After two decades, Nintendo is releasing a follow-up to Super Nintendo hit The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past–a game that ranks at number nine on GamesRadar’s list of the best games of all time. While details (like the name) are still scarce, there’s plenty we’ve learned from the short demo we played at a recent Nintendo press event.
Where will it fit in the oft-disputed Zelda timeline? What will it play like? What’s with Link’s new retro haircut? The answer to these questions and more awaits.
It takes place in the Link to the Past game world
Every Legend of Zelda game takes place within the same universe, but, usually, they’re set hundreds or thousands of years apart. Each Link is, typically, a new Link, each Zelda a new Zelda. From the sound of things, this won’t be the case with the 3DS Legend of Zelda game, as it’ll take place “within the same game world” as Link to the Past.
This isn’t unheard of in the series–The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, and the Nintendo DS Zelda games followed the plot of Wind Waker–but it’s relatively rare that Nintendo double dips in a game world. Odds are it’ll be a sequel, as opposed to a prequel, set after Link has already defeated Ganon.
Link is rocking an early '90s-style character design
Since the release of Ocarina of Time, gamers have become familiarized to Nintendo’s redesign of Link, but he didn’t always look that way. Originally, his short, blonde hair was darker in color and significantly longer. This is the Link from the SNES-era, and it also appears to be the Link from this 3DS follow-up. (Link actually had pink hair in Link to the Past, but still maintained the brownish hair in all promotional art of the game.)
Link’s longer hair moves and bobs as he travels around, and his outfit looks just like the one from the artwork released from Link to the Past-era games. That said, it’s worth noting that his shield appears to be more similar to the one found in-game (blue, no iconography) to the one in the art, which is decked out in Hyrulian symbolism.
Nintendo wants to use the 3DS's 3D to achieve a sense of depth
We’ve expected to see a 2D Zelda pick up 3D elements for some time now. When we talked with Skyward Sword producer Eiji Aonuma in 2011, he told us that the old 2D-style Zelda games would work well on the 3DS because he could see taking “those 2D graphics and recreating them in 3D so that you could get a sense for the depth of those worlds.”
And that’s exactly what Nintendo is doing with Zelda 3DS. The 3D (if you choose to turn it on) will enhance the multi-level worlds of this 2D Zelda game, giving it an incredible sense of depth and perspective. In the demo there are also instances of Link being tossed up into the air, enemies popping up, and deflected projectiles flying towards the screen. Nintendo is going all out to embrace the 3D with its first original 3DS Zelda, and that’s evident already.
The gameplay has gone back to old-school button controls
Link’s 2D adventures haven’t evolved much since Link to the Past, but Nintendo did opt to change things up when the franchise jumped to the DS. Both The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass took steps towards reinventing the top-down style, and made ample use of the DS’s bottom screen for touch inputs. After playing the demo, we can confirm that this isn’t the case with this game, despite Nintendo’s previous assurance that we’d seen the end of “traditional” Zelda games.
Link’s movements are controlled with the handheld’s slide pad with designated buttons assigned to his sword, shield, two equipped items, and magic abilities (like the wall merge). Combat is reminiscent of Link to the Past, as Link can charge his sword for a spin attack and fire projectile sword attacks at full health.
One of the dungeons is a thirteen floor tower
Our hands-on demo dropped us at the bottom of a tower dungeon that reminded us of A Link to the Past’s Tower of Hera. It even included some of the same enemies, like mini-moldorm and hardhat beetles, and path blocking blue and red barriers and switches. Moving from one floor to the next often required us to use our hammer to crush mole barriers, stand on them, and wait for it to spring back up to launch us skyward. Watching the animation in full 3D made the stunt look even more impressive.
After reaching the top floor and unlocking the boss door, we encountered Moldorm, the classic boss from the original Tower of Hera. The fight felt almost identical from the original battle, so we were able to quickly defeat the beast with some carefully timed sword swipes to his tail. While the dungeon definitely had the same tone as the original Link to the Past it went by much faster, taking us about 15-to 20 minutes to complete the entire level.
Link can flatten out to move along walls
The strangest element of The Legend of Zelda 3DS is likely Link’s new ability. Apparently, through what we’re guessing is some new brand of Hyrulian magic, Link can now turn into a painting on a wall, and travel around in 2D. It’s a very Paper Mario thing to do, but it was already shown to have very practical uses in a Zelda game.
Link uses it at several points in the tower dungeon, allowing him to reach locations he otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. By flattening out he’s able to move around blocks, slip through a barred window, and travel around in other, convenient ways. At a few points we were required to merge into a wall to avoid being pushed off the tower by a moving platform, and could even merge into vertical moving blocks to reach the next floor.
Item use depletes a rechargeable magic bar
One small change we noticed from our hands-on time was there was a lack of items and ammo dropping from fallen enemies. While rupees and hearts fell from defeated foes, there were no arrows to refill our quiver. It seems Nintendo has done away with some of the drops that used to litter the dungeon floor and tied item and magic abilities to a recharging green magic bar.
Every time we fired an arrow, swung our hammer, or used the wall merge ability the magic bar would drop. This is especially important to track when merged with a wall since depleting your magic bar completely will shoot you back into 3D space, potentially dropping you from deadly heights.
It's coming out in 2013
Quite possibly the best news of all is that we won’t have to wait too long before playing The Legend of Zelda 3DS. Nintendo claims it’ll release by the end of the year, hitting the all-important “Holiday 2013″ window. Looks like we finally have our big 3DS game for the end of the year.
That said, we’d recommend not getting too excited about this date. Nintendo has been missing its release dates recently, and Zelda games have had notoriously lengthy development cycles. Get as excited as you want about a new 3DS Zelda game, but, honestly, it might be smart to temper your release date expectations.
Hey! Listen! More news is coming tomorrow!
This is all we’ve gained from looking at the trailers and listening to what Nintendo has to say about the game. But if you’re interested in finding out more about The Legend of Zelda 3DS (and, let’s be honest, we know you are), you should swing back tomorrow. We’re getting hands-on with the game today, and we’ll update this article with all of the details we learn from our time with the game.
And if you’re looking for more, check out our favorite places to go in games and our favorite boss fights of all time.
What do today’s Nintendo Direct announcements mean? What else was revealed? Find out on Radar Reacts!