Made of nostalgia.
At a Nintendo 3DS preview event, when the shades began to lower, the journalists gathered, hushed, and someone near the middle of the seating aisle muttered, "It's starting to get real." The room was tight with anticipation. That morning Satoru Iwata on Nintendo Direct had announced a ton of new 3DS content, and an email had gone out asking attendees to watch it before showing up. One of those titles announced was a new Zelda game for 3DS, taking inspiration from the SNES classic The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
With the working title, The Legend of Zelda—the game is so early in development that it doesn't have a subtitle yet—is set in the same world as A Link to the Past. One Nintendo executive called it a "sequel," though didn't disclose much more information than that. After talking about the inspiration and showing a brief video, we got hands-on with the game.
This new Zelda game doesn't just take inspiration from A Link to the Past—it practically is A Link to the Past. Controls are intuitive and will probably be immediately familiary to anyone who's played the game's predecessor. Hold down your sword attack and Link's spin attack will charge up. With full hearts, he sends a blast wave across the room. The top-down look also perfectly captures the feel of A Link to the Past, but now realized with 3D architecture.
In a way it makes perfect sense. Console games in the series have long chased Ocarina of Time, remaking it with new technical innovations and additions with each new hardware iteration. Similarly, the handhelds in the series have appeared to take their most direct inspiration from the SNES entry in the series. Additionally, the New Super Mario Bros. series has been trading off on the love fans have for Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, portioning out bits of nostalgia one game release at a time. They probably figured, "Why not Zelda?"
Visually, the game looks amazing. It has a clean and beautiful look that you might imagine A Link to the Past looks like in your mind but in prettier and higher resolution. GR's Daniel Bischoff mentioned that the 3D version actually looked more crisp than the 2D, a shift in visual fidelity from earlier games on the device that looked cleaner when flattened.
The gameplay demo was set in the dungeon shown in the game's trailer. It highlighted the game's two new features: tiered vertical gameplay and Link's ability to turn into a living drawing that can move horizontally along bricked surfaces.
Smashing rubbery blocks with a hammer squashes them down so Link can be propelled from one level to another. This, combined with standing on red or blue block areas, and hitting switches can also move him up to a higher platform. Smashing a giant rubbery block propels Link into a new screen above the current one, pushing Link straight at the player with the 3DS' 3D turned on.
The drawing gameplay is first utilized to negotiate around a spike trap but becomes more of a puzzle element further into the dungeon. In one section you have to leave the dungeon and get onto a platform moving around the outside of the tower. However, moving walls attempt to push Link off the platform. Some Nintendo reps laughed until we figured out we needed to merge with the wall pushing Link and then pop back onto the platform on the other side.
The level ended with a boss fight with a Moldorm, a giant worm that moves faster when you strike its vulnerable weak spot at the end of its tail. The fight was virtually identical to the one that happened with the same boss in A Link to the Past, right down to the layout of the area in which the fight took place. What a fun throwback!
What's amazing about the game is just how perfectly it manages to capture, in a 3D environment, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It feels like a complete and total continuation of the gameplay and style of an amazing game that took the original NES game and improved on virtually every design element. It is an amazing love letter to that game and its fans, while still pushing new elements on their current handheld.
For fans of A Link to the Past, It's about to get real.