Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Link Between Worlds – StreetPass Review

This review was originally published on ZeldaChronicles (formerly known as ZeldaEurope) and got translated for this blog in 2021 by the same author.

Last week's review of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds didn't cover a big, new feature of the game: the StreetPass battles. Now, that there was the opportunity to dive more into this, it's time to share some impressions. Let the Shadow Link battles begin!


The Basics

With the game's StreetPass system you can receive Shadow Links from other players, which you might meet on the go, while your system is in Sleep Mode. You can also create your own Shadow Link based on your current gear, where you can select two of the X and Y items, which he will take in battle.

The Shadow Link then will have a bounty based on the equipment, which ranges from 50 to 999 Rupees. If you meet a Shadow Link in your game, you'll see the name of its player and the bounty, where you now can decide whether to take him on or not. If you win, you'll receive the bounty.

And if you lose... well, there is nothing really to lose here. Lost games aren't counted and your hearts will be refilled after the battle. If you use Potions, other things in bottles or the Foul Fruit, then those will be regained after the battle as well. And if you are defeated, this won't count for the total times defeated at the end of the game either. So, you can just take on the Shadow Links without having to worry about anything.

Link meeting a Shadow Link at the fortune teller's tent

You'll meet the Shadow Links all over Hyrule and Lorule, but the starting point is the "StreetPass Meadow" in Kakariko, where a mysterious old man, who is just called "Gramps", does the setup for you. There are signs for every Shadow Link available, which tell your their bounties and where to find them. Up to 20 Shadow Links and their signs can appear at the same time, but if you happen to meet more people, then don't worry, they'll get queued up and simply appear, once you've defeated some Shadow Links to make space.

That is, if you're able to even meet that many people with a Nintendo 3DS... And that's probably the main issue with all of this. Unless you live in a big city or happen to have a second Nintendo 3DS around, it's actually super tedious to get into this.

The game will generate some Shadow Links for you, where you can recognize them by the name "Shade" (or "Kage" in certain languages, based on the Japanese word for "shadow"). But these are extremely rare, where you'll only get one after playing the game for five hours. And considering that it might only take you between 10 and 20 hours to beat this game, that's way too long.

Ideally, you would be able to spend your Nintendo 3DS Play Coins at the StreetPass Meadow to make them appear, because after all this is exactly what those Play Coins are normally used for in other games... To give you access to StreetPass content. But for some reason Nintendo decided to use the Play Coins for the Hint Ghosts instead.


The Battles

As for battling the Shadow Links themselves, there are two things of note. One would be the fantastic music, which is a remix of the Temple theme from Zelda II - The Adventure of Link, which is also quite prominent in the Super Smash Bros. series. There is truly no better track to inspire the fighting spirit of Zelda fans.

The other thing is that the CPU enemy is actually quite good, at least when compared to other enemies in the game. It's a whole other level. The Shadow Link parries, blocks, dodges and circles around you, while he also makes good use of the items (except for the Net) to put you under pressure. The CPU has its issues with certain environments, however, where this happens mainly in the ice arena, where the Shadow Link keeps falling through the crumbling ice floors. But overall this is the most versatile and toughest enemy in the entire game.

Link facing a Shadow Link in the basic arena

Speaking of arenas, there are only five of them. There is the default arena, which is just a platform in the sky without anything on it (see the screenshot above). There is a forest area with an apple tree at the center and some water puddles. One arena takes place on a grate above lava, where some fire pillars are shooting up, while another takes place on sand. And finally, there is the aforementioned ice arena with crumbling floors and bumpers. Each of them have their own unique elements, which keeps things interesting, but overall there could have been more of them for the sake of variety.

No matter the arena, the battles can be rather unbalanced, depending on the bounty and your own progress, especially in the early in game. If you meet a Shadow Link there with a higher bounty, then it will be incredibly difficult to win this fight. And if you happen to run into an early Shadow Link in the late game, you might defeat him with single strike. (This does have its use, however.)

But if your equipment is on the same level, the fights are perfectly balanced and can be a lot of fun, especially if you take on those Shadow Links with bounties above 900 Rupees in the late game. And this is when you'll notice that the combat is actually rather good.

artwork of the Shadow Link using bombs and Hookshot

That's mainly due to the different items – even those that you may haven't used much throughout the game, thanks to the way of how the items interact with each. A great example is fighting the Fire Rod with a Hookshot. You'd normally expect that the enemy shooting giant flame pillars has the advantage here, but you can use the Hookshot to pull yourself right through the fire to your enemy as a counter move. The Hookshot will even shortly stun the Shadow Link for a guaranteed hit afterwards.

It's quite ingenious, where this lets you use the items in ways you would have never imagined during the main game. And you can't just mindlessly spam them either, where this has actually quite some depth to it, especially since you can bring two items into the battle. It's nowhere near any Beat 'Em Up, but certainly quite good for a Zelda game.

And this raises the question why Nintendo didn't turn this into a real multiplayer mode, where you fight against other people locally or online. The battles are really fun, but fighting against the CPU gets old fast, where you might wish that you could test your skills against other players. With online multiplayer this could have connected Zelda fans all around the world... But sadly, this isn't the case. Maybe in the next game?

The Challenges

Rupees alone aren't exactly the biggest incentive to keep fighting Shadow Links over and over again, which is why there are also 50 medals to collect, which act as Challenges for this mode. Those can be simple things, like "Win 5 times!" or "Use the Fire Rod to deal the final blow!", but also more tricky tasks, like "Win without taking a single step!" ...

Every item in the game gets some love here, where you get motivated to try everything at least once, instead of just using your favorite items all the item. You also don't have to worry about missing anything here, where doing a Challenge for an upgraded item will also score you the same Challenge for the normal variant. So, if you use the nice hammer to defeat an enemy, it will also count for the hammer. Everything can still be achieved at the end of A Link Between Worlds, where you can just beat the game without worrying about StreetPass at first.

And this is even some really good post-game content, where you might return to the game, even long after you've already beaten it in normal and Hero Mode. (The Shadow Links also do quadruple damage in Hero Mode, by the way, which can be really tough.)

There is also a nice reward for clearing all Challenges, where this lets you battle against a CPU with the highest bounty at any time, without the need for finding Shadow Links.


The Conclusion

StreetPass in A Link Between Worlds is a really good extension for the game, where the battles against Shadow Links can be a lot of fun and the Challenges will engage you for a while, even after having beaten the game.

The major downside is that you can't summon Shadow Links using Play Coins, which would have been very helpful. And overall this feels more like something that would have been a lot better as a battle mode against other players...


The Good:
  • Fun battles with some depth against a decent CPU
  • Zelda II music
  • 50 Challenges to complete (without missables)
  • Makes good use of items
  • No penalties for losing


The Bad:
  • No use of Play Coins to summon Shadow Links
  • Only five arenas
  • It's no Battle Mode

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