“In every way, A Link Between Worlds is exactly what you want out of a Zelda game.” The newest entry in the handheld Zelda franchise is receiving such high accolades from every corner of the industry that (as a hard core Zelda fan myself) I was super excited to experience this defining title in the series. After some research, I found out that, unlike previous Zelda handheld games, A Link Between Worlds avoided the trap of using the touchpad on the 3DS. Fairly certain of a decent level of accessibility, I not only purchased the game new, but also purchased the guide to go with it, since I was confident that here was the first handheld Zelda game in years that I could personally enjoy. I could not have been more wrong.
It is true that in what I played I saw little that would pose any barrier for gamers with visual disabilities. Beyond the fact that it is on a handheld (meaning that the visuals are miniaturized), the art style makes everything that is important easy to see. And while there is some color coding in Zelda, historically it has not posed any barrier. In fact, it would be hard to imagine a Zelda game in which the color of rupees would have any impact on whether or not they should be collected. But because of extreme fine motor barriers, I was not able to progress very far in the game before reaching an impassible point. Therefore, the best that can be said is that this game is thoroughly accessible.
Only fine motor impaired gamers who are the hardest of hardcore Zelda fans will be able to derive any enjoyment from this title. This is because in a design decision that truly makes no sense, there is zero controller customization in this game, which means that players will have to use the circle pad on the 3DS to move Link. These controls can often be too imprecise to be practical for disabled gamers when navigating tricky puzzles. Developers could have given players the option to switch the directional pad and the circle pad, especially since all the d-pad does is shift the camera’s viewpoint. Combine this with the fact that players will have to reach around to the right shoulder button to use their shield, and the situation becomes even more frustrating. In previous games, Link has always had his shield at the ready to block, so it is hard to understand why A Link Between Worlds requires a separate input to use the most basic item in Zelda history. Furthermore, unlike Windwaker HD where players could save at any point in the game, in this Zelda title players can only save when they touch a weathervane. This means that if the player dies, they will be forced either to retread ground from the last weathervane they saved at, or from Link’s house (whichever the player chooses). The final nail in the coffin for the fine motor accessibility of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is bound up with one of the game’s new features. Much has been said about the player’s ability to rent items and tackle dungeons in whatever order they choose. But if a player dies, they lose all of the items that they had rented. This adds a whole new level of unforgiving gameplay to this title. Since disabled Zelda players are going to die anyways, they are now guaranteed to spend time and rupees retreading the same ground over and over again to progress through the game.
For players with auditory disabilities, the game is reasonably accessible—except for one major part. Link has the opportunity to upgrade weapons by rescuing baby octopi and returning them to their mother. The only problem is that these tiny creatures are not very visible, and are often found more by using their sound rather than their visuals to locate them. Beyond that, the story is entirely told in subtitles, and there should not be much else that relies on hearing. But since the item upgrade system is one of the main new features of the game, it still might be enough to make hearing impaired gamers hesitant.
The truly disappointing thing about The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is that instead of doing its best to alleviate the barriers inherent in the Zelda series (such as the need for timing and accuracy), A Link Between Worlds aggravates these barriers by piling more unnecessary barriers on top of them. As a result, only the most hard core Zelda fans should go anywhere near this game. When they do, they should expect to spend a lot of time retreading the same ground.
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The Bottom Line for Disabled Gamers: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
– Art style makes everything important easy to see.
|– Minimal use of color coding.|
– No controller customization.
– Story is communicated using subtitles.
|– To use some side areas and quests fully, the ability to hear may be necessary.|