It’s been a long time since gamers fired up a top-down Zelda game, but Nintendo plans on rectifying that oversight later this year with a sequel to the critically acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Despite taking place in the same world as the previously mentioned SNES classic, the 3DS installment has abandoned the moniker of ‘A Link to the Past 2‘ in favor of an entirely new title — The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

I was fortunate to have a private hands-on session with the game during this year’s E3, and had ample time to experience the highly anticipated sequel in all of its top-down glory. I’m glad to report that anyone familiar with this particular brand of Zelda will instantly fall in love with the forthcoming 3DS iteration, as it brings back everything that made the original games so much fun to begin with. While there’s a lot of familiar gameplay, there are numerous new features and abilities that help to make A Link Between Worlds feel incredibly fresh when stacked up to its predecessors.

The art style utilized in A Link to the Past makes its triumphant return, albeit enhanced significantly thanks to the power of Nintendo’s latest handheld. The end result is a familiar looking variant of the iconic Link that will instill a sense of nostalgia within longtime fans of the series. Overall, the graphics do manage to capture the essence of similar titles in the franchise, but the move from 16-bit to full 3D won’t impress everyone given how different it is from recent iterations.

Combat plays out similarly to past games, with sword strikes and shield blocks maintaining their prominence against generic baddies. It’s the movement this time around that really changes up the feel of the game itself, allowing for much speedier combat — as well as enhanced precision thanks largely to the Nintendo 3DS CirclePad. As a result of Link’s enhanced speed and maneuverability, it’s significantly easier to quickly dispatch basic foes that dare get in your way and makes progressing through areas a smoother process overall.

New weapons (alongside classic Zelda armaments) are present and accounted for in Link’s upcoming adventure, and they help with solving unique puzzles within dungeons. The hammer is one such weapon that is necessary to destroy breakable flooring or smack down launchers to propel players to new levels of a dungeon. There’s also a fire wand which — you guessed it — shoots balls of fire at enemies.

Unlike previous games where users could spam attacks, there is an energy meter in this title that limits what weapons and attacks can be used. Want to use that hammer on an armored foe or block out the sun with a barrage of arrows? Better make sure there’s room in your energy meter. Fortunately, this purple stamina gauge of sorts regenerates at a hasty pace, which means gamers won’t find themselves defenceless for long periods of time.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The biggest feature that dramatically affects the way players will navigate dungeons and other terrain is Link’s new found ability to turn into a painting which is capable of traversing across walls. This ability adds an entirely new dimension (no pun intended) to gameplay, and results in some very cool puzzle solving mechanics that have never been explored in the series. Turning into a painting, of course, will suck up Link’s stamina gauge, but keeps him safe from ne’re-do-wells… at least in the 3D plain.

Based on my hands-on time with the game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is shaping up to be yet another must-have title on the Nintendo 3DS, and one that should appeal to anyone who enjoyed A Link to the Past. Fans of the original and newcomers alike should be in for a nice surprise when the title slashes its way onto store shelves later this year.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is coming exclusively to the Nintendo 3DS this November.

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