In 1992 a seismic game was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past,” an action role-playing game, was groundbreaking for its time, with a huge open world, great combat and beautiful graphics.
So Nintendo’s announcement last year that its newest Zelda game for the Nintendo 3DS would revisit the 1992 classic in “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” was met with great anticipation. But does it deliver, or is it merely a nostalgia trip?
FoxNews.com sat down for an exclusive interview with Eiji Aonuma -- the longtime producer of the Zelda series and of “A Link Between Worlds” -- and asked if he was worried that retreading old territory might be dull for gamers who had played “A Link to the Past.”
“It is the same world but it is also a completely different story. You come in at a different point, and it goes off in a different direction,” Aonuma said. “But with the expansion of the play mechanics and the different story, I felt that this would still be an interesting world for people to explore, even if they have explored it before.”
The story does manage to set itself apart from the original. Set generations after “Link to the Past,” villain Yuga is magically turning sages and princesses all over mythical Hyrule into paintings as part of his evil scheme to resurrect ominous bad guy Ganon.
The nameless protagonist known as Link gets caught up in the battle to stop Yuga and discovers he has the ability to move in and out of walls as a painting. Discovering the alternate dark world of Lorule in the process of exploring this power, he must rescue the sages and Princess Zelda from their artistic prisons and stop Yuga and Ganon from their evil deeds.
Link’s ability to move in and out of walls as a painting is key, and the mechanic works well, offering a new sense of freedom to the world and the many dungeons that you explore. It also makes for some excellent puzzles that will have even long-time gamers chewing on their stylus.
That’s not to say that “A Link Between Worlds” doesn’t feel limited at times. It is still fundamentally the same world, and while it can be a nostalgic trip to experience the old places all over again, it can still give off a feeling of retreading old ground if you’ve played the original.
The graphics are an improved version of the 16-bit graphics featured in the original. They’re colorful, and the 3D helps, but its not the game’s strong point.
At the same time I was surprised by how much originality is present in this sequel. Although it takes place in the same world, there is a lot new here, and some of that comes down to Aonuma’s attitude to remaking the world.
“I definitely enjoyed 'Link to the Past' when I played it. But there were parts of the game that were very difficult and made me suffer, and I suffered through them along with other people, too,” Aonuma told FoxNews.com. “So that left me with a feeling, when I approached 'Link Between Worlds,' that there were a lot of things I wanted to change and expand.”
Change and expand he has. In addition to the wall merge mechanic, there is a host of new, varied dungeons that are much better than the original repetitive ones, a quick-travel system via a grumpy witch and a rental system that allows players to rent whatever equipment they need.
The latter means that dungeons can also be played in any order, giving the game a greater freedom than the original.
So, while on the face of it, “A Link Between Worlds” may seem like little more than a rehash, the truth is far different, with a game that is packed with originality and has plenty of surprises up its sleeve. Aonuma said a lot of the mechanics introduced in this game may be seen again in future Zelda titles, and it is not hard to see why. All the features combine to open up a fairly limited world into a much freer-moving place to roam.
“The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” is a game that pays homage to the 1992 original without getting stuck in nostalgia. It takes the old formula and brushes it up enough that it is still an exceptional title in 2013. Although it may be graphically unimpressive, the map can still be limiting and a few features here and there seem like they belong in the ’90s, the game captures the charm of the original and offers a Hyrule that fans of the original and newcomers alike will love exploring.