Although it was only last year that I got into Zelda games, I've spent enough time playing them since to realise that, while consistently great, they are a little bit linear and formulaic. The fact that A Link Between Worlds flies in the face of this and presents a non-linear approach to the typical dungeon raiding formula is what makes it one of the best Zelda games to come out in years.
Items usually earned from dungeons can be rented and later bought before hand so the dungeons can be tackled more or less in any order you desire. This, coupled with the fact it gets off to a quick start, makes this one of the most exciting Zelda games in years. Of course added to this is the fact that for many there is a strong nostalgia factor as the game revisits Hyrule and Lorule from A Link to the Past. I've never played A Link to the Past so the nostalgia isn't there for me but in a way that makes the fact I hold the game in such high regard all the more impressive.
Aside from the shake up to the structure things are largely the same with overworld and dungeon exploration playing out largely as is normal for the series. This keeps things familiar and means the changes introduced aren't so extreme as to alienate fans of the series.
The design of the dungeons and overworld (be it Hyrule or Lorule) is fantastic. The dungeons are challenging but not to the point where you rage quit and the puzzles within them often made me smile with how cleverly thought out they were. Boss fights are classically designed and the bosses themselves are nicely varied. Essentially the game is managed with the level of confidence and finesse that you would expect to see from Nintendo. All of this is capped off with Link's newfound ability to merge into walls as a painting. This provides new elements to combat as you can't be hurt as a painting but also improves exploration as you have a new way to think about your approach to reaching new areas and solving puzzles. It might sound at first like a gimmick but turning into a painting really does add to the game.
Graphically and sonically speaking the game is also superb. The cartoonish graphics give the world a charming look and the environments and characters are all superbly designed. The overworld of Hyrule, and even it's dungeons, are given a vibrant, almost happy look. The harsh, decaying lands of Lorule however, are presented as a stark contrast to this and it really comes across as quite a desperate place. The 3DS may not pack much power but Nintendo certainly know how to use it to create an enthralling world. The music is equally fantastic with classic themes and new ones providing yet another great soundtrack. My only compliant sound wise, and indeed my only real complaint with the game, is that the effect used when hitting enemies sounds incredibly cheap and very old school. It might be a nostalgic touch for some but to me it just sounds cheap and nasty.
Whether you have the nostalgia factor on your side or not A Link Between Worlds is a fantastic experience that breathes new life into the series to create its most exciting entry in years.