It's been almost two years since Nintendo last released a new "Legend of Zelda" game, but the company has now confirmed the rumors that a new game is in the works: "Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds," will be coming to Nintendo 3DS beginning Nov. 11.
The game was first teased in April, when developers announced a sequel to "Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past," which was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in 1991 and is considered one of the series' best.
From the title, it appears that "A Link Between Worlds" will build off a mechanic introduced in the previous game that has players traveling between the magical land of Hyrule and a parallel "dark world."
The art is fairly cartoonish, continuing a style introduced to the "Zelda" series by "Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker" in 2002 that several other games in the franchise have since continued.
But the game architecture in "Worlds" is a clear evocation of "Link to the Past": The demos reveal a familiar world with familiar mechanics, such as breaking holes in the floor to drop down to new levels. The "Link to the Past" enemy called Moldorm — a giant worm with circular, segmented body parts — even makes an appearance.
Like other "Zelda" games made for handheld devices, "Worlds" employs a fixed, top-down viewpoint. However, a clever new mechanic occasionally flips this perspective: In this game Link (the protagonist whose name becomes a pun in the game's title) has the ability to become a two-dimensional painting on a wall.
This ability lets Link "stick" to smooth, flat surfaces, such as rotating walls, and reach high-up areas, without the need for a handhold. It's similar to the way "sidling" worked in "The Wind Waker," except this time, Link becomes entirely two-dimensional.
The idea for Link's two-dimensional abilities came from an older game in the "Zelda" franchise: "Ocarina of Time," which was released for Nintendo 64 in 1998.
In "Ocarina," Link fights an enemy who has the ability to flit in and out of paintings on the wall, making him hard to find and harder to land a blow on. The developers of "Worlds" wanted to let Link have a similar power, creative director Eiji Aonuma told CNET.
Ironically, it's this two-dimensional ability that really makes the 3DS' three-dimensional capabilities stand out. When Link becomes a painting, for example, the camera rotates, emphasizing the way Link's "flatness" opens up new paths and angles for exploring the world. What's not yet clear, however, is how or whether "Worlds" will use the 3DS' second screen and its touch capabilities.
It's been more than 25 years since the first "Legend of Zelda" title came out, and it's hard for a franchise that old to balance tradition with innovation. But so far, it looks like Nintendo's getting it right with this upcoming title.
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