Zelda: Link to the Past 2 preview: vertical slice

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past stands as one of the highlights in a franchise known for quality. More than 21 years after the game's original release on SNES, Nintendo is finally making a sequel to the classic. And while many would likely be content with a game that simply takes the LttP formula and adds more dungeons, Nintendo is aiming to "really take that classic 2D Zelda gameplay and make it fresh," Nintendo's Bill Trinen explained. A Link to the Past was one of the finest 2D Zelda games, but what really sets it apart is the vertical nature of its dungeons, Trinen said. So, the 3DS sequel will be "taking advantage of elevation" in a big way. The new 3DS Zelda expands upon the concepts introduced in the top-down Zelda-inspired level from Super Mario 3D Land. The top-down camera emphasizes height, an effect made all the more prominent by the system's built-in 3D screen. It's a game that's clearly been designed with 3D in mind.

The height of objects is far easier to discern in 3D than in 2D

Many of the puzzles involved playing with height, at least in the dungeon I played. For example, one solution required Link to be atop a depressed pillar before hitting a switch, so that he could be elevated to the proper height. Another puzzle demanded Link hammer the floor in the right place so he could land on the appropriate platform below. The vertical focus of the new Zelda will likely result in some devilish dungeon designs. Even in this demo dungeon, there were some head-scratchers. The demo we played had 13 floors, and we wouldn't be surprised if that number only grew higher for the game's more challenging levels. Some secret areas involved taking some major leaps of faith--dropping three or more levels by stepping off an elevated platform.

The new Zelda feels like a LttP sequel in many ways

Beyond the top-down perspective, there are many elements that make this new game feel like a classic LttP game. For example, Link once again has a magic meter that depletes as you use items. Arrows aren't consumable, but you can't spam them--you'll have to wait for that meter to recharge. And like in the classic games, Link's Master Sword also shoots a projectile whenever his health his full. In addition, although Link can move around in 360 degrees, it seems that his attacks aren't analog. Instead, he can only aim in eight directions around him. But while the game largely feels like a sequel to LttP, one element of the game did feel out of place. Link's newfound ability to flatten himself as a drawing on the wall is used to great effect in the dungeon design, but I couldn't help but feel it's a gameplay mechanic better suited for Paper Mario--or at the very least, Toon Link. I found myself constantly forgetting about that ability (which also drains the aforementioned magic meter). Although it felt out of place, I will say that the ability is utilized in clever ways.

Turning into a drawing felt a bit out of place

A Link to the Past is cherished amongst many. And with two decades of nostalgia built up, it's hard to imagine any sequel being able to recapture the same magic of the original. The new Zelda game looks to be a clever, inspired addition to the franchise. But, it has incredibly large shoes to fill.