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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The Legend of Zelda

Announced yesterday during Nintendo Direct - today we got hands on with the new handheld Zelda.

Where does it sit in the timeline? Why is it overhead rather than proper 3D? Why this rather than a remake of Majora's Mask?

You're on the wrong subject if you're asking any of these questions. The only real question you need to ask is: just how good could this brand new handheld Zelda be?

After a twenty minute hands-on, taking in the 13-floor dungeon prominently shown in yesterday's Nintendo Direct, we're somewhat nervous. Just because it was so impressively fun, and what that potentially means for the final game.

It's early days, but even on this early first impression, this could be one of the most skilful modern-day reinterpretations of a classic - it plays just a sublimely as A Link to the Past did, and the altered art style and new mechanics just add to the experience.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

For the most part the gameplay is exactly the same as Link to the Past. There's Blue/Red switches to open new areas, and you're kitted out with bow, hammer and sword (which projects energy blasts when you're at full health, and you can pull off a 360 swing after a charged hold).

Skeletons jump over sword swings, while red turtles need to be flipped before struck. There's even a Warp point unlocked when you've gone far enough in, that'll take you back to the start of the area.

It all still works fantastically well, while the visual style makes perfect sense when you see it in 3D. The 3D effect is a subtle one, giving height to the dungeon as you walk along tight walkways over floors below you. Walking over a mesh floor with enemies crawling around the area below looks great.

As before you'll need to drop down to lower floors from above, as some classic dungeon items such as small keys, compasses and boss keys are hidden in sectioned-off areas in other rooms.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Weapons use is as it was, though the hammer is used now not only to dizzy or flip enemies, but also squash down laughing-face springs momentarily, which you can then climb on and use to be catapulted up to the next floor when they spring back in place.

There's elements of multi-tool solutions to puzzles. A higher floor had us having to hit four switches in a row. Either we could shoot an arrow at each from a distance, or slide round the room in Merge form.

The Merge ability is the big new addition. The A button is context sensitive (you can still grab pots), so when you're pressing against a wall, a button tap will morph Link into a 2D chalk drawing (coincidentally looking like the murals from Wind Waker), and the camera pans in to a pseudo-side view.

No reason's been given for this ability yet, but when in that form, you can't be hurt, and you walk to the left or right as long as there's wall. The Merge lasts only as long as you have magic left - and the meter replenishes automatically after a short period.

The move is used heavily to progress into the dungeon. You can slide though window bars to outer balconies, and as you cannot fall (though you can't move up or down on a wall) you can stick yourself from one moving platform to an adjoining one - the dungeon exterior is a maze of moving platforms and rotating spikes - and slide round them to the other side. You can also use the trick to hitch a ride on a rising platform to get to the next floor.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

There's little use of the bottom screen: map, Rupee, and X/Y item placement (B seems default for the sword) are mapped here. Heart containers and Magic meter are locked to the bottom left of the top screen.

Link's controlled by the analog stick, with the D-Pad (currently) not in use. There's no 'sneak' animation when touching the stick lightly, just a slower walk. Perhaps something that'll be necessary later on.

There's no confirmation where this dungeon sits in the game - we're not even sure if it'll be in the game proper - but it's enjoyable and not too stressful. There are a few moments where we're stumped as to how to progress - which bodes well for the final product (as it feels very much like the original).

The demo ends abruptly after we take down the final boss, a massive worm creature that's a visually-tarted up version of the one we attacked the tail off in the SNES game.

This Zelda, still without a subtitle, does sit in the same time frame as A Link to the Past, but as to the how and why, we don't know - nor do we care. What really matters is that this played brilliantly, and based on this short demo, the full game can't come soon enough.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds