THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS. I do my best not to ruin key points for anyone, but there are some things that I will discuss that may be considered “spoiler-ish”, so this is my warning to you.
Too often have I said that revamps and remakes of great classics have come up short. My opinion on ALBW couldn’t be more opposite. I couldn’t put my 3DS for four days, and I managed to beat Ganon two days ago. Yes, my Christmas wish was to save Hyrule.
Just like Link to the Past, you take control of Link, a seemingly innocent and average young man that is destined to wake up late to work every day for the rest of his life. However, in ALBW, there is no uncle that charges into Hyrule Castle to save Princess Zelda. In fact, the house you wake up in is yours, you have a friend named Gulley and you work for his father, the Blacksmith.
The foundation for a story has been set. While A Link to the Past did have its own story, it did seem to lack substance. It thrust you into the role of hero very early on and suddenly, you were on your adventure to save the kingdom. ALBW did that in a much more subtle manner. It grounded you first before you came to everyone’s rescue.
Gulley wakes you up because you tended to sleep in on your work days, and you both rush to the Blacksmith’s shop. The captain of Hyrule’s guard forgets his sword at the shop and you are tasked with tracking him down and giving it back to him. You end up in the Sanctuary (ALttP players will recognize this structure very well) and you run into one of the main villains of the game. Yuga, who we assume replaces the Wizard character from ALttP, kidnaps a woman named Seres by turning her into a painting and takes her away.When I saw Yuga, I immediately thought of Kefka from FFVI. Yuga explains early on that he wants to remake the world into his own image, a place of a destructive beauty.
You can guess what happens next. He goes after Zelda. Here, I will stop explaining the main story arc and talk about the main similarities and differences between the two games. One of the biggest differences is your interaction with the NPCs. I loved that you could talk to them and get a better feel of the world. When you enter Hyrule Castle, you learn of Hyrule’s history and of a prophecy that a hero will emerge, conquer evil, and save the kingdom. You even get to interact a little bit with the witch that brews your health potions and the sea queen that gives you flippers so you can swim.
Just like ALttP, you are must acquire the three Pendants of Virtue, the Master Sword and save the seven victims who were kidnapped and sent to various locations in the dark world. In ALBW, the dark world is called Lorule. There you meet Princess Hilda who saves you from Yuga. She is a dark version of Zelda.
At this point in the game, you are not strong enough to take him on. There is no large Pyramid that you have to break into in order to fight Ganon. The iconic Pyramid is actually not needed at all thanks to the brilliant writing in ALBW.
Each of the seven people you save in Lorule has a background, they have personalities and they each directly influence you in some way. This is something we never saw or experienced in ALttP. We saw seven women being kidnapped and we knew we had to save them. That’s it. With ALBW, you interact with each person before they are kidnapped by Yuga, so you have more of a reason to want to save them other than obligatory hero objectives.
Another huge difference is a new character named Ravio. While you are adventuring between Hyruleand Lorule, Ravio sets up a shop in your house. This is where you can rentor buy items needed to progress in the game such as the ice/fire rods, bombs, the boomerang etc… Everything you need will be in your house. However, items such as the shield and Power Glove, you will have to find elsewhere, but I don’t want to spoil much for you lovely people.
How you are transported between Hyrule and Lorule is quite different as well. At one point in the game, Yuga turns you into a painting. You manage to escape but you find that you are capable of merging into walls and traveling along them. This simple technique/power opens up unique gameplay in ALBW. You need to find cracks and crevices in both kingdoms in order to reach certain areas. Dungeons have also been revamped to accommodate this new skill. Some dungeons and bosses are very similar and others are a brand new experience.
Overall, ALBW is an excellent remake of the 1991 classic RPG. There is a such a fantastic balance of old and new, giving the player feelings of nostalgia and surprise. The main story arc is beautiful (I even cried at the end), and the music is so reminiscent. I didn’t think it was possible, but I stand by my opinion that A Link Between Worlds surpasses A Link to the Past. However, it could not have been done without a strong foundation to build upon.
If you haven’t played either of these wonderful games, please do so. They are special gems that will stand out in every game library.