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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds NA cover.jpg
English-language packaging artwork, depicting the Master Sword and Link as a painting.
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Hiromasa Shikata
Producer(s) Eiji Aonuma
Programmer(s) Shiro Mouri
Composer(s) Ryo Nagamatsu
Series The Legend of Zelda
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release date(s)
  • NA November 22, 2013
  • EU November 22, 2013
  • JP December 26, 2013
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is an action-adventure game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 3DS handheld game console. It is the seventeenth installment in The Legend of Zelda series and a successor to the 1991 Super Nintendo Entertainment System title The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Announced in April 2013, A Link Between Worlds was released in Europe and North America in November 2013. A month later, the game was released in Japan under the title The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods 2 (Japanese: ゼルダの伝説 神々のトライフォース2 Hepburn: Zeruda no Densetsu: Kamigami no Toraifōsu Tsū?).

Players assume the role of a young boy named Link, who is tasked with restoring peace to the kingdom of Hyrule, after a malevolent sorcerer named Yuga captures Princess Zelda and escapes through a rift to the ruined world of Lorule. Yuga seeks to kidnap the Seven Sages and use their power to resurrect the Demon King, Ganon. Link is granted with the ability to merge onto walls as a painting after obtaining a magical bracelet and encountering Yuga. This new ability allows Link to reach previously inaccessible areas and travel between Hyrule and Lorule.

Concept development for the game began with a small team in 2009. During this phase, the unique gameplay mechanic of Link merging onto walls was prototyped. However, development suffered several setbacks with production of the game ceasing entirely in late 2010, as core team members were reassigned to different projects. A year later, development restarted and after several failed pitches to series creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, the game entered full production in 2012. Changing the established conventions of the series became a goal for the game's designers; this led to a change in the game's structure, allowing players to tackle and clear the majority of dungeons in any order they choose, and the introduction of the item rental system.

Upon release, the game received critical acclaim and sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide within five months of release. The game's audio, dungeon and puzzle design, open structure, and level of difficulty were highly praised by critics. The introduction of new features such as the wall-merging mechanics and item rental system were well received, with reviewers complimenting how well they integrated with the existing gameplay formula. The game also received multiple awards and nominations from video game and media publications.

Gameplay[edit]

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is an action-adventure game presented in stereoscopic 3D polygonal graphics, with gameplay predominantly experienced from a top-down perspective.[1] Players control a young boy named Link, who embarks on an adventure to rescue the Seven Sages and defeat Yuga, the game's primary antagonist.[2] The game is set in two kingdoms—Hyrule and Lorule—both of which bear an open world structure and similar layout, but contrast in style and tone.[1][2][3][4] A Link Between Worlds is seen as a successor to the 1991 Super Nintendo Entertainment System title The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and is similar in many aspects.[2][4][5] The worlds of Hyrule and Lorule in A Link Between Worlds are analogous to A Link to the Past's depiction of Hyrule and the Dark World.[2][4] A number of items, enemies, and audio tracks featured in A Link to the Past return in A Link Between Worlds.[4][6]

The top screen of the Nintendo 3DS displays hearts, an energy gauge, and an action icon.[7] Link's life energy decreases when he is hit by an enemy and can be replenished by collecting hearts that can be found in a variety of ways, such as defeating enemies or breaking pots.[7] The energy gauge governs item and ability usage, it depletes on use and replenishes over time.[6][7] The action icon notifies the player of interactive objects.[7] A map of the kingdoms is displayed on the bottom screen of the Nintendo 3DS, showing Link's current position and marked locations.[1][2][7] The bottom screen is also used to view and select Link's gear and items.[1]

Friendly and enemy non-player characters inhabit the two worlds.[2] Friendly characters can provide Link with assistance or side-quests to complete.[2][5] Link wields a sword and shield, which can be used to defeat enemies and deflects their attacks.[4][7] Other combat items from past Zelda games return, such as the bow, the fire rod, bombs, and more.[3][6] However, unlike previous games, the methods for obtaining and using these items is different.[4][6] Rather than finding them in dungeons, they are rented or purchased from a merchant, named Ravio.[4][5][6] Should Link fall in battle, his rented items will be returned to Ravio.[4][6] They also do not require ammunition, instead their use is limited by the replenishing energy gauge.[6][7] Link's total life energy can be increased by collecting heart pieces.[1][5] His weapons can be upgraded by completing a side quest that involves searching for small hidden creatures and returning them to their parent.[1][5] Link can also participate in several minigames to earn rupees, Hyrule's currency.[1][5]

Link's ability to merge onto walls allows the player to enter Lorule and reach previously inaccessible areas.

As with many previous The Legend of Zelda games, solving puzzles and clearing dungeons remains a fundamental part of the gameplay.[1][2][6] Progression through A Link Between Worlds is more open-ended than previous titles, with the possibility of tackling many of the game's dungeons in any order.[1][4] Certain dungeon obstacles will require the use of the rented or purchased items.[1][2][3] Towards the end of each dungeon, Link will encounter a boss that must be defeated.[6] A unique mechanic that the game introduces is Link's ability to merge onto walls and move horizontally along them.[1] Link is presented as a mural when he is merged on a wall,[2] and upon merging, the game's perspective shifts to a side view to follow Link around corners.[8] While merged to a wall, Link's energy gauge will deplete.[7] The mechanic can be used for traversing the environment, reaching seemingly inaccessible areas, and avoiding hazards. It plays a key role in solving many of the game's puzzles and dungeons.[1] Wall merging is also used as a means for travelling between Hyrule and Lorule, via fissures that connect the two kingdoms.[2]

The game makes use of the Nintendo 3DS' Play Coin and StreetPass systems.[3][9] Play Coins can be used to request a tip from Hint Ghosts that are located at points of interest.[3] If another system that has played the game is passed by via StreetPass, a shadow version of their Link will appear somewhere on the field. Players can fight against these Links, which are AI-controlled opponents based on their game's data. Winning against Shadow Links earns a rupee bounty based on their difficulty, and achievements can be earned for fulfilling certain conditions.[5][9] A more challenging Hero mode is unlocked upon completing the main adventure.[1]

Synopsis[edit]

Setting[edit]

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds takes place in a fictional fantasy setting. Within the series' timeline, A Link Between Worlds falls between the events of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening and the original title, The Legend of Zelda.[10] The game is set in the two kingdoms: Hyrule, a location used in many past Zelda games, and Lorule, a new kingdom that acts as dark twin to Hyrule.[3] A legend of Hyrule tells of the events prior to A Link Between Worlds. Ganon sought to dominate the kingdom using the power of a sacred relic, the Triforce. However, he was defeated by a legendary hero and sealed away by the Seven Sages. The Triforce was divided into three, to prevent evil from rising again. One part stayed with the royal family, one part returned to Ganon, and the third part took its rightful place in the heart of the hero and his descendants. Lorule was once a kingdom that also possessed a Triforce. However, it was destroyed in an attempt to stop Lorule's people fighting for its power. Without a Triforce, Lorule decayed and became a ruined land. In A Link Between Worlds, Hyrule is ruled by Princess Zelda, while Lorule is ruled by her counterpart, Hilda.

Plot[edit]

Link, who is the apprentice of a blacksmith, goes to deliver a sword to a captain at Hyrule Castle, only to encounter a mysterious figure named Yuga, who transforms a descendant of a Sage, Seres, into a painting. After being knocked out during the fight, Link is found by a merchant named Ravio, who gives him a bracelet in exchange for being allowed to stay in his home, and tells him to report what had happened to Princess Zelda. After going to Hyrule Castle, Zelda gives Link the Pendant of Courage and instructs him to seek out the pendants of Power and Wisdom in order to gain the power of the Master Sword. Along the way, Link encounters Yuga again and is turned into a painting himself. However, thanks to Ravio's bracelet, Link is protected from Yuga's spell and gains the ability to merge with walls and move around as a painting. After finding the other pendants and obtaining the Master Sword, Link returns to Hyrule Castle where he witnesses Yuga transform Zelda into a painting. Link pursues Yuga through a dimensional crack, arriving in the twisted decaying kingdom of Lorule. There, Yuga uses Zelda and the descendants of the Seven Sages, who he had all trapped inside paintings, to revive Ganon and fuse with him, obtaining the Triforce of Power in the process. Just then, Link is assisted by Princess Hilda, the ruler of Lorule, who traps Yuga in magic bonds.

Hilda instructs Link to find and rescue the Seven Sages, who have been scattered across her kingdom, in order to gain the Triforce of Courage. With help from Ravio's services, Link accomplishes this and returns to Lorule Castle, where he discovers Hilda taking the Triforce of Wisdom from Zelda. Hilda reveals that Lorule fell into ruin after her ancestors destroyed their own Triforce. Deciding that in order to restore her kingdom back to its former glory, she needs Hyrule's Triforce, arranging everything so that Link would bring it to her. Hilda attempts to use Yuga to obtain the Triforce of Courage from Link, but Yuga betrays her and turns her into a painting, stealing the Triforce of Wisdom for himself. With Zelda's help, Link manages to defeat Yuga. He then restores Zelda and Hilda from their paintings. As Hilda feels bitter over her loss, Ravio, who is revealed to be Link's counterpart, convinces her that stealing Hyrule's Triforce isn't the right way to save Lorule, having secretly sought out Link to help her see the light. After Link and Zelda return to Hyrule, they use the power of their Triforce to restore Lorule's Triforce and bring Lorule back to its full glory. With his quest completed, Link returns the Master Sword to its resting place once more.

Development[edit]

Concept and production[edit]

In late 2009, following the completion of The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS, the majority of its development team were immediately assigned to work on The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Wii.[11] However, three members of the Spirit Tracks team began working on a new handheld title in the Zelda series for the upcoming Nintendo 3DS console.[11] Hiromasa Shikata and Shiro Mouri were two of the three members working on the new game.[11] During this early phase, they had not considered developing a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past; instead they were building a game around the theme of "communication".[11] Around six months into the project, they presented their concept for the game to series creator Shigeru Miyamoto.[11] It was poorly received, with Miyamoto calling the idea outdated.[11] So, the team of three decided to rethink the concept of the game from the very beginning.[11]

At this point, Shikata proposed the idea of Link being able to enter and merge onto walls; this feature would eventually become one of the title's unique gameplay aspects.[11] Within a day, Mouri had created an initial prototype to demonstrate the feature, and seeing it in action led to an influx of ideas.[12] Link was able to transform from a 3D character to a 2D character by entering walls, and then move smoothly around corners to reach places he previously could not.[12] This ability opened up possibilities for creating new puzzles and using new mechanics.[12] At this stage in the project, they were still considering the new game to be an extension of Zelda games on the Nintendo DS, so the prototype itself used the same viewpoint and design of Link from Spirit Tracks.[12] Around October 2010, the prototype was presented to Miyamoto, who approved of the new concept and was happy for development to begin.[12] However, within two weeks of entering production, core members of the development team were reassigned to work on launch games for Nintendo's Wii U console which was scheduled for release in 2012.[12] With the team disbanded, development of the game ceased.[12]

In November 2011, Skyward Sword released for the Wii, and Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma began thinking about the next project in the series.[13] While Nintendo had released a remake of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 3DS, demand for a new and original Zelda title to be released on the 3DS was growing.[13] Aonuma chose to revisit the idea of Link entering walls, as it had already been prototyped.[13] With Shikata and Mouri still engaged in the development of Wii U launch games, Aonuma decided to revive the project without its core members, thirteen months after it had been initially shelved.[13] Kentaro Tominaga was brought onto the team to continue where Shikata had left off.[13] He refined the system of entering walls and designed some small dungeons, which he presented to Miyamoto in May 2012.[13] Tominaga planned to create fifty more small dungeons that would utilise the wall-entering mechanic, however Miyamoto criticised this approach and instead suggested basing the new game on A Link to the Past.[13] Aonuma then proposed combining the wall-entering mechanic with the top-down perspective and landforms of A Link to the Past. He felt that the shift in perspective when entering a wall would be complimented by the stereoscopic 3D capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS.[13] Aonuma converted the two-dimensional landforms of A Link to the Past into three-dimensional space and then the team placed Link into the setting with the wall-entering mechanic to test the feature.[13] After several more presentations to Miyamoto, development of the project was finally allowed to progress in July 2012.[13] The development team began expanding before the end of 2012, with people joining from other finished projects; Shikata rejoined as director and Mouri returned as assistant director and lead programmer.[11][13][14] Development of the game was completed in October 2013.[15]

Technical and design[edit]

Delay issues aside, the development team encountered further challenges in the creation of the game. Implementing the top-down perspective became a particular issue and resulted in a lot of trial and error.[16] With a true top-down view, players would be unable to see characters' faces and bodies.[16] To circumvent this issue, objects in the world were tilted at an angle so that they were more visible in the top-down view.[16] Mouri requested that the game run at sixty frames per second instead of thirty to stabilise the stereoscopic 3D and smoothen movement animations.[16] While doubling the frame rate increased the processing load, it allowed the developers to implement a feature where players could select items by dragging and dropping them from their inventory using the Nintendo 3DS's touchscreen and stylus; at thirty frames per second this feature felt too sluggish for the stylus's movement.[16]

Rethinking the conventions of a Zelda game became an important theme as development progressed.[17] In previous Zelda games, the player would go into a dungeon, obtain a new item, and then move onto the next dungeon in a specific order.[17] The development team felt that this formula was flawed as a player could get stuck on a dungeon and would be unable to progress further in the game.[17] They wanted to give the player more freedom in the ways they could advance through the game, allowing them to tackle dungeons in any order and clear multiple dungeons in parallel, but this meant that the method for acquiring items had to be changed.[17][18] They opted for a system where players could rent or purchase items using the game's currency, rupees.[17] In the final game, rented items are returned to the merchant when the player is defeated, however the team had considered other ideas for returning rented items, such as setting a timer on the rental period and imposing fees if they were returned late.[18] The development team found out about the existence of the Nintendo 2DS console during the game's production. As the Nintendo 2DS lacked 3D capabilities, the team decided to revise some of the game's dungeon designs to be certain that they could be completed without the 3D effect enabled.[19]

The designers thought that Link's appearance should change when Link entered a wall and the perspective switched from a top-down view to side view.[14] They chose to make Link a mural while he was on a wall; this led to the creation of Yuga, the game antagonist, a sorcerer that can transform himself and others into paintings.[14] Aonuma mentioned that the idea of Link turning into a mural was inspired by Phantom Ganon jumping into paintings during his encounter in Ocarina of Time.[20] As the game's story takes place long after the events of a A Link to the Past and the player travels between the two worlds of Hyrule and Lorule, the development team chose A Link Between Worlds instead of A Link to the Past 2 for the game's English-language title.[17]

Audio[edit]

A Link Between Worlds features original music along with tracks from A Link to the Past. Ryo Nagamatsu composed and orchestrated new music for A Link Between Worlds, and played the flute music featured in the game's milk bar. He also composed arrangements and adapted Koji Kondo's original music from A Link to the Past.[21] Nagamatsu wanted to balance arrangements of past music with completely new music to please both old and new players. He began by revisiting old tracks and thinking how he could best adapt them for A Link Between Worlds soundtrack. He was eager to include choral performances as a way to add tension to the eerie and unpleasant scenes in the game. Nagamatsu performed the vocals and made use of multitrack recording to layer the different vocals tracks.[22] The audio team decided not use a live orchestra for recording the game's music, the primary reason for this was to create optimal sound for the Nintendo 3DS. The reverberations and low-pitch sounds created by a live orchestra were not suitable for the Nintendo 3DS speakers. The majority of the string music was created using a synthesizer, with Toru Minegishi playing guitar on one track.[21]

Release[edit]

In April 2013, during a Nintendo Direct presentation, a new The Legend of Zelda game was announced for the Nintendo 3DS with a release date scheduled for late 2013.[23] The game was described by Nintendo as a successor to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System title, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, set within the same game world but featuring new mechanics, new dungeons, and an original story.[23] Shortly after the presentation, Nintendo released a gameplay video on the Nintendo eShop.[23] Later in June, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013, the English title for the game was revealed as The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.[24] In Japan, the game was titled The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods 2.[17] At the Seattle showing of "The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses Second Quest" concert tour in 2013, A Link Between Worlds was playable along with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD.[25]

A Link Between Worlds released in Europe and North America on November 22, 2013, and later in Japan on December 26, 2013.[26] The European version of the game contained a reversible cover sleeve; the inside cover featuring multicoloured art and the outside cover featuring the golden-hued version.[27] Alongside the game's launch, Nintendo released a bundle including a copy of the game and a themed Nintendo 3DS XL with the Triforce logo on.[28] In 2015, A Link Between Worlds was re-released under the Nintendo Selects label, along with five other Nintendo 3DS titles.[29] In early 2015, Nintendo released the original soundtrack for A Link Between Worlds on CD in Europe via Club Nintendo.[30] Music from the soundtrack was included in the 2015 concert tour "The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses Master Quest".[31]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 91/100[32]
Review scores
Publication Score
Game Informer 10/10[6]
GameSpot 9/10[2]
GamesRadar 4.5/5 stars[5]
IGN 9.4/10[3]
Nintendo Life 10/10[1]
Polygon 9.5/10[4]

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds received critical acclaim upon release. Aggregate review website Metacritic assigned a score of 91 out of 100 based on reviews from 81 critics,[32] making it the second highest scoring Nintendo 3DS game in 2013, falling just behind Fire Emblem Awakening.[33] It is also the fourth highest scoring Nintendo 3DS game of all time on Metacritic.[34] Sales tracker Media Create reported that A Link Between Worlds was the top selling video game during its first week of launch in Japan, surpassing 224,000 sales.[35] As of March 31, 2014, A Link Between Worlds has sold 2.51 million copies worldwide.[36] It became the ninth first-party Nintendo 3DS title to surpass 1 million units sold in the United States, achieving 1.09 million sales as of August 2014.[37]

Many critics saw A Link Between Worlds as a worthy successor to A Link to the Past, but also remarked that the game was outstanding in its own right.[2][3][5][6] The game was commended for making enhancements to core and traditional elements of the series.[1][6] New additions and changes to the established formula were also welcomed.[6] Polygon reviewer Arthur Gies called it the best Zelda game in past twenty years,[4] and GamesRadar writer Lorenzo Veloria said that it was essential title for every Nintendo 3DS owner.[5] Reception towards the game's puzzles was overwhelming positive; praise was directed towards how well the wall-merging mechanic had been incorporated into dungeon puzzles and integrated into every area of the game.[2][6] Keza MacDonald of IGN thought A Link Between Worlds was the best puzzle game that Nintendo had ever created.[3] Game Informer writer Dan Ryckert noted that some of the game's dungeons and boss encounters were among the best in the franchise's history.[6] The level of difficulty present in the puzzles and dungeons was met with approval;[2][3][6] the challenge was described as a perplexing experience rather than a frustrating one by GameSpot editor Martin Gaston.[2]

Discussing the usage of A Link to the Past's version of Hyrule in A Link Between Worlds, Veloria thought that while revisiting familiar places was a nostalgic experience, the mystery of exploring new areas was absent and having to retread the same game world again was "somewhat unsatisfying".[5] Gaston called the loose structure and openness of the game a "revelatory change", and was glad to see that some restrictions in previous Zelda titles were not present in A Link Between Worlds.[2] The introduction of the item rental system was well received, with many reviewers pointing out that the system granted players with more freedom.[2][4][5][6] Ryckert loved having items available from the beginning, says that it allowed him to experiment in combat.[6] Both MacDonald and Gies agreed that losing rented items upon defeat added another layer of challenge and consequence to the game.[3][4] Nintendo Life reviewer, Martin Watts found that streamlining the item system allowed the game to place a greater emphasis aspects such as exploration, solving puzzles and boss fights.[1] However, Veloria expressed that not being able to find key items in dungeons was a drawback of the system.[5]

Reviewers agreed that A Link Between Worlds excelled at making use of the console's 3D capabilities.[2][3][5] However, the game's art direction was divisive among critics,[2][3] with some writers expressing dislike for the graphics,[38] and others calling the visuals gorgeous.[6] The game's music composition was complimented; Ryckert called the game's soundtrack one of the best in gaming,[6] and Veloria though it was some of the best in the series, praising both the new compositions and the adapted renditions music from A Link to the Past.[5]

List of awards and nominations
Award Category Result Ref.
14th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards Best Design Nominated [39]
Best Handheld/Mobile Game Won
17th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards Adventure Game of the Year Nominated [40]
Game of the Year Nominated
Handheld Game of the Year Won
The Daily Telegraph's Video Game Awards 2013 Best level design Nominated [41]
EGM's Best of 2013 Best Game Third [42]
Best of 2013: Reader’s Choice Fourth [43]
Famitsu Awards 2013 Excellence Award Won [44]
Game Informer's Best of 2013 Awards Best 3DS Exclusive Won [45]
GameSpot's Game of the Year 2013 Awards 3DS Game of the Year Won [46]
Overall Game of the Year Won [47]
Giant Bomb's 2013 Game of the Year Awards Best Game Second [48]
Best Music Won [49]
The Guardian's Top 25 video games of 2013 Best Game Sixth [50]
IGN's Best of 2013 Best 3DS Action-Adventure Game Won [51]
Best 3DS Game Won [52]
Best 3DS Music Won [53]
Best 3DS Story Nominated [54]
Best Overall Action-Adventure Game Nominated [55]
Best Overall Game Nominated [56]
Best Overall Music Won [57]
Nintendo Life's Staff Awards 2013 3DS Retail First-Party Game of the Year Won [58]
Overall 3DS Game of the Year Won
Overall Game of the Year – Wii U and 3DS Second
Official Nintendo Magazine's Awards 2013 3DS Game of the Year Won [59]
Best Audio Won [60]
Polygon's Games of the Year 2013 Best Game Second [61]
Spike's VGX 2013 Best Handheld Game Won [62]

References[edit]

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