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Back to the future: Nintendo's new 'Legend of Zelda' games have a new look but the same feel

Back to the future: Nintendo's new 'Legend of Zelda' games have a new look but the same feel


A sequel and a remake

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The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds
The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds

Nintendo showed off new gameplay footage of its upcoming sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past yesterday, and we managed to get our hands on the 3DS game here at E3. In the brief 10-minute-long demo it was clear that A Link Between Worlds doesn't shake up the formula too much, but it does add new elements that make for some particularly interesting new puzzles. "This is not a remake," said series producer Eiji Aonuma, "but a whole new game."

"This is not a remake."

One of the big new features in the game is Link's ability to change into a 2D painting and walk along walls. In practice, this means that you'll need to think differently about how you maneuver the game world. In the dungeon featured in the demo, the wall-walking feature let you sneak around obstacles and slip out windows. The points where you need to use the feature aren't immediately obvious, so it takes a bit of experimentation to learn how to use it. Once you get the hang of it, the feature adds an inventive new element to the traditional Zelda formula — it could be the defining feature of A Link Between Worlds, and lead to some challenging puzzle design.

Aside from that, what was on display felt very familiar: you have arrows, bombs, and a swords, and there are both field areas and dungeons. The controls feel solid and the touchscreen makes swapping out items a bit easier. A Link Between Worlds features the same top-down style as A Link to the Past, but modernizes things somewhat with 3D characters and environments. Unfortunately, the art style is a bit drab and the handheld's 3D features weren't put to good use, at least during the portion of the game available during the demo.

The big draw here is the graphics, and they look great

The game's somewhat bland look was especially disappointing in comparison to the other Zelda game we played, the high-definition Wii U remake of Wind Waker. Obviously the big draw here is the graphics, and they look great: the high-definition makeover really makes the cel-shaded art pop. Nintendo had the demo running right next to the original Gamecube version of the game, and the visual difference was definitely noticeable, though a little less so when playing the game with the Wii U's Gamepad.

Aside from the updated look, Wind Waker is the same game, with no new areas or game-changing features. However, a few tweaks were made to both streamline the experience and take advantage of the touchscreen controller. The previously tedious sailing segments can now be sped up so that you won't waste as much time travelling. This was perhaps the biggest complaint with the original game so it's great to see it rectified here. The touchscreen, meanwhile, can be used to control the titular Wind Waker, a musical instrument that can change the winds. You simply swipe in the right direction to make Link play a particular note. It was novel during the demo, though it doesn't feel like a necessary replacement for simply using the analog stick. We weren't able to check out any other touchscreen-enabled features.

Wind Waker will be launching on the Wii U in October, while A Link Between Worlds is coming to the 3DS at some point later this year. Unfortunately, there were no details or hands-on time available for the other Zelda game, announced back in January, which Nintendo says will take the franchise "back to basics."