There are many reasons to be thankful for writing about games, but today ranks among the uppermost of them. Today, I got to play an early version of the upcoming 3DS Link to the Past sequel. Also, I got a free apple. It was a red one. It was really delicious. A Gala maybe? They'd taken the sticker off. Full disclosure and that. Anyway.
My time with the game involved playing though a single, unnamed dungeon. If you've seen the trailer, you'll have seen bits of it already - that's a shot of it above. But before you realise quite where you are or what's going on, you notice that 3D effect Mr. Shibata was talking about yesterday.
Taking up a familiar position above Link, pushing the right slider up really does reveal the depth to a room, helping you plan where to move next (the answer was always "up") as much as it helps activate the simple "that is cool" sensors in your brain. It could even end up helping you solve puzzles - at around the 8th floor, you end up on a ledge outside, revealing not only the fact that this dungeon seems to be some sort of desert cloud-fortress affair, but that there was a hidden chest on a balcony I'd failed to see a few floors below.
We can see some pretty upsettingly fiendish multi-floor puzzling turning up later on, but for now it was a case of us moving up and knocking the assorted enemies down. Those enemies included Stalfos, Crows, Terrorpins, Flying Tiles, and Blue Hardhat Beetles (whose habit of bouncing you away and down holes when you hit them was particularly irritating). The boss, located on the 13th floor, was a variation on Moldorm, who now looks like a succession of hamburgers with a huge, vulnerable ruby dragging along after them. Our weapons comprised the traditional sword, hammer and bow combo, the latter two of which were governed by Link to the Past's green power gauge.
There was one other gauge-linked ability too - the ability to turn into a sort of chalky wall drawing, changing both how you see the levels and how you move around them. Called Merging, it's activated by pressing A against any flat surface, leading to not only some cool traversal (sliding through a barred window like that watery dude from X-Men, for instance) but some moments of action-puzzling too, as moving platforms slide under jutting castle crenelations.
It's a genuinely interesting little mechanic that forces you to think about your top-down view in new ways. The camera was perhaps a little too zoomed-in to make some moments when you should be using it apparent, but that just forced me into looking around my surroundings in more detail - not such a bad thing, really.
Of course, being contained within a single dungeon, it's impossible to tell how Zelda's traditional item-based progression might affect the game, or indeed how much more is going to turn up in Link's arsenal along the way, but the glimpse we got was enough to tell us that there are some new ideas being injected into the old formula - there's every chance this could turn out feeling just as new as the game its drawing from originally did.