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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds review

Finding something bad to say is the greatest challenge of all

Once a Zelda fan, always a Zelda fan. Perhaps it's because Shigeru Miyamoto's original character design and premise was so strong an idea. Perhaps it's because, ultimately, as apparently evil as society gets, the majority of us want to believe that good will always overcome bad in the end. Or perhaps it's just because Nintendo never fails to inject just enough originality into each new game to keep us buzzing with unadulterated adventuring glee.

Let's face it, any game that can have us baying for more despite making us complete the same old tasks time and time again must be doing something right. "What's that? We need to find a sword, then find a shield, then visit some murky dungeons in order to save the princess and the world? Heart Containers, you say? No, thanks!"

These are words that you'll almost certainly never hear and that's because the series is constantly edged forwards with new ideas and new mechanics breathing new life into the same old Hyrule. In recent years full 3D worlds have transformed the home console iterations into epic battles of good versus evil on a par with the likes of The Lord Of The Rings films, but that doesn't mean the handheld offerings need to fall behind. There's an insular, almost constrained feel to the 2D adventures that could never be translated into full-blown 3D... until now.

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Pop-Up Hyrule

What do you do if you want to keep the look and feel of the timeless Super Nintendo classic, LTTP (The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past) but drag it Hookshot, fishing line and sink-hole into the 21st Century? If you're Nintendo, you recreate that same Hyrule in three dimensions, but stick with the bird's eye view, which sounds simple when you explain it in a sentence. That could've been done years ago, surely?

Recent insights into the development of ALBW (The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds) are fascinating, with Aonuma explaining the difficulties of getting the SNES's 2D map to look right in 3D. You wouldn't know it from looking at the game, of course. Apart from the occasional glimpse of a sloping, real-world rupee as you sidle by in the brand new, isometric Merge mode, Hyrule is utterly convincing and mesmerising in equal measure.

The team has gone to great pains to make sure that this game looks and feels just like its SNES cousin, but it's only when you stop and think about it that you realise what a task this must have been. As with any great game, though, it doesn't matter: the world is absolutely solid in its creation and the nostalgia that oozes from every pore is a direct result. Gamers who have never experienced LTTP's charms are in for a sumptuous gateau of a treat. Discovering this particular Hyrule for the first time must be an added bonus but, by the same token, fans of the SNES classic will be giggling like toddlers at every little cherry of a reference to that bygone relic.

The simple farm-town charms and mini-game respites of Kakariko Village. The gurgling ineptitude of the Zoran folk. The inability of anyone but you to claim multiple Heart Container upgrades that have quite possibly been sat there for decades. Could nobody just buy a ladder? Who put them there in the first place? Were they placed, or do they just grow of their own accord? These are the questions that I would (if I could) ask the Great Fairy, rather than just splish-sploshing in her luminescent paddling pool and enslaving her mini-me subjects.

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