When I first saw announcements and screenshots for The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, I couldn’t get over that garish-looking 2D Link smeared on the walls. Now that I’ve seen the game in motion, I get it, and it changes the Zelda formula in an interesting way.
If you don’t already know, one of Link’s primary abilities this time around is to turn into a flat, 2D version of himself to move along walls. In the simplest implementation of this skill, it meant flattening against a wall to squeeze between a barred window that 3D Link couldn’t fit through. In a more complicated example, it allowed Link to stick to the side of a moving platform and reach another area of the dungeon.
The main thing that makes the mechanic feel so unique to me is how it puts an action slant on the puzzle-solving. Usually, Zelda games save the action for the sword fights and let you think about the puzzles, but the demo I played had Link navigating moving platforms and puzzle-solving on his toes in a way that almost felt closer to Mario than Zelda. Mess up the timing while flattening yourself on a wall over a bottomless pit, and you may find yourself falling to your death.
I suspect that this wall flattening move allows A Link Between Worlds to maintain some kind of consistency across its new non-linear dungeon design. With the ability to tackle dungeons in any order, it would be hard to force players to use certain items to pass, but if there’s a new trick Link always has on him, then the dungeon design can be more interesting. In a sense, the 2D Link/flattening move is almost like this game’s portal gun.
One thing Nintendo has emphasized for this new Zelda game is the 3DS’s 3D effect. The timing is a little weird, especially when I saw both the 3DS and 2DS playing the game at a NYCC demo station, but the effect is legitimate. In the dungeon I played, Link could use a hammer to break through the floor and drop down to lower levels of the dungeon. I could also use the hammer to mash giant springs that would send him flying up to higher levels. In both instances, the sense of depth as you move between floors is quite impressive. To really see the difference I rode an elevator platform up two floors in 2D and 3D, and it was like two entirely different games.
That’s not to say the game would be unplayable without the 3D. That’s not the case at all, but it is definitely a nice touch that looks really cool. The 3D effect and the top down Zelda perspective seem like they were made for each other.
If I had a concern for this new Zelda, it would be that I’m not seeing the immersive quality that makes every Zelda experience, 2D or 3D, seem so magical. That could be something that manifests itself in the final product, when story is in place and I’m free to explore, but for now, I worry that the game is a little bland. My hope is that this isn’t the New Super Mario Bros. of Zelda games, to put it bluntly.
That said, I like the more fast-paced puzzle-solving slant, the 2D flat Link mechanic has a ton of potential, and I like the 3D effects. Most of all, it’s about time we had a new, proper-feeling Zelda game on handheld platforms.
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