For the first installment of Replay Value, I’m going to explore whether or not The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds has any replay value. Nintendo released this 3DS game in 2013, declaring it to be the sequel to the classic SNES title The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and that declaration generated a lot of hype as well as high expectations. A Link to the Past is, to this day, one of the most popular and highly praised games in the Zelda series – for good reason. The expanded on the classic top-down adventure formula of the original and then introduced new elements that would become classic and signature aspects of a Legend of Zelda adventure such as the Hookshot and the parallel or “Dark” World. I could keep going because I play through A Link to the Past at least once a semester. However, this post is about A Link Between Worlds, which I argue has similar replay value.
What is “replay value”? After all, any game can be played again, so all games have “replay value”. Technically correct, but, for me, a game has replay value when, after not playing it for a few years, I still find enough engagement with the story, the gameplay, and the overall aesthetics of the game to complete another full playthrough. Yes, for me, if a game cannot recapture the excitement that caused me to complete it in the first place, I find its replay value limited. Thus, while I still play older Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter games, I argue they have limited replay value, because, I don’t care enough about the story to engage with them beyond the catharsis offered by beating the crap out of 1-2 opponents.
With definitions handled, let’s move to my first point – engagement with the story. The story is a variation on the Zelda cliche – “The mysterious bad guy Yuga is transforming the descendants of the Seven Sages of Hyrule (which, of course, includes Princess Zelda) into paintings so that he can revive Ganon, merge with Ganon, and obtain the Triforce of Power.” Simple: Kingdom threatened – Princess captured – Link must save the day. The story isn’t complicated, but it’s an engaging story. It’s the story one expects from a Zelda game, and it’s presented well. The animations and minimal voicings add more character than one would initially think. And I find myself caring about the people of Hyrule – in this game, the blacksmith’s family is one I really care about – even if they play a small role in the kingdom.
In addition to learning that I still found the story engaging, I have to say that I found the game play even more engaging than I did when I first played the game. The core Zelda mechanics remained fun and engaging, and I honestly found myself getting excited when I discovered a secret chest or heart piece or even when I solved a difficult puzzle. The new mechanic, the transform into a painting and move along the wall, actually surprised me when I gained it. I had genuinely forgotten about that mechanic when I played and found areas where it was needed. Even Ravio, whose “item rental service” annoyed me when I first played the game – I wanted to either find or purchase my items and not worry about dying – seemed an interesting and smart decision. I could, if I had the money, rent all the items that would normally take an entire game to acquire and keep them – so long as I didn’t die. This made me play smarter and more thoughtfully than I would normally have played otherwise.
And finally, for a game to have replay value, I need to still find the aesthetics appealing. Without being “retro” in appearance, A Link Between Worlds presents a beautiful world that appears to be an updated version of the Hyrule presented in A Link to the Past. This aesthetic blending engages me both as a contemporary gamer and as someone who may look at classic Zelda games through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. That said, the happiness caused by successful engagement with nostalgia has a powerful, lasting impact.
So, in conclusion, because The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds engages me with its narrative, its game play, and its aesthetics, I have to conclude that this game still has replay value.