Following up on my last post, I continue to share some thoughts on the most recent Zelda adventure, A Link Between Worlds, in a continued effort to regain a writing edge. As some readers may recall (or are more likely irritated about), I promised my follow up to Between Worlds “for tomorrow” on the 12th. It is now the 17th, four days after “tomorrow”.
For any of you who don’t get that joke, count yourselves lucky.
You don’t feel the pain, either.
There’s more than one way to feel like a free man, and one of my favorite ways exists within the dimensions of Hyrule. Though I was late to the party in playing ALBW, I have been non the less delighted in my experience in playing it. Being the follow up to the highly praised A Link to the Past, I’m sure the team working on this greatly awaited Zelda game were slightly worried that they would fuck it up. From the out pour of positive press response and fan reaction, I’d say they escaped a terrible fate.
I spoke at some length about the visuals in my first post, which wasn’t necessarily what I meant to do, but there ended up being value in the ranty extrapolation. I think there are plenty of eye catching elements of ALBW outside of the pimp walking denizens of Hyrule, not in the least of which is the game’s newest power: Wall Hugging.
Err, on second thought, anyone who “wants a hug” with that blank of an expression on their face is probably a murderer.
I’ll give Link a fair shake here, that picture involves him getting recently “rubbed out”…or is that rubbed in? Getting it rubbed in was definitely occurring when the screen shot was taken, as Link’s ability to wall hug initially comes about as an act of vengeance, and not of charity. The whole scenario is reminiscent of Majora’s Mask, in which a series of unfortunate events dooms Link to live the remainder of his life as a Deku Scrub. But, much like in Majora’s Mask, Link turned it around to his advantage, and instead of a fate worse than death, he gains a powerful ability that lets him fight another day.
Historically speaking, when life gives Link lemons…
The ability to “merge” with walls comes about early on, as the new mechanic does act as the main facet of game play. Not to say endless exploration, sweet dungeons, and an awesome soundtrack don’t help create any Zelda experience, but every game brings about something new. Ocarina had Time Travel, Wind Waker had sailing, and Skyward Sword had flying. ALBW has the cool merging power, which allows Link to become one with walls, which figures into exploration, puzzles, and even combat.
The minor aspects of stealth that come with the merging do make me happy, however unintentional they may be. I’m aware that Tektite in the picture sees Link, which may force you to question just how “stealthy” Link is really being. I take this moment to deposit that even if the Tektite had a mouth, it would keep that shit to it’s fucking self.
No one is going to believe him.
The wall hugging is used, frequently, and in good taste. It transforms traversal in the Zelda world in fun ways, the whole act kind of begs you to think about level design just a little bit more. What once was a hole is now a detour, crevasses acting as oddly disguised road signs. I had read from many that it can take a little while to get use to, and I can understand why. Playing Zelda in such a straight forward 2D way can kind of mess with your muscle memory, especially when you need to start heavy mental lifting in new ways. I feel as if in good Nintendo fashion, the “tutorial” area immediately following the ability to merge, in all of it’s subtle glory, gave you every piece of information you’d ever need about how to best utilize the power.
This sly method of teaching has helped to make some of the best games Nintendo has ever made.
You can’t endlessly merge of course, having the ability to become one with a wall for as long as you choose would be ridiculous fantasy. You have a gauge that gives you a limited time as a drawing, which I’m sure was an effort towards in game balance and simplified level design. You also can’t scale while wall hugging, making sure you have to explore the vertical nature of ALBW, along side knowing the horizontal in’s and out of the game’s architecture.
And vertical it will become. ALBW represents a more concentrated effort on Nintendo’s part to make a Zelda game high volume, in every conceivable manner. While most games just try to get wider, only the best game’s tend to get deeper. Indeed, you can move in and out of the game’s environments, but the game has an equal knack for reaching new heights. This helps give ALBW a special kind of jazz, one where a 2D adventure climbs to new heights in order to impress you with some high riseing designs. From the over world of Hyrule, with it’s varied heights and tiered geography, to many of the levels having more than a dozen floors reaching well past the heavens. The entirety of ALBW acts out as The Legend Of Zelda: Wonkavator Edition. Regular Zelda games only allow you to go forwards and backwards…
A Link Between Worlds, however, allows you to go sideways, and slantways, and longways, and backways.
Also, that may be the first time in the past four years someone has visually referenced Willy Wonka on the internet without the use of condescension.
Edit: Never Mind.
I rather enjoy the spatial challenge and demanding awareness all of these new aspects of ALBW enforces. I am of the firm belief gaming benefits from creative solutions and fun effort, and the best way to coax that out of players is with challenge and imagination. The first part of the game has not yet stumped me in either puzzle or exploration, but this may be due to the idea that in order to fully enjoy ALBW, all you have to do is think fourth dimensionally.