Monday, November 4, 2013

NYCC 2013: Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

For four days, people came to the Javits Center in New York City to experience one of the largest conventions on the east coast: New York Comic Con 2013!  Fans of comics, movies, television shows, and toys came together to revel in their hobbies, and with them came video game companies to show off their wares for the upcoming holiday season and beyond.  We here at 3RM attended a few of those days, and we have impressions and video to provide from our experience!




Nintendo’s booth at New York Comic Con had not one but two Zelda titles on display. While one of them was on the Wii U (Wind Waker HD), the other title was on the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS – The Legend of Zelda - A Link Between Worlds. This adventure takes place within the same Hyrule as A Link to the Past, some far time later, but the game also brings Link into a new world, a dark kingdom known as Lorule.  I fought the crowds to get a complete playthrough of the demo Nintendo had available, and I walked away wanting to play so much more.

A Link Between Worlds played like the earlier overhead Zelda titles, with a clear focus on the mechanics of A Link to the Past. Unlike the past DS handheld Zeldas, this game played entirely with the circle pad and face buttons, the touch screen being used to select items and survey maps. While playing, it felt like Link moved and attacked faster than in previous games, which made the game feel smoother and allowed for less down time and more action! Besides Link’s trusty sword - a formidable weapon that could shoot energy at full health - the demo also equipped him with bombs, bow, hammer, and the fire rod. These items worked similar to how they did in the past, except for the fire rod which would create a tower of fire in front of Link instead of just a blast of flame. A significant change to the items in this game is the lack of ammo; instead, they use energy from Link’s energy bar. While this bar did replenish on its own, using the items too quickly would leave Link without magic to use these items. Another use for the magic bar was for the game’s new major mechanic – turning into a mural within the wall and being able to walk alongside it. This was important to use in order to reach hidden items in the overworld as well as complete the demo’s dungeon.

The demo had two starting points, outside Link's house and at the entrance of the demo dungeon.  The overworld area was closed off except for one path leading me toward the Eastern Palace, which was the first full dungeon in LTTP. This area immediately made references to LTTP with its grassy trails, stone statues, and hills of varying heights.  I also encountered various enemies taken from A Link to the Past such as knights, rock-spitting Octoroks, and Armos statues. Luckily, Link was well-equipped to deal with these enemies. Beyond the nostalgia, the demo did have a new environmental layout and more puzzles throughout the overworld. Exploring Hyrule, I found a number of switches which I could hit from afar in order to unlock rupee-filled chests. Also by using the wall-merge ability, I was able to find a few heart pieces that were on top of high ledges or within an otherwise-inaccessible alcove. The use of this ability completely changed how I approached the world, switching perspective from 2D overhead to 3D within the environment. Venturing through the classic overworld with this new power may lead to some unique discoveries.

After navigating the ruins, taking out Armos after Armos, I found my way into the temple. Surprisingly, when I entered the Eastern Palace, I found myself in a different dungeon – The Tower of Hera. Much like the dungeon in LTTP, this dungeon was an extremely tall structure requiring me to scale floor after floor in order to reach the temple boss – Moldorm, right where he was on the SNES. Where A Link Between Worlds differed from the past title was the use of the hammer, which originally did not show until later. Besides using the hammer to kill the dungeon’s tortoise enemies, Link had to use his hammer on strange smiling springs that would launch him upward to a higher ledge or even onto the floor above. As I moved higher into the tower, Link had to be careful of bumpers and beetles as they could just as easily push Link back down a number of floors, all seen far below.  Looking down the floors was important, as sometimes I actually needed to fall down to grab a key hidden below.

I also had to make use of Link’s new wall-merge ability in order to move further into the dungeon. At one point, I had to use that power to squeeze Link through metal bars in the window and continue climbing the tower from the outside! Even outside, I had to use the power to stick to rising blocks in order to reach higher floors and avoid falling into the abyss below.

Unlike Zelda games of old, there wasn’t an item to find here, but I did find the usuals – the map, the compass, and the boss key. Instead of finding a new powerful item, I found most chests were loaded with rupees, which are significant since Link needs to rent or purchase important items from Ravio’s shop; while not in the demo, Ravio is very important to the main game, acting as the game's lead shopkeep and inventory specialist. In the final game, Ravio requests that Link either purchase items at steep prices or rent the items until he falls, and note that as a more classic-style Zelda, losing all your hearts is not as difficult as you might think!

Working my way to the top of the tower, I found Moldorm moving atop a grated platform. For the most part, the fight was reminiscent to the first time I fought him in LTTP, except now it more quickly retracts its tail whenever it is hit. While fighting him, a thought popped into my head. Most Zelda bosses use the item of that dungeon to fight the boss, so on a whim I used the hammer. To my surprise, Moldorm stopped in his tracks for a brief moment before moving again. Using the hammer, I was able paralyze him and reach his weak spot with greater ease as well as prevent him from colliding against me. Thanks to this, I was able to defeat the boss, collect the heart container, and end the demo. I look forward for more changes in strategy like this in the final game!

While I enjoyed watching the trailers of the game, seeing it in motion was remarkable. The game ran at a perfect 60-frames per second even with the 3D turned all the way up. The framerate along with the characters' increased movement speed made A Link Between Worlds a very action packed experience that did not waste time getting things accomplished. As for the 3D, it actually helped me figure out which level Link was currently on. I felt that the depth created by the 3D visuals in the Tower of Hera created some of the best use of 3D in a long time. Other effects such as the fire rod’s fire tower or deflected Stalfos bones were all improved with the 3D display turned on. Even though the game ran smoothly and had cool effects, some of the characters and environments were lacking in detail, especially when compared the other 3DS Zelda, The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time 3D. It is possible that the lower details help make the game run smoother, which I enjoyed. As for music, the parts I played were made of amazing remixes from the old LTTP soundtrack. Hopefully, a similar effort will be made on new songs in the game.

The Legend of Zelda - A Link Between Worlds used nostalgia to pull me in, and once I was playing I found a bunch of new content and challenges to surprise me, especially thanks to the game’s new wall-merge mechanic. While the graphics might not be as advanced as other titles, it ran really clean and quick, and it even managed to do this with the 3D turned all the way up. This is one of a few games that I will be playing with 3D turned all the way up in order to fully experience its multi-layered aesthetic. A unique mix or new and old, I look forward to this game when it comes out November 22nd.

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