The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review by DDJ
- Written by Detroit DJ
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Game: An action-adventure game set in Hyrule and its parallel kingdom, Lorule.
Good: Open, player-driven structure; interesting ‘between worlds' mechanic; decent minigames and sidequests.
Bad: Little to no true innovation; underutilized 2D mechanic; poor presentation and use of weapons; reliance on “Eureka”-style puzzles; generic bosses; lazy dungeons; poor incentive for experimentation.
Verdict: Another stale instance of a good formula Nintendo perfected years ago.
Rating: 6/10 – "Fair – game is okay, but there are many better"
Recommendation: Fans of the franchise will like it, non-fans won't. There's nothing to turn off fans, nor entertain non-fans.
"Same strengths, same weaknesses, same Legend of Zelda."
It's true, historically I've never been a huge fan of the Legend of Zelda series. It's not that I think they're objectively bad or anything, they just by and large are not the general genre for me. I think there are flaws that are often overlooked by the franchise's fanbase, but that can likely be said for any popular genre. Unsurprisingly, those flaws are present in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds as well, and I'll talk about that extensively later. They are important and significant flaws, but they are neither not damning.
The broader problem with the game, however, is that it represents little more than Nintendo doing yet another victory lap on a formula it perfected twenty years ago. The game is predictable, formulaic, and frankly, a little lazy. It makes little effort to challenge itself or extend the basic gameplay that has been used in the dozen 2D Legend of Zelda games to come out over the past couple decades. If you played The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, or any of the more recent 2D releases, you've essentially already mastered the majority of the gameplay in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Sure, there are new dungeons and bosses, enemies and sidequests, but they're of the style, structure, and substance of the same elements in all of the previous games.
That's my major criticism of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Yes, it's somewhat fun, in the same way that the latest level pack for Angry Bird is also somewhat fun — the principles are sound and timeless, so going back to the well is always at least somewhat successful. The game has its flaws, of course, some of which are common in the Legend of Zelda franchise and some of which are unique to it. And, to its credit, the game does at least try to do a couple things new — it isn't very successful, as one of its new mechanics is poorly used and the other is not terribly influential — but it makes no effort to really improve the underlying formula. Ultimately, the game is a Legend of Zelda game: if you like the series, you'll like The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. If you haven't liked the previous games, there's nothing really here for you either. If you've liked the series in the past but would like to see it actually improve, you'll still be left wanting.
An mysterious evil sorcerer named Yuga has showed up in Hyrule and imprisoned both Princess Zelda and the Seven Sages in paintings. The attack has created cracks in the reality of Hyrule, linking it to the destitute twin kingdom of Lorule and its own guardian, Princess Hilda. Link is also endowed with the ability to become a 2D figure in the walls, allowing him to pass through these cracks and enter Lorule. The only way to defeat Yuga is to retrieve the legendary Master Sword by collecting three sacred artifacts, and then to free each of the seven sages imprisoned in a complicated dungeon guarded by a powerful creature. Using the power of the Master Sword and the Seven Sages, Link can free Zelda, banish Yuga, and save Hyrule.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is an action-adventure game in a bird's eye third-person perspective. The player character, Link, is armed primarily with a sword and shield, allowing short-range melee attacks and defense against weaker incoming attacks (stronger ones must be dodged). In addition to those basic weapons, several other weapons can be equipped to X and Y, including bombs, a bow and arrow, a grappling hook (hookshot), and other weapons familiar to the franchise, as well as wands commanding fire, ice, and sand. The game as a whole is broken into two broad parallel areas, Hyrule and Lorule, accessible through portals scattered throughout each world. Many areas in Lorule can only be accessed through certain parts of Hyrule. To beat the game, you must successfully traverse ten different dungeons scattered across the two worlds, defeating the bosses in each.
Disclosure of Biases
I've never been a big fan of the Legend of Zelda series. I don't mention that here to say that I'm actively biased against it (despite the name of this section), but rather to say that the general formula has never appealed to me. If you, on the other hand, have liked past Legend of Zelda games, then perhaps you'll like A Link Between Worlds as well because something about the underlying structure and gameplay of the game appeals to you. It does not appeal to me, so half of my somewhat ambivalent opinion toward the game is simply an ambivalence for the series as a whole. Not every game will appeal to everyone, and historically, the Legend of Zelda series has not appealed to me; maybe, though, it will appeal to you. If so, then half my criticisms may not apply. The other half, however, still do.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds does a fair number of things right. In my opinion, it doesn't do anything right that the previous entries in the franchise didn't also do, but it's still to the series credit to comment on some of these strengths.
The biggest strength of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and the Legend of Zelda series as a whole, is the open structure it implements in the majority of its entries. Unlike almost every other game I've ever played, there is little in the way of a mandated order. There are two dungeons to complete first, followed by seven, followed by the one final dungeon, but within those groupings there is a lot of flexibility in what you can do in what order. It isn't totally open — in some instances, as far as I can tell, there are upgrades or items obtained in certain dungeons that are necessary to access other dungeons, but broadly there is an abundance of flexibility in the order in which the player can tackle the world.
This strength is simultaneously a positive feature of the gameplay and an impressive achievement. The benefit to the gameplay is that the player feels like they are the driver of the game rather than participating in a scripted series of events. One of the things that sets video games apart from other media is the ability to insert the player directly into the action and put them in charge of determining the pace and outcome, but too often games instead operate as glorified rail shooters and force the player to follow the exact speed and structure that the game dictates. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, however, allows the player to drive exactly what happens, which is an empowering feeling.
Typically, however, there would be a significant challenge involved in this structure: difficulty. Difficulty in games ought to slowly scale up, which is difficult enough because the player is constantly improving at the game as well. Even games that know the exact order in which the player will complete the scenes or levels have difficulty with this concept; BioShock Infinite, for example, was a very linear game, and yet it had a borderline schizophrenic difficulty curve. How, then, could a game with so much flexibility maintain a decent difficulty pace? The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds accomplishes this through a different kind of difficulty. Instead of the difficulty coming in strengthening enemies or more complex puzzles, it instead simply sets out to make every dungeon different. This means that the game does not get more difficult over time, but it also does not get easier over time. The game remains difficult and engaging throughout, despite letting the player drive so much of the pacing and action.
This is an impressive achievement and represents the game's major critical and gameplay strength. I'm hesitant to shower the game with too much praise for it simply because this dynamic is also something that is not new to the Legend of Zelda franchise; past games have involved comparable levels of openness and flexibility. Plus, this open structure directly relates to one of the faults I see in the game. However, it remains impressive that The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is able to execute this so well again.
One Good New Mechanic
As mentioned above, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds has two significant new mechanics compared to the rest of the Legend of Zelda franchise. One of these is good. The game takes place divided across Hyrule and a twin kingdom called Lorule, which are linked together by portals that connect from a location in one kingdom to the identical location in the other. The kingdoms are largely identical in overall structure, meaning that the connections are largely between analogous points. Lorule, however, is fragmented and destitute: many areas are inaccessible within the kingdom itself, so you must move around in Hyrule in order to access all of Lorule.
The mechanic is interesting, and it leads to some interesting puzzle designs. In one place, for example, there is an isolated island you can see in both Hyrule and Lorule with a portal between the two, but no apparent way to get to the island in either kingdom; this adds an extra layer of challenge in figuring out which kingdom provides access to the island in the first place. These kinds of little twists are throughout the game. Oftentimes, finding the dungeons not only involves going to the right area of Hyrule to access the right area of Lorule, but it sometimes involves going back and forth between the two to actually reach the dungeon's entryway. More minor puzzles connected to the feature are scattered throughout the game world as well.
Equally important as the contributions of this mechanic to the game's gameplay, this mechanic is foundational in the plot of the game. While the overall structure is largely the same, the addition of Lorule as a twin kingdom is the most major superficial new feature, and it is worked into the very foundation of the plot. The threat to Hyrule originates in Lorule, and Princess Hilda plays a much more significant role in the plot than Princess Zelda. The majority of gameplay time is likely spent in Lorule as well, and the histories of the two kingdoms are impressively intertwined. In case you didn't pick up on it, it is also this mechanic that lends the game its puntastic title: the portals link together the two worlds, and as a result, there is a Link going between the two worlds. Ba-dum-tsh.
Ultimately, however, while this mechanic is interesting, it is neither foundational nor fundamental. It does not significantly change the majority of the gameplay, but rather is simply a wrinkle to navigation around the world map. It is interesting and makes the game more entertaining, but does not represent a major step forward for the series as a whole. It is not ultimately wildly original either; in fact, it is very similar to the alternate times in the classic Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, just with an alternate plot explanation of its origin.
Decent Minigames and Sidequests
One thing that has always been good in the Legend of Zelda franchise has been the minigames and sidequests. In The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, these are not quite as good as they have been in past games, but there are still some decent examples. The game has a handful of good minigames, with two standing out to me most clearly. One is a baseball game, tasking you with hitting rocks shot from an Octorok to hit pots scattered around the outfield to earn rupees. The timing and strategy involved are surprisingly deep for a such a simple little minigame. The second is a rupee-collecting games where you can grab as many as you can in 30 seconds, but there is no timer visible: the closer you come to 30 second, the more rupees get added after the fact, but if you go beyond 30 seconds you lose everything.
The major side quest in the game is to collect 100 Maimais, little squid things that hide throughout the world map of both Hyrule and Lorule. It's something of an “Assassin flag” sidequest, where the only real element is finding and collecting, but the individual Maimais are often hidden in interesting places and require some puzzle-solving to obtain. The incentive for collecting them is weapon upgrades: every ten you upgrade unlocks an upgrade to a weapon of your choice, such as bigger bombs, triple arrows, or longer paralysis time with the hookshot. The map can be overlaid with a guide to which areas still have Maimais available to grab.
There are other little minigames and sidequests, including several scattered treasure dungeons. Many of these, in my opinion, were actually better than the main dungeons in the game because it was usually obvious from the beginning what exactly the goal of the little area was. Overall, the world has enough in it in the form of these minigames and sidequests to make it more than just a placeholder within which the dungeons are located.
The bad elements of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds fall broadly into two categories. First, the game is a rather generic installment in the franchise; it tries a couple new things, but for the most part the gameplay is identical to past iterations. It does also introduce new weaknesses all its own as well.
Innovation Not Found
Without a doubt, the biggest complaint I have about The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is that it is by and large extraordinarily similar to the previous games in the franchise. Within a few seconds of starting, I felt myself playing The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening again, the first Legend of Zelda game I ever played. There's something to be said for tradition, nostalgia, and consistency: they're valuable tools, but they should not be the sole value for the game. In the case of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, it is too similar to the past games in the franchise to really stand out for me. It makes no effort to fix the franchise's long-running flaws, introduce new foundational features, or modify the overall structure at all. It is possible to remain faithful to one's origins while also building from them, rather than resting on them.
First, the plot structure is incredibly lazy from the beginning. Princess Zelda is trapped and someone wants the Triforce; Link needs to obtain three relics then defeat seven dungeons to rescue the seven sages to save her and Hyrule. The entire story is presented so quickly that it barely surpasses the storytelling ability of the Mario franchise, but the genre for the Legend of Zelda franchise is far less forgiving of such laziness. It attempts to salvage itself a bit at the end, but at that point it is too little, too late; the interesting twists at the end do not connect very well with the overall plot, making it seem more like a last-ditch effort to give the game a story rather than anything fundamental to the design of the story from the outset. While the “between worlds” dynamic is an interesting twist, it is merely superficial in the context of the overall plot structure.
All the usual suspects are here as far as weapons are concerned: the sword, the bow and arrow, the hookshot, bombs, the boomerang. There is nothing wrong with including the classics, but they should not be the only interesting inclusions. The new weapons in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds? Wands that shoot fire, ice, and sand. The sand wand is a little interesting, but the other two are nothing we have not seen in dozens of games before. The game features the two aforementioned attempts at new gameplay dynamics, but neither are foundational or fundamental. The 2D mechanic could have been a fantastic inclusion, but instead its application is so heavily constrained and restricted that it contributes relatively little to the overall framework of the game.
As a result, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a game without real innovation. Innovation pushes a franchise forward, improves it over time, and creates new ongoing mechanics. None of the attempts at innovation in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds will last to the next iteration because they are largely gimmicks. Some of the changes in the game are actually steps backwards for the franchise rather than forward. And, ultimately, the failure of these gimmicks and changes is only a footnote compared to the broader point that there simply are not enough attempts to improve the series at all.
One Bad New Mechanic
As mentioned above, there are two significant new mechanics in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. One is well-used, but the other is sadly not used very well. Early in the game, it is introduced that Yuga imprisons people by trapping them in paintings. As a result, Link is given the power to become a 2D figure in the walls of different areas. You can walk up to a wall and press A, and then for a short period of time, you can walk around in the wall.
The mechanic itself is very cool. The problem is that it is not used very well. The proper way to use that mechanic is to structure dungeons, puzzles, and areas such that a mechanic like that could be used creatively. Instead, the only time the 2D mechanic is used in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is in places where it is very specifically, intentionally designed to be used. There are puzzles that require the 2D mechanic, and there are puzzles that do not require it; there are no puzzles that could be solved with it but that can also be addressed other ways. What that means is that there is little real creativity in using what could be a very creative mechanic; instead, the player is left simply trying to realize the times when the developer intended for them to use it. More broadly, this is my problem with the design of the puzzles in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and the broader Legend of Zelda franchise as a whole, but we'll get to that in a bit.
Not only does it not add nearly as much to the gameplay as it potentially could, it also misses the other side of the coin that made the previous new mechanic strong. The portals between Lorule and Hyrule are foundational to the plot of the game; the 2D mechanic, on the other hand, could be removed without changing anything beyond those specific scripted instances of its usage. Link has to enter the 2D world to travel between the worlds, but he easily could have just entered the portals directly without changing the gameplay. Similarly, Yuga imprisons the sages in paintings, but there is no reason he could not have imprisoned them any other way instead. The mechanic is not foundational to anything more than the aesthetic of the story.
Poor Weapon Presentation Structure
Every Legend of Zelda game revolves in part on a collection of weapons that are used in different ways to solve different puzzles. For The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, however, there are several new significant problems with the weapons.
First, as I'll describe more thoroughly in a bit, initially the player rents the weapons instead of purchasing them. If Link falls, the player is forced to backtrack all the way to the shop to rent them again to try again. This is required because many dungeons cannot be completed without certain weapons, and thus if the rental is lost, the dungeon is rendered completely impossible until the weapon is reobtained. This dynamic may be interpreted as an attempt to make the game challenging, but it only succeeds at making the game frustrating. Secondly, unlike any Legend of Zelda game I've played, the player obtains access to all the weapons at once. They can all be rented together starting at the same time (with minor exceptions). That's a pretty anticlimactic way of presenting the majority of the game's gameplay to the player. Part of the appeal of getting the weapons one-by-one is learning the new capabilities provided by each, but obtaining them all at once puts that entire experience squarely in the early part of the game. There is no ongoing discovery or experimentation because the weapons are all obtained at the same time.
The third problem, however, is the most significant. Each dungeon explicitly states that there is a weapon needed to complete it: bombs, hookshot, sand wand, fire wand, ice wand, etc. While that is an interesting way of emphasizing each weapon in turn, the effect is negative: weapons are never used in conjunction with one another in interesting ways. If a dungeon requires the hookshot, then there is nothing to do in the dungeon with any of the other weapons. They can be used in combat, sure, but generally the weapons were not created for combat; they were created for the puzzles. There was incredible opportunity to use the weapons together to create more innovative, challenging, complicated, and satisfying puzzles. However, because each dungeon emphasizes only a single weapon, the puzzles never demand that kind of flexibility.
In my opinion, there are three kinds of puzzles in gaming. First, there are puzzles where the challenge is figuring out what to do: what is the goal, or what am I trying to accomplish? Second, there are puzzles where the challenge is figuring out how to do it: the goal is clear, but how do I actually make it happen? Third, there are puzzles where the challenge is executing the plan: it's clear how to accomplish the goal, but actually doing it is a challenge. Portal is an excellent example of these principles. In most puzzles in Portal, it is clear what the goal is: there is a door clearly marked, and the goal is to reach that door. The challenges are in figuring out how, and then in actually executing it. For some of the momentum puzzles, it takes some time to realize how momentum can help you reach the goal, and even when you know what to do, it is difficult to properly place the portals.
The latter two kinds of puzzles are good, in my opinion; the second one is the best kind. The first one is the worst kind, but the first one is the kind The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds relies on most heavily. By and large, the majority of puzzles in the game are not difficult to solve or execute as soon as you figure out what the hell you're supposed to do. The challenge is most often just in realizing the goal in the first place. I call these “Eureka”-style puzzles because rather than methodically working through a puzzle by dividing it into parts or isolating different components, you simply have to stare at it until you realize the proper approach.
One of the most common instances of this kind of puzzle is when the only challenge in a dungeon is figuring out where to go next. The majority of dungeons in the game, sadly, are heavily dependent on this mechanic. At any given time, there is one key or door that is accessible, and the challenge is just finding the one and only thing available to you to do. Doing it is usually simple, but the challenge is just in finding it. That's a Eureka-style puzzle: you just have to realize what the next goal is. There is no puzzle-solving, there no problem decomposition, and there is no challenging execution. It relies entirely on that moment of divine inspiration.
There are several examples of this problem in the game. In one dungeon, you have to get a round object across a river of lava. It looks like you ought to be able to hurl it onto a moving platform, trick an enemy into moving it, or find a way to transport it using the 2D mechanic. Instead, you simply have to realize that the hookshot can be used to pull it. Pulling the eye has never come up before, so to succeed, you essentially have to try random things rather than approach the problem thoughtfully. In another, there are switches on platforms above your head and a hand that drops down to try and squish you. The goal is to lure the hand into slapping the switches. The problem is that if your positioning is off, the hand won't activate it, and because the puzzle-solving is reliant on realizing what works, it is easy to misinterpret it missing and think that that is the wrong approach. In a third, the switch necessary to proceed is hidden under a skull. You can wander around for half an hour looking for where to go next, but it isn't until you realize that one of those dozens of skulls has a switch under it that you can proceed.
There is a corollary to this problem as well. Sometimes, there are puzzles that require items or upgrades that you do not have yet. When the puzzle is based on knowing the goal and designing a way to solve it, it's typically very easy to see when a new ability is needed. When the puzzle is instead Eureka-based, it's borderline impossible to know whether you lack a needed upgrade or if you just haven't realized the right approach. That can lead to a lot of frustrating wasted time to realize that the only thing standing in your way was the lack of an item that you did not know existed.
That is the most prevalent type of puzzle in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and its flaws go back to my complaints with the 2D mechanic: the only challenge in the mechanic is realizing when to use it. Once you realize that a puzzle mandates usage of the mechanic, the puzzle itself is trivial. The same applies to most of the other puzzles, too: once you realize that a certain puzzle relies on a particular item or tricking an enemy into moving a certain way, actually doing it is simple. The only challenge is in the realization. More broadly, this has always been my problem with the Legend of Zelda franchise as a whole. The puzzles are trivial when you realize what to do, but that realization can come slowly.
Generic Bosses, Lazy Dungeons
For the most part, while there were a couple good dungeons and boss battles, I found the majority to be rather lazy. For dungeons, there is a formula for design that Nintendo has been going back to for ages: script a series of steps and separate them out geographically. The actual underlying tasks involved in completing these dungeons are largely very trivial, but the arrangement of the dungeon and the length of time involved carry with it the impression of challenge. That is not to say that the dungeons themselves are actually easy, but rather that the challenge is artificial and formulaic. This connects back to my earlier complaint about puzzle design: the challenge in these dungeons is more often figuring out what to do next than figuring out how to do it or actually doing it. For some players, this isn't going to be a problem. If you've liked these dungeons in past Legend of Zelda games, you probably won't find them problematic here, either. I, personally, find it lazy from a critical point of view and unengaging from a gameplay point of view. After several dungeons of just trying to find the next switch, it becomes very tempting to just look up the locations online. The puzzle-solving isn't flow-inducing or engaging, but rather plodding and slow.
There have been so many Legend of Zelda games now, as well as similar games, that I acknowledge it may be difficult to design new bosses at this point. That said, the bosses in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds are still largely generic. You've most likely fought almost exactly the same bosses before in multiple games. There's the boss that you jump on to off to attack, there's the attack you dodge and slash in the back, there's the boss that you avoid and dash at when he leaves an opening. A couple are a bit unique, as referenced earlier, but the majority of them are just another iteration of the same bosses we've seen dozens of times.
The bread and butter of the Legend of Zelda series are the dungeons and bosses, but with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, the franchise demonstrates just how stale it has become. The majority of the dungeons could have been implemented in any earlier game without much change, and the majority of the bosses are minor reimaginings of the bosses we've fought dozens of times before. I finished The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds earlier today, and yet right now, I can remember the specifics of fewer than half the dungeons and boss battles. There were a couple good ones, such as a dungeon playing with light and darkness and a boss battle forcing strategy on the fly, but the majority of both were unimaginative. Dungeons and bosses are the elements that are supposed to be most memorable and impactful about the game, but they are so generic for the most part that they're forgotten as quickly as the game is finished. If you've always liked it in the past, sure, you might still like it here as well. In my opinion, though, I'd rather support developers that are continually innovating instead of just creating new instances of old formulas.
Poor Experimentation Incentive
Incentives in general play a major role in game design. What is the player's incentive to play? What is the player's incentive to not die? What is the player's incentive to experiment? The answers to these questions differ based on the type of game you're designing, and with a major franchise like Legend of Zelda with lots of casual appeal, I believe that the incentives should be for experimentation, improvisation, and fun. The player should be encouraged to try different things, learn what works best, and develop their own style. In order to incentivize this kind of gameplay, however, the game must have a relatively low penalty for failure. After all, experimenting means failing and learning from it, which is one of the things that can make video games so engaging in the first place: rapid feedback and retries.
The problem with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is that it actually has a surprisingly high incentive for failure given its genre and franchise. Early in the game, all weapons are rentals: if you die, you lose your weapons and have to rent them again. That's incredibly problematic for the early dungeons. It means that if you fail in the final boss battle for a dungeon, you have to go all the way back to the rental place, pay money to rent the weapons again, travel back to the dungeon, move through it to the boss battle, and try again. That's four to five minutes at the very least between trials. Even later, when weapons can be owned, you still have to move back through the dungeon to get back to the boss battle, which remains a couple minutes at least. For comparison, a game that does rapid feedback and retry well, such as Uncharted 2, has less than 10 seconds between retries. That's flow-inducing, that encourages experimentation, and that preserves fun. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds penalizes experimentation and rewards playing it safe, both of which work against what makes the game fun in the first place.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds ultimately has several major problems. First, it is a Legend of Zelda game through and through, and while that brings with it significant strengths, it also brings with it some problems that have yet to be solved. For example, the franchise has long relied too much on puzzles dictated by inspiration and realization rather than problem-solving and execution, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is no different. Second, the game brings a host of its own new weaknesses to the franchise, including a poor incentive for experimentation and a frustrating way of presenting and using its gameplay mechanics.
The ultimate problem with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, however, is that it doesn't even represent an incremental step forward for the series. There is nothing new in the game that we might expect to carry through and improve the next game. Nintendo has a formula for the Legend of Zelda franchise, and more and more, they are simply creating new fillers for the same slots they have used for years. Nintendo used to be about innovation; The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was one of the most innovative games of all time. In recent years, however, its strongest franchises — Mario and Legend of Zelda — have become little more than repeated cash grabs on brand recognition and decent implementations of a formula that has been run ragged. So, yes, the game is decently fun, just as all Legend of Zelda games are. It lacks innovation, contributes nothing to the stalled development of the franchise, and provides no objective improvements compared to the earlier games; but, the formula is fun, so the game is still decently fun. At this point, however, Nintendo is doing little more than milking their golden years for every drop they're worth to hide the profound lack of innovation seen in recent years.
You'll probably still enjoy the game if you like the Legend of Zelda series. As long as games like A Link Between Worlds, New Super Mario Bros. 2, and Super Mario 3D World succeed, though, we can't expect to see Nintendo really innovate. Why create something new when you can run another victory lap on 20-year-old gameplay ideas?
DDJ's Overall rating: 3.0 - Mediocre