole out four times as much damage. As Jason Schreier put it, it's "hard as heck." That's plenty hard.
Hopefully these tips will help you get the most out of your return trip to Hyrule, and if this isn't a return trip to Hyrule for you, see tip one.