The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and some thoughts on level design

I’m playing The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds … I know I’m not the first to say so, but omg – it’s so good! It’s so much fun, even if it’s just running across Hyrule, which is actually the Hyrule I remember from A Link To The Past (the one Zelda game of my childhood). I find it a lot of fun to try to find hidden paths around the world map, and to figure out how to advance through a dungeon. It’s never frustrating, but it keeps me alert and my mind pleasantly challenged. To my own surprise, I am yet to see the Game Over screen! Of course I have stocked up on fairies, but I still expected to have more trouble with the parts of the game that require quick reactions. Perhaps I just have a lot of dumb luck.

A Link Between Worlds made me truly realize what I found lacking in Bravely Default: the interactiveness of the dungeons and cities. Bravely Default had gorgeous, breathtaking and imaginative locations. The first time the camera zoomed out to reveal the entire city of Ancheim, with its windmill and the clocks and gears, I was extremely impressed. But the game did not really let you interact with all the gorgeousness. Not even with that adorable pig that hangs out in Yulyana’s front garden! None of the NPCs had anything that interesting to say either, so after a while you just kind of rush through and … stop looking. :/ After a while, Bravely Default really puts all its focus on the admittedly awesome job system and the battle system. The pretty locations kind of go to waste.

Zelda, on the other hand, lets you interact with every inch of the land. And rewards you for it! You can slash away grass, smash pots, destroy bushes, pick up chickens (flustering them), ram trees … and anything you do might gain you money or heart refills.

The dungeons are cleverly designed and require you to think outside the box, often use the merge ability (which really forces you to change your perspective and examine the dungeons closely, instead of rushing through on autopilot like the experienced gamers we all are). It makes Bravely Default’s occasional patches of poison flowers or lava floors look pitifully unimaginative.

Both games kind of make you “backtrack” a lot, but Zelda makes it fun and dynamic, unlike BD, which does not even try in that regard. On the other hand, I know A Link Between World’s story and characters won’t occupy my thoughts much. It’s FUN, but I won’t spend hours on non-playing time thinking about the plot and the characters’ motivations and emotions. That’s something where Zelda doesn’t even try. Both games have chosen different aspects to focus on, which is fine, probably necessary, but it makes me wish for a game that’s great in ALL of these aspects, a rich, awesome experience. How awesome would that be?


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