Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS is quietly brilliant

Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS is quietly brilliant

Nintendo did what was expected at E3, and no more. We were shown new entries in classic franchises, but there was no new bundle for the Wii U, no price drop for any hardware, and very little hints at the struggles of Nintendo's latest system in finding an audience. Still, what was shown was high quality, and it's easy to miss how good Nintendo has become at keeping its core fans happy.

I sat down for a lengthy demo of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and yes, it's very good.

One meter to rule them all

Link had his sword, a bow and arrow, and a large hammer during my time with the game, and he also had the ability to turn into a 2D drawing on the walls of the environment. This led to some interesting Paper Mario-style puzzles, and the camera does a great job of moving around the game to show off the action as you switch from 3D to 2D on the fly. It's a neat mechanic, and Nintendo has a knack for using these gimmicks to their fullest.

The other interesting twist is that you don't have to keep tracks of things like the number of arrows you have in reserve; everything you do is powered by the green energy meter on the lower right-hand corner of the screen. When you turn yourself into the drawing, the meter goes down. Use your hammer? It uses some of the magic meter. Same with firing an arrow. Think of it like a universal cooldown for all your abilities; you don't want to find yourself in a rought spot with the meter depleted, and it refills itself at a leisurely pace.

The dungeons themselves take advantage of the 3D effect with some interesting vertical design; you'll often fly up and fall down between different vertical planes, which means a single room can have multipler levels for puzzles, enemies, or other surprises.

The 3D effect itself is handled very well; Link Between Worlds is one of those games where it's comfortable, and more enjoyable, to play the game with the 3D levels cranked all the way up. The world of Hyrule benefits from the sense of depth you get in the 3DS, and it just looks right. Nintendo has its faults, but it knows how to get the most of its own hardware.

If you're not already invested in the Legend of Zelda series I doubt this is going to convince you to give it a look for the first time, but fans of the series are going to eat this up and ask for more. It's well designed, it looks beautiful, it uses the 3D well, the touch-screen helps you manage inventory, the 2D mechanic leads to puzzles that feel new and interesting for the series, and I'm going to have a hard time finding much to criticize based on what I've seen so far. It's a safe game in many ways, but so far it's a damned good one.