After the last minute pre-E3 presentation by Nintendo yesterday morning, the company allowed the gathered journalists to play every game that they had talked about (with the exception of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS). I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to sit down and play A Link Between Worlds without distractions for 10 minutes. The goal of the demo was to make your way through a dungeon to the boss at the top of the tower.
The first thing that I noticed is that the familiar control scheme of previous handheld Legend of Zelda entries has been altered slightly. The most notable change is that movement now occurs with the 3DS joystick rather than the D-pad. This small alteration actually changes the game quite a bit. You can now face in any number of angles as opposed to only facing up, down, left, right, and diagonal variations on those directions.
On first loading up the game, you can immediately discern the unique graphical style that sets A Link Between Worlds apart from other top-down Zelda titles. The visuals draw from older depictions of Link found in early game manuals and combine that look with some light cell-shading elements from Zelda titles like Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass. The 3D was on in full effect for the entire duration of my play, even though I normally leave it off or only slightly active. I found that the 3D added significantly to the experience, especially within the multi-floor dungeon that I played through.
Starting out in the dungeon, I was equipped with a magic hammer capable of squashing springs for a certain amount of time and Link can use the squashed spring to propel himself to higher floors. The 3D capabilities of the system allowed me to see higher areas to which I could be sprung. However, within the first room I learned that the emphasis of the demo would be on Link’s new ability to meld into walls as a 2D drawing.
At first, I thought that the wall melding trick would just be a gimmick used once to highlight its potential in the demo and then never be touched on again, but I was wrong. Many of the most creative puzzles revolved entirely around being able to read Link's environment and knowing when to become 2D and when to stay a normal shape. A great example of how this ability promotes outside-the-box kinds of thinking was at the point where I had reached the top of how far I could go within the tower. With no way out, I flailed around for a few seconds before noticing a grated window. Having exhausted all other options, I decided to try and go through the grate as 2D Link, and low and behold I went through the bars to discover that the second half of the dungeon was using the wall meld ability to navigate the outside of the dungeon. Being several floors up above the ground, stuck in a wall (which drains mana), and desperate to find a platform to emerge upon was a tense, fun experience.
In my time with the demo dungeon, I managed to reach floor 9, which I was told was right before the dungeon boss. I found it to be a classic Zelda-style game with little improvements and tweaks that add depth to the game and create new and exciting puzzles to be solved.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds will be coming sometime soon to 3DS.