Zelda: A Link Between Worlds makes a few solid changes to a tired formula
It takes a little bit of time to get used to the rhythm of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS.
The game is played in the traditional top-down view of A Link to the Past, and you’re missing out on quite a bit of nifty graphical tricks if you decide to play the game in 2D. The game has a sense of visual depth that is interesting and often key to the play itself, and you lose a bit of that magic by playing on a 2DS or by turning off the 3D entirely.
Moving past the visuals, the game gets rid of the sort of progress we’re used to in Zelda games. You no longer proceed a path where you get a new item that allows you to explore new parts of the map in a linear fashion. Instead, a character sets up shop in your house, and allows you to rent whatever equipment you need. You’ll need to pay some rupees, of course, but just about anything you need is available from the beginning of the game.
You’re helped along when items you need soon are conveniently “on sale” so you can rent them, and each item is collected from your corpse when you die. This adds another wrinkle to the game, since death now has a very real cost in terms of rupees. You’ll also need to travel to and from your house to swap out equipment if you don’t want to pay to rent a variety of things at all times, but this is helped along by a witch-based fast travel system.
This creates a game that’s much more open, at least in the first few hours that I’ve played. You can proceed “ahead” of the game if you want, and there is a sense that exploration is a much more welcoming affair. I’m curious to see how this is handled as the game progresses, and I also can’t wait to see what speed runners are able to do with this system.
The other interesting change is the magic meter. Your magic level refills on its own, no need to refill it with potions, and your magic replaces any sort of ammunition system. If you flatten yourself to get past one of the many 2D-to-3D puzzles, you’ll be using your magic power. Firing an arrow removes a set amount of magical power, as does planting a bomb.
You don’t need to worry about how many of each thing you’re carrying, but you do need to make sure that you don’t run out of magic when you’re squished into a wall, only to suddenly turn 3D and fall to your doom. Managing your use of magic is also important during boss battles; it can be awkward to find yourself nearly out of hearts and without enough magic for any ranged attacks.
Basically, you have to worry about fewer things when you're out adventuring, and choosing what equipment to rent and take with you, and how likely you are to die and lose your investment is very important. It's also a good idea to unlock as much of the fast-travel system as you can in the early game, as this will make your life much easier.
I'll be able to share more when the embargo is up for the full review, and honestly I've played only the opening hours anyway, but for now I'm having a blast.