#2 and #1 were close this year. One was the next successful game in a popular series while the other was an unknown from the Indie community. Both featuring great game design in their own ways. But what it came down to was rewarding the game from the new team with #1 this year and moving the other game to today’s pick.
#2 — Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds was a return to classic Zelda gameplay, taking place in the same world as A Link to the Past. But instead of simply remaking the game for the 3DS, Nintendo created a brand new story.
Using the previous dungeons and design as a template, the designers put a new spin on the Zelda formula with new dungeons, items, bosses and more. One of the bigger changes was how most of the items were now bought in a shop as opposed to being found in dungeons.
While the dungeons themselves still relied on a focus of one item, the freedom to access the items from the start opened up the game world dramatically. And for the first time in a very long time in the Zelda series, we had a largely non linear Zelda title. And after the last few games with constant tutorial popups and linear paths, it was really a breath of fresh air.
A Link Between Worlds was actually a bit harder thanks to these changes and felt more aimed at older or better skilled gamers in that sense. Combat was tougher by the fact that enemies did more damage this time around and yes I did die a few times.
The world now being open also meant that the secrets of A Link Between Worlds were more varied. During my first time through I missed a lot while just focusing on the main quest. In my haste I finished the game in about four hours of play. But on my second trip through on hard mode, I took the time to explore and I couldn’t believe everything I missed.
And I don’t mean the usual Zelda heart containers and bottles but powerful upgrades that didn’t seem that important on normal mode, but became vital on hard.
As I talked about in my analysis, there was a level of restraint with A Link Between Worlds compared to previous Zelda games. It felt like they could have done so much more with the 3DS features to add more content that would have been supplementary to the experience. But instead, Nintendo focused on a specific design and I think it paid off for them nicely.
For this year, it wasn’t a case of me finding fault with Zelda that dropped it down into #2. Both my #1 and #2 games this year did not have any major problems for me to focus on. What it simply came down to was originality: I’ve played plenty of Zelda games, but I have not played a game like my #1 pick and that’s what gave it the nod.
With that said, stay tuned tomorrow and we’ll be talking about my #1 game for 2013.