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As is standard practice for Nintendo, they are releasing a handheld Legend of Zelda game to tide fans over during the three to four year wait between new consoles offerings for the beloved franchise. But whereas the last pair of The Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks followed the Toon Link adventures, A Link Between Worlds instead opts to follow in the footsteps of A Link to the Past; a game fans have been begging to get a follow-up for years.

albw_1The available demo showcased at the Armageddon Expo offered two playable segments: Field and Dungeon. I played through the entirety of the dungeon, and was surprised when the Nintendo rep told me I was the only person all day to complete the dungeon in the allotted demo time. The difficulty curve did not seem steep, and the puzzles were not very challenging, so I admit that surprised me a bit.

It was an incredibly generic dungeon, with no water or fire temple elements to it; you’d hit a switch to raise and lower barriers as necessary, kill all the enemies in a room to reveal a chest with a small key, smash a button with your hammer and stand on it so when the button pops back up you get sent flying upward to the next level. The whole thing was very familiar, especially if you’ve spent any time at all with A Link to the Past.

A fun touch came in the form of a short-range beam shooting outward from the Master Sword if you were out-of-reach of an enemy or switch. Of course, the main draw to this demo was the new ability to become a mobile painting on the wall. This mechanic is quite fun, and a nice deviation, sometimes making you think fast on your feet in order to reach your desired destination before your time in the wall runs up and you fall out.

But really, that’s all the new stuff I experienced covered in that single paragraph. The painting ability it neat, no doubt, but it’s hardly enough to carry the game on its own. Being a long time fan of the Zelda series, there’s no doubt in my mind that more special items and abilities and surprises await in this adventure, but it would have been nice to at least be teased with something else in the demo.

albw_2Standard and mostly unexciting gameplay aside, ALBW is definitely a beauty to look at. It takes the old-school top-down viewpoint and revamps it, giving it a great amount of depth that lends itself nicely to the 3D aspect. The graphics pop, without being as bright and silly-looking as the cel-shading we have grown used to in recent years.

If history has taught us anything, it’s to trust in the Legend of Zelda games bringing us quality experiences with many surprises. So while there is still much unknown about A Link Between Worlds, that won’t stop me from picking it up. Especially if I can manage to grab one of these bad boys in the process.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds releases exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS on November 22 in North America and Europe, and November 23 in Australia/New Zealand.

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