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===The Legend of Geekery===
I am a bit of a geek at times. That, however, doesn't mean that I also have any urge to keep up with modern technology. As such I tend to find myself falling behind the toys and mod-cons till someone foists something upon me. Allan tends to be the exact opposite, loving his gadgets. All of that meant that when someone dangled a Nintendo 3DS XL console in front of him he decided he wanted to run out and buy one. Either he became promptly bored of it, or he just didn't like the Professor Layton games that came with it and somewhere around November 2013 it started getting referred to by him as mine. I still profess that it's not mine, but since he's happily letting me play with it, I thought now would be a good chance to catch up on a series of games I've been missing out on.
===The Legend of Awesomeness===
The 80's was a time of magic, bad hair and Lycra. 1986 rolled along and a few amazing things happened. I was born for a start. A boy called Link was also born ten months before me in February. As we are the same age, it's totally ok for me to fancy him. Link was born into the magical and strange land of Hyrule created by three goddesses who left behind a powerful relic called the Triforce which split into three pieces. If you hold all three pieces, you hold the power of the Gods. Naturally that has attracted a lot of unwanted attention. Ganon is the evil dude who is on a constant quest for this power and it is Link's duty as the Hero of Everything (various games call him different things) to defend the Triforce and save not only Hyrule but that pesky Princess Zelda who constantly falls into the clutches of the bad guys, almost like she gets a rise out of being saved. Since the first game, thousands of years have passed and every hundred or so years another incarnation of Link is born just at the right time to stop Ganon returning from the realm of evil. It's never quite that simple, but that's the main gist of pretty much every game, with only a few of them focusing on other bad guys.
===So it begins===
As with most Zelda games, your game play can be as direct and to the point or as random as you please. Before you begin, it's always a good idea to let the game's title screen run for a bit as it will then tell you a little bit of back story when it's left idle for about 30 seconds. The 3DS is handheld and split into two halves each with a screen that open and close like a sideways book. The main game play happens on the top half of the 3DS while the map and item menu are held in the touch screen section on the bottom half. Link starts off in his house being told to go to the local blacksmiths before he loses his job and once you've done this and the small task the blacksmith gives you, you can basically run around freely till you decide you want to play the main aspects of the game. The blurb on the box tells me it uses the same setting as one of the previous games but I've not played the one it was referring to yet so I can't say how similar the layouts are. Usually each game comes with 3 temples (or levels) to complete before the main chunk of the game begins with about 7 more temples to get through. Each temple is full of puzzles, mazes, bad guys and treasures that you can pick up on your way and you tend to always have to fight a boss at the end of each one. You can complete the temples in whatever order you want, though some are quite obviously supposed to be done later in the game when you have a bit more strength behind you. Only two of the temples have to be completed in a particular order, however, so it's up to you how pig headed you want to be. I managed to pick the most difficult temple near the start of the game and died quite a lot, but still got through it eventually!
With all the similarities, you might be asking why bother playing at all? Each game, despite being similar, has a lot of very individual features. In this tale of Link's quest, the bad guy has a penchant for art and likes to turn people into graffiti on walls. Thanks to a bit of luck, Link picks up the ability to turn himself into graffiti and move along walls too. This feature alone leads to some very unique game play and puzzle solving and also allows Link to get into otherwise inaccessible areas. His quest leads him to a sort of alternate universe which is in effect an Anti-Hyrule. For starters it's called Lorule and it's a much darker version of the world which he has explored so far. It's also fractured and split making travelling within it very difficult.
The 3DS has a whole bunch of controls you can use. On the top left hand side of the bottom half you have a joystick which moves Link around. Below that is a set of arrows (up down left right) that can be used to move the view in the direction of the arrow to help you see a little further. On the right hand side of the bottom half you have four buttons: A, B, X and Y. The B button makes Link swing his sword and the A button is the action button. The function of this button changes depending on what you are doing. Standing next to a rock, a little A button will appear on screen with "Pick up" written on it. Once you've picked it up, it'll say "Throw". Stand next to a wall that you can paint yourself onto and it'll say "Merge". Basically it's how Link interacts with the world around him if he doesn't want to kill it. The X and Y buttons are used for specific items which I'll talk about later. On each top corner of the bottom half of your 3DS, you'll have L (left) and R (right) buttons too. These control Link's shield. If you are a total button basher like me, you'll probably only use this when you really have to.
Throughout the game there are a few things that will help you which I'll dive into now:
===Save Points and Servants===
These are arguably the most important thing to keep an eye out for. There are weather vanes dotted around Hyrule and these are where you have to save your game. Once you've saved your game at a weather vane once, it'll be added to your map. Apart from saving your progress (which is always a must in any adventure game) these weather vanes serve another purpose. Later in the game you'll be able to travel instantly between them via a little bell symbol in the bottom left hand side of the touch screen. You will, however, only be able to travel to the ones that you've saved your game at. You'll also notice if you look carefully when you are loading the game up that the area in the background of the main titles is the last place you saved your game at!
Another very handy item is the map. Not only will it show you where you are, it'll give you little hints as to where you are going with little red X's. You even get a map of Lorule which shows you where the fractures and boundaries in the world are to give you a better idea of what area's are next to what weather vanes. You can toggle between the Hyrule and Lorule maps by pushing the little button to the bottom right of the map that shows the Triforce symbol (three triangles) with a dark reflection.
Another feature of the map is that you can put little pins into it wherever you want. As you begin to travel between Hyrule and Lorule, I found it incredibly handy to mark each entry point between the worlds with a pin. I've also used the pins to mark other important spots (like places that will restore Link to full health) so I don't need to search for them later. Tapping the top of them will let you change the colour of them so you don't get things mixed up. Fab! I would suggest using your stylus to place the pins as the touch screen can be a bit inaccurate if you use your fingers. I haven't found anything else in the game that really requires the stylus though.
===Items and Gear===
Along the bottom of the map screen there are two buttons, Items and Gear. Gear is where anything like shields, swords and rings or anything you can collect goes and mostly you don't need to access this screen. It can come in handy if you want to know how many heart pieces you need to collect to get another heart container (which basically means you can last longer in any fights). The Items menu is where all the fun stuff goes. The x and y buttons on your DS each control whatever item you've dragged and dropped to the x and y spaces on your map screen. When you select either the gear or the items button, the game will pause while you are in the menus. Later in the game if you push the x or y buttons on the touch screen you'll be presented with a slide bar which is supposed to make it easy to scroll through your items without pausing the game though I really can't get the hang of it. I find it too difficult to focus on what's happening on the screen and what items are scrolling by and usually end up just getting Link killed. If anything, pausing the game gives you a chance to properly consider what items you want to use. The scroll feature, for me, is a bit of a useless thing.
As with all the other games, there are a few little side quests you can go on that can help you in the main quest. The most important one is where you collect Maiamais. These are little squeaky snail like creatures and their octopus-looking mother is rather upset that they have all been lost. If you ignore her terrible parenting (losing all 100 of your kids is a pretty mean feat!) and take her babies back to her she will basically upgrade your items and make them more powerful. As the bad guys get stronger the further into the game you go, you'll need your weapons to get more powerful too. The mother will give you a very general map letting you know how many of her lost babies are in each area which can come in handy. Mostly, however, you need to just listen out for squeaking as a lot of the babies are hidden in trees or under rocks. This means that, even if it annoys your partner, you need to play the game with the sound on or you'll miss a lot of the little things and not be able to get the upgrades that will make Links life easier. This can be a slight downside for some if you don't want to play with the sound on, but personally I love the music in the games so I don't mind humming along!
There are quite a few other little mini games you can play that will test your skill to the max and gain you heart pieces and lots of money so that means there is plenty to keep you occupied in this game. If you try and get everything done, you can really stretch out both Links life meter and the play time of this game.
One thing that I was not too fond of in this game is how you get your weapons. In the other Zelda games I've played, mostly you have to work really hard for your items and weapons, usually getting them as part of one of the temple dungeons or for beating a really hard mini-game. You have to work your way up or earn bigger wallets so you can keep more currency (rupees!) in them or you have to collect items to upgrade your items. That last bit is the only thing that is similar. Rather than having to work for your weapons, you can (and do have to) rent most of them from a little cheeky git who's set up shop in your house. Not only does it feel too easy, you lose anything you've rented if Link dies, meaning that if you die in the middle of a dungeon you'll have to go back to your house and re-rent the items before you can continue which is a total pain. Another annoying thing is that you cannot upgrade any rented weapons. Fairly early on into the game you get the option to buy the weapons, but again this feels too easy as you automatically have a wallet that can hold 9999 rupees. A little bit of running around Hyrule will easily allow you to collect enough to buy most weapons. Some items you are given simply for talking to the right person, whereas in most other games you'd have to complete some sort of task before anyone gave you anything. Thankfully, later on in the game you do start to earn a few upgrades which makes exploring everything properly feel a little more worthwhile.
On the flipside of the "makes it seem too easy" argument, the fact you can rent and buy most of your items sometimes makes you have to think a little harder. The game isn't guiding you by saying "You just acquired this shiny new weapon, maybe this will help in whatever new obstacle you now face!" Instead you have to think carefully about what item would help your situation and progress you through the game. This point really hit home when I spent an hour running around trying to get into a certain area thinking "I obviously just can't access that area till later" (as is sometimes the case) when I had the item I needed to access it all along! I felt like a bit of an idiot when it finally clicked what I was doing wrong!
===Live Long and prosper===
For any fan, this game will last forever. It's different enough while still being self referencing (even referencing things from the original 1986 game) to make any fan smile. Most of the beasts you'll fight are recognisable with a few new ones thrown in for good measure. The temples aren't easy, but they aren't overly difficult either so you'll be able to get through the entire game with a little bit of patience. I don't imagine your kids will find it too difficult if you decided to get this game for them. The animation is clear and detailed enough that you won't be disappointed with the graphics and the game flows nicely from screen to screen with only a short not-even-a-second delay if you are changing areas while running around. After completing this one, I took a jump back to a DS Legend of Zelda game (not 3DS) and I was a little bit shocked at how bad the graphics seemed on the slightly older one.
As for Link Between Worlds, it took me just as long as the games for bigger consoles to complete so I don't feel like I've been playing a watered down version at all. Even the cut scenes are superbly animated, making it a really great addition to the series. The "violence" in this game is minimal. Yes, you're constantly slaying beasts but there's no blood or focus on terrible deaths for them. It's not a very scary game either so your kids aren't going to be crying down the house because of it (unless you don't let them near it to play it; I probably wouldn't let them, it's mine.)
===Walking around your own world===
Another feature for this game that could add another element of fun is the StreetPass function. To turn this on you'll need to talk to an old man in Kakariko Village (middle left of the game map). If you have friends with a 3DS and they also have this game, you can sit your 3DS near theirs and it will send and receive a snapshot of both of your versions of Link to each other, equipped with all the items they have chosen at that point. For this to work you have to have the Zelda cartridge in your 3DS and it needs to be closed but on standby. In theory if you had it in your pocket and you passed someone on the street who also was strange enough to be carrying their 3DS around on standby then you'd get their snapshot of Link and vice versa. Next time you turn your game on, you'll get the option to have a battle with a "Shadow Link" and win all their items and a bounty on their head. This is quite cool but not as interactive as it sounds. You don't get to battle live with your friend or the stranger you've passed, you simply get to battle the system-made snapshot of their character. Bummer. If you don't have any mates, don't worry too much! The game will still occasionally make a shadow link to throw at you so you'll still get to experience this feature regardless of how popular and rich your friends are.
The last interesting feature to mention is the strange pedometer that the 3DS has built into it. If you leave your DS closed and on standby in your pocket and walk around it will count your steps. For every 100 steps you make you'll get a token that you can use in games. In "A link between worlds" you can redeem your tokens for hints from strange little ghosts that float about. This can be thoroughly cheated by closing the 3DS and gently shaking it back and forward for a minute or two though the hints you get from the ghosts are hardly worth it and you'll have probably guessed that you'd need to use "an item" to unblock an entrance to a cave clogged with debris. They don't really get much better than that and would only be helpful for really young players. It's also a bit of a waste of your 3DS's battery having it on standby in your pocket so not something I'd really recommend.
The 3DS has a little slider on the side that allows the screen to show you the game in 3D and this game is compatible with the feature. It's not a feature I particularly like as 3D gives me a bit of a sore head. If you really enjoy 3D, however, you have the option there. It does make the levels stand out a little more but you don't really lose or gain anything from the feature meaning it really suits what anyone could want. The only thing I would recommend using the 3D setting for is when you are playing the Octoball mini game which is basically a baseball game where you have to hit pots. It's one of the most horrible little mini games I've ever played but the 3D slider does actually help a little as it makes the position of the ball a little clearer.
The only other tips I would give is that you might want to ensure that you have enough time to really get into the game if you are near the end or about to complete one of the larger minigames (Trecherous Tower). The minigame takes a bit of time to get through and you can't save in the middle of it. As for the end, you can save just before entering the last battle with the final bad guy, but the cut scene videos at the end are a bit long and unlike some of the cut scenes in the game can't be stopped. I had the unfortunate circumstance happen where I had just completed the game and was watching the end sequences when the landlord showed up at the door to do some repairs so I ended up missing about four minutes of the ending much to my frustration. Moral of the story here is lock yourself up with your DS if you are near the end.
Currently you can pick this game up for around £33 due to the fact it was released in November 2013 (so very recently at the time of writing). Eventually it'll probably go down a little but probably not much. Your money will get you the game and nothing else, though the box does come with a cool reversible cover that has a darker world (I assume Lorule) on one side and a bright world on the other (that'll be Hyrule then). Pretty snazzy if you ask me, but then I am a giant Zelda Geek.
I was really surprised by this one. I had assumed that the DS and 3DS Legend of Zelda games would be a watered down and terrible version of the games for bigger and better consoles. I was completely wrong. This game is every bit as intricate, interesting, original and frustratingly fun as all of the others in the Zelda series. It's pretty much suitable for anyone who enjoys a little bit of a challenge and having to think occasionally! I'd have to give this a full five stars out of five and say it's a definite must have for not only fans of the Zelda series but anyone who has a 3DS!