For an unplanned sequel, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a damn good one.
Nintendo's return to the Hyrule of A Link to the Past is a fresh take on an otherwise predictable, if not wholly enjoyable, franchise. The land falls into danger after a mysterious figure begins causing trouble, and only Link can set things right. Although A Link Between Worlds has a similar foundation to every other game in the franchise, the home it builds feels much more modern.
Nintendo invites you in, but skips the restrictions of a guided tour. You're free to roam dungeons and rent items at your leisure. It's the kind of freedom that The Legend of Zelda — a franchise that prides itself on exploration and discovery — has never given players before.
Coupled with this new, powerful sense of control are the same elements that make Zelda games so enjoyable. There's something wonderful about discovering how much has changed or remained the same, from exploring dungeons you once knew to provoking a blitzkrieg of angry cuccos. A Link Between Worlds is strangely familiar in its bosses and music, but it still manages to surprise you with eccentric characters and new puzzles. The game succeeds where many of its predecessors have faltered: the kid gloves are off, but the child-like delight remains the same.
Nintendo reminded us why we fell in love in the first place.
A Link Between Worlds is the Zelda experience players have come to love, give or take a few new tricks. One of the game's best and most intuitive mechanics is also its simplest. Link has the power to transform into a 2D painting — a move that allows him to scoot across walls with ease. One click of a button adds a new layer of depth to an otherwise standard top-down exploration experience. Each time you slip onto a wall, you gain new perspective on an area you've already scrutinized in a dozen ways.
With A Link Between Worlds, Nintendo reminded us why we fell in love in the first place. We remember that no matter how puzzling its choices in hardware or business, its vision for creating games is as clear — and important — as it's ever been.
A Link Between Worlds isn't only proof that The Legend of Zelda is just as strong and innovative a franchise as it was nearly 30 years ago — it's a testament to Nintendo's ability to take a property you know better than your oldest friend and reinvent it flawlessly.