9 years ago, the most underrated Zelda game redefined the entire franchise

There are a few franchises as storied and prolific as The Legend of Zelda, and that kind of legacy tends to breed a sense of complacency in video games. In other words, popular game series tend to lack innovation. It’s the whole “don’t fix something that ain’t broke” mantra. While Breath of the Wild gets most of the credit for redefining the Zelda formula, it actually owes a lot to another entry that came out four years earlier and doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds not only does it serve as a sequel to one of the greatest adventure games of all time, but it also significantly revisits what makes Zelda games stand out.

A link between worlds was released on the Nintendo 3DS in November 2013 and the story takes place in the same version of Hyrule as A link to the past but many years later. At first glance, it seems like a much simpler Zelda story, with Link as a blacksmith’s apprentice. After traveling to Hyrule Castle with a delivery, Link meets a wizard named Yuga, who transforms him into a 2D painting, introducing the game’s main gimmick.

A link between the world The unique 2D -Link trick makes great use of the 3D features of Nintendo’s handheld.Nintendo

After that first encounter with Yuga, however, A link between worlds it really starts to show its unique qualities. A mysterious merchant named Ravio helps Link transform back into his 3D self and opens a shop where you can “rent” all the different gear Link uses, such as the Hookshot, Fire Rod, etc.

At this point the game opens wide with the realization that you can tackle the dungeons in any order you want. Yes, there is technically a “proper” series, but this was the first Zelda game that really gave players complete freedom in how they tackled dungeons and objectives. In a way, this foreshadows the ultimate freedom it provides Breath of the Wildbut A link between worlds layers on another brilliant system asking you to rent items.

If you’re defeated in a dungeon, you’ll return to Ravio’s shop and have to return your rental time, meaning you’ll have to pay the required number of rupees to get it back. This creates an exciting risk reward system that other Zelda games simply don’t have. Rupees are suddenly incredibly valuable for the core experience, not just buying consumables. Now you have to judge the order in which you want to get equipment, as you won’t have enough rupees to get everything at once.

A link between worlds it has a fantastic dungeon design that allows you to tackle things in any order, with various pieces of equipment.Nintendo

This level of freedom fundamentally changes the way you approach the Zelda formula and makes each player’s journey through the game more personalized, which again is something Breath of the Wild it would take even longer.

While his game innovations A link between worlds are enough to stand on their own, the game should also be praised for the excellent perspective it provides on Zelda’s narrative structure. Like A link to the pastthis game has you traveling between the Light World and the Dark World and at first, the story seems like it’s another typical case of Ganon out to destroy the world.

Eventually, Link meets Hilda, the Dark World counterpart of Princess Zelda, and while Hilda aids in your quest, the game’s ending reveals a shocking secret. The Dark World was once a kingdom just like Hyrule, but the desire for the power of the Triforce led the world to destruction. At that point, it was decided that the Triforce would be completely destroyed to save the kingdom, which only ended up leading it to further destruction. Driven to the brink of despair, Hilda concocted a plan with Yuga, controlling Ganon to infiltrate the kingdom of Hyrule and steal their Triforce.

One of his greatest hits A link between worlds it’s how it brings new context to the characters of both Link and Zelda.Nintendo

From there it is revealed that Ravio is actually the Dark Word’s version of Link, a fallen hero who cannot save his own kingdom and must recruit his Light World counterpart to do the job for him. This unique twist brings an exciting new element to the mythos of both Link and Zelda, painting them not as mythical heroes, but as fragile people who can just as easily fall into weakness and villainy when driven into a corner. Ravio is a boisterous and quirky character, but his true brilliance lies in providing our first fully voiced Link without the players even knowing.

A link between worlds is easily one of the most accessible Zelda games for newcomers, but that’s entirely down to how it redefines the formula of the series in general, both narratively and mechanically. This realization doesn’t kick in until you’ve played the entire experience, which could be why the game doesn’t seem to have the same legacy as other entries. Nine years later, however, it’s easier to see just how groundbreaking A link between worlds it really was, and it’s one of those rare titles that only seems to get better with age.

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