I just finished the new Zelda game for the GBA, and it’s quite good. A little while ago, I complained about how I don’t like 2D Zelda games as much as 3D Zelda games, but actually this game does a lot to alleviate my complaints. (Kind of spooky, actually.)

For one thing, the overworld isn’t divided up into tiles the same way as previous games are. It’s broken up into 12 or so regions, of different sizes, each of which is a coherent setting. You can wander around fairly freely, so you don’t feel like you’re in a hedge maze and you can easily enough avoid monsters if you’re in a non-fighting mood.

The one main city is reasonably large. It’s not large so much in size, but there are lots of building that you can go into, lots of people to talk to. And, as you gain abilities, you open up more and more things to do in the city. (There are also a few minor cities near dungeons, as is not uncommon in Zelda games; not much in them, but it’s a nice place to pause between the wilderness and the dungeon.)

It has one other quality that I appreciate more and more these days, as my time for playing games diminishes, and as the number of games I have to chose from increases: it’s very easy, while managing to provide some nice puzzles to figure out. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy a good challenge, as long at it’s very well balanced. But the moment I start seeing a game as tediously difficult instead of interestingly difficult, I lose interest, and often put it down, never to return. With this game, I didn’t die until the fifth dungeon, and I was never in too much trouble.

Having said that, at the end, it did fall into one cliche that I will be more than happy to never see again: the final boss battle that is three times as long as any previous boss battle, with the sequence normal boss / “you think you’ve defeated me, but wait until you see my real form” / “actually, I have another secret real form that’s even worse!”. (With no save points in between forms, of course.) Ridiculous, tedious, insulting. At least in this game even the final forms weren’t too bad, so it didn’t take me too long to complete.

I don’t have much else to say. It has an optional collecting subgame, just like so many games in the post-Pokemon era, but it’s not too tedious: I actually ended up collecting all the figurines. Lots of optional things to do if you’re in the mood to scour the countryside again after your first trek through; I enjoyed the game enough to do most of it. The shrinking gimmick in the game was pleasant enough. All in all, a well done incremental improvement over previous 2D Zelda games; there are a lot worse things for a game to be.

I wonder what the next GBA I’ll buy will be? Will I ever buy a GBA game again, or is the platform dead? (Looking through a list of announced games, this probably is the end for me.) For that matter, I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever buy a Nintendo DS; that system looks more like a tech demo every day…

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