I'm a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda. I have been since I picked up A Link to the Past as a kid. I was pretty terrible at it then, but it wasn't long before Ocarina of Time came out, and then I was pretty much addicted. So you can imagine how much I fangirled (yes, it's now a verb) when A Link Between Worlds came out at the end of November. I beat it the week it came out. And I loved it.
But here's the thing. I'm not sure it deserves all of the praise it's getting.
Before you throw me out, remember, ALttP was the first Zelda game I ever played, and ALBW is a giant love letter to that game. The layout is almost identical, aside from the dungeons, and you travel between two realms, dark and light. Beyond that, Majora's Mask is my favorite Zelda, and there are references and Easter eggs for people like me buried all over the place. Plus the dungeons were well-laid-out, puzzling and creative.
So what's the problem?
The bulk of the praise comes from the fact that it's an open-world game, where you can beat the dungeons in pretty much any order. That, and they say it's "unabashedly difficult" or "incredibly hard." Tell that to this picture:
I do feel awesome that I never died. But I also feel like the game was far, far too easy, mostly because of the enemies, particularly the bosses. See, there was this problem when they created the open world that everyone wanted. In making sure you could beat any dungeon with only 9 hearts (I say this because I'm sure I had either 7 or 9 hearts when I got to the dark world), they made sure you could beat any dungeon with only 9 hearts. In essence, once you get to a certain point, the game never gets any harder. In fact, it only gets easier as you collect hearts and equipment.
The bosses didn't deal enough damage and weren't even interesting. Well, with the exception of the thief's hideout... which unfortunately was the first place I went. After that, it was disappointment after disappointment. More Moldorm! Right, because that wasn't already the lamest boss ever. I didn't even come close to dying after the first few minutes in Lorule.
Which brings me to the second half of the problem. The second all the items were made available, I rented them all because I had plenty of money. And I never had to give any of them back. So I had every item with me no matter where I decided to go. No going back to get the fire rod before I tackled the ice temple; nope, it was already with me. After beating a couple of dungeons, I bought the items just in case. But the game only got easier. Even the final boss was ridiculously easy. I lost what, four hearts? Six? (I admit figuring out the last trick was difficult, but only because I'd tried it before the last shot and the arrow didn't go all the way around. And I got hurt 0% while I worked through it.)
As for the story, it's kind of interesting how a lot of reviewers didn't like it that much, because I really enjoyed it. Nothing came as a surprise because I had played ALttP and I was paying attention to it, but that was part of what made it fun. I wanted to see what they would do with it, how they'd present it. And there are a lot of little, subtle things throughout, like the broom coming by itself, that people tend to forget about.
Yuga refers to 'her grace' and 'her majesty' and says he's doing it for her multiple times. And a pink bunny from the dark world? Hello, that has "This is Lorule's Link" written all over it!
In short, it's a Zelda game, and it's fun, but as for "Game of the Year" and 9.5/10s, I'll reserve those for better titles. It gets a 7.5/10 from this Zelda geek.
(PS. Between helping to run a Kickstarter for Villages, working, and taking care of my diabetic kitty--who is doing great, by the way--I've been really busy, so I apologize for my absence from the blogosphere. Hopefully things will settle after the KS is over.)