How a 3D Zelda fan (me) feels about playing the top-down A Link Between Worlds

I am a Zelda fan for life. I grew up playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the old N64 that belonged to my huge family (8 siblings). Strangely, I can’t remember when I beat the game for the first time: in fact, I don’t even remember things like struggling through the water temple for the first time or (SPOILER ALERT) finding out that Sheik was really Zelda in disguise for the first time. In fact, the only thing I know for certain about when I started playing the game as a young girl is that I was essentially taught how to beat it by a neighborhood buddy (I owe him a lot).

Despite not actually beating Ocarina of Time on my own, in years to come I bought and beat The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword with little to no assistance from outside sources. So I’m pressed to think my dungeon-exploring, puzzle-solving Zelda skills are the real deal, but only in 3D Zelda games, or so it would seem. Confession time: I’ve never been able to find much joy from playing early Zelda games like The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past. For one thing, I find a top-down, grid-based view of Hyrule to be stiff and claustrophobic. For another thing, 2D-style combat in the series can never hold the same appeal as 3D-style combat to me.

The two points I just brought up are the exact reasons why I wasn’t nearly as excited about The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds as I was for, say, Skyward Sword. But I’ll tell you straight up: I love what I’ve played of the series’ 3DS entry so far. So if you happen to be a fan of 3D Zelda games like me, and for this reason still haven’t taken the plunge on A Link Between Worlds, then read on as I address your greatest concerns:

Scope and Presentation of Hyrule

I still find it easier to explore and navigate Hyrule when I’m looking ahead as opposed to down. But the developers who re-crafted the Hyrule seen in A Link to the Past for a new generation carefully considered modern gamers. When I say a world is “grid-based,” I’m talking about how it’s sectioned off and reaching the edge of a section causes the screen to scroll up, down, or sideways and (typically) all the enemies to respawn. A Link Between Worlds’ Hyrule is like this, but the sections are larger and have a lot going on in them. Link’s new ability to merge into walls as a painting will have you looking at Hyrule like never before. Exploring the overworld is actually a joy in A Link Between Worlds. However, in previous 2D renderings of Hyrule, fighting enemies with outdated, sluggish controls could easily ruin the experience (for a 3D Zelda fan like me, of course), which brings me to…

Combat in A Link Between Worlds

Once again, I find combat to be more intuitive in 3D Zelda adventures, but it’s much more than just tolerable in A Link Between Worlds: Link moves quickly and smoothly in the game, with nice broad sword strokes. The simple advance in video game technology that allows a character to move freely as opposed to directionally also helps to make A Link Between Worlds more accessible. Though aiming projectiles and using certain other items is not the easiest thing to do in the game, I find it adequate enough for me to enjoy the most important aspect of the game…

As Always, Gameplay is King in a Zelda Game

The dungeons in A Link Between Worlds are saturated with the purest and most satisfying puzzle-solving gameplay imaginable. With each new dungeon you complete, you’ll appreciate more and more the back-to-basics approach the developers took with the game. I would even go so far as to say that this could not have been accomplished properly if the game wasn’t presented in the time-honored, top-down Zelda style. If you call yourself a Zelda fan, you have no excuse to skip out on A Link Between Worlds any longer. It is video game design at its best and a pleasure to experience.

2 Responses to How a 3D Zelda fan (me) feels about playing the top-down A Link Between Worlds

  1. Lou says:

    Very happy to see this article today. I’ve been playing this game recently and it reminds me of what Nintendo can be. The dungeon designs are great, the interactions are humorous, and thankfully no unnecessarily long intro (yes, I mean you Skyward Sword).

    Not to get confusing, but the 3D works great on this game. It is a top down game, but there are some dungeons where you can see the other levels due to holes in the ground, being on a walkway, etc., and it really “pops” if you’re in 3D. I know most don’t use that feature, but please give it a go for this game. Great look.

  2. Holly says:

    @Lou Haha! I tried pretty hard to differentiate between a 3D Zelda game like OoT and the top-down A Link Between Worlds, which happens to be in stereoscopic 3D, in the article. Not sure how well it worked!

    But yeah, I echo your statements: A Link Between Worlds actually looks great in stereoscopic 3D! I feel like other games have a noticeable decrease in visual quality when the 3D is turned on (only on the 3DS XL, though, in my experience), but Zelda looks nice and smooth however you play it.

Leave a Reply