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The wait is over, everybody! No wait, that’s wrong. The wait is over, iOS fans! San Andreas is now available on iOS.

This version of the game comes with its own additions, including:

  • Re-mastered, high-resolution graphics including lighting enhancements, an enriched color palette and improved character models;
  • Dynamic detailed shadows and real-time environmental reflections (iPhone 5 series/iPad 4th Gen and above);
  • Physical controller support for all Made-for-iOS controllers;
  • Cloud save support for playing across all of your iOS devices for Rockstar Social Club Members;
  • Updated checkpoint system;
  • Dual analog stick controls for full camera and movement control;
  • Three different touch control schemes and customizable controls.

The mobile version of San Andreas is available for a price of $6.99 through the AppStore, and is compatible with the iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPod Touch 5th gen, iPad 2, 3rd and 4th generation, iPad Air, and iPad Mini.

No word yet on the release date for the Android, Kindle, and Windows Phone versions of the title, although Rockstar did confirm previously that they would be available some time this month.

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Looking back over the year 2013, there are few moments that stand out to me as events that have shaped or will shape gaming as we know it. What were the “Best Moments in Gaming” this past year? Let’s take a look back, shall we?

Most Obvious Best Moment in Gaming in 2013: PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launch

This one goes pretty much without saying. Sony and Microsoft have bestowed upon us their latest consoles, each packed with enough horsepower to propel us into 2020. With releases between console generations becoming longer and longer, this really was a big deal, to which both companies threw mega parties for each of their releases (which you can some Xbox One launch party pics here). It will be well into next year when most gamers will adopt the new consoles, but this year did mark the beginning of the next generation.

Best Moment in Gaming for the Current Gen in 2013: The release of Grand Theft Auto V

There were many candidates that could easily take home “Game of the Year” honors, but for PS3 and Xbox 360 users, the release of GTAV saw astoundingly positive reviews and acclaim from critics. Will it win everyone over? No, but to build the hype around the release of such a highly anticipated game and then knock it out of the ballpark with a stellar game that pushes these consoles to their technical limits? Kudos to Rockstar, not that we didn’t expect an excellent game anyway from them anyway.

This just goes to show that there is still plenty of life left in the current generation of consoles, and for some us, we are a bit backlogged on games we have wanted to play.

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Best Moment in Gaming for the People in 2013: The defeat of “Always Online”

When Microsoft announced that the Xbox One would need to be online almost all the time in order to use the damn thing, gamers everywhere were up in arms. The realization that this just was not feasible for many who lived in rural areas or areas with poor internet connectivity, Microsoft quickly changed suit by removing the requirement, but not after some embarrassing public gaffes.

CD Projekt Red also recently stated that they are doing away with DRM in their last installment of The Witcher series, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It would be nice to see this as a movement back towards trust in the consumer, but it’s hard to see this catching on with other publishers.

Anywho, here is to hoping that publishers will stay the course, because they can still force this online requirement. Unfortunately, it looks as though NBA2K14 has just implemented an always online requirement with their most recent patch.

Best Sneaky Moment in Gaming in 2013: Nintendo’s handheld gaming dominance

This really isn’t that sneaky, or that much of a surprise, but Nintendo is just dealing it out with the success of the 3DS and their stellar first-party games. Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Pokemon X and Y have been huge successes worldwide, breaking numerous sales records and shipping well over 10 million units collectively. These games have also bolstered sales of the 3DS, as well as the 2DS, not to mention inclusion of special bundles for those looking to break into the handheld gaming world. With the recent release of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds selling quickly,  I think Nintendo can deal with the fledgling sales numbers associated with the Wii U for a while longer.

Best Moment in PC Gaming in 2013: Valve steps into the hardware arena

With the availability of cheap games via bundles, great online game distribution outlets, and the exciting possibilities afforded by the Oculus Rift, it’s a great time to be a PC gamer. I am not trying to pull the “Master PC Race” card, but merely pointing out that my Steam library is full of games that I bought at a discount and can run beautifully with as many mods as I wish to include on them. Sounds snarky still? Let’s just call it a selling point, albeit an expensive initial investment.

With Valve’s announcement of the Steam Box, it only made sense for them to release a PC/console hybrid with the way gaming movements are trending nowadays. Some people want to ability to keyboard and mouse on their big screen, or use a controller when playing a PC game. The Steam Box can potentially appeal to an incredibly wide audience of gamers, but whether diehard console gamers will bite is yet to be seen.

And their reasons for entering the hardware realm and developing their own OS are all merited. PC gaming is relatively stagnant as far as innovation, with exception to the Oculus Rift, and the PC soup definitely needs some more spice. It’s great to see a developer investing in the hardware, which can then release on the system with minimal hurdles due to the familiarity of the OS and the machine. No more running games in compatibility mode or worrying about how Microsoft will screw up the next release of Windows. That was an exciting week when Steam slowly revealed the SteamOS, the Steam Box, and that funky looking controller.

Best Moment in Online Gaming Entertainment in 2013: The Final Bosman

The Final Bosman (image courtesy of GameTrailers.com)

This honor goes to an old friend of mine, Kyle Bosman. Kyle puts on a great weekly show over at GameTrailers called The Final Bosman, where he talks/philosophizes about video games in an incredibly thought provoking manner, and is willing to talk about games that don’t always hit the mainstream pulse of most gaming sites. And he is a pretty funny guy, so be prepared to hide those smirks at your work desk. Go check out his show!

That’s it folks. What do you think were the Best Moments in Gaming in 2013? Anything we were missing? Sound off in the comments section!

Image: Montuschi/Flickr

Neuroscience Is Offering a New Line of Defense for Violent Criminals
John McCluskey, a murderer convicted of killing an elderly couple and setting their bodies on fire, was spared the death sentence this week after his defense used brain scans to argue that his terrible crimes were caused by brain abnormalities that predispose him to violent behavior. McCluskey’s brain is indeed different from that of most people — but does that mean he shouldn’t be held (entirely) accountable for his crimes? [WIRED Science]

Alligators and Crocodiles Use Tools, Not Tears, to Snare Prey
Alligators and crocodiles are the newest members of an exclusive club in the animal kingdom: the animals-who-use-tools club. Their entry into this rare grouping — which includes humans, ravens, and chimpanzees – came after scientists observed alligators in the U.S. and crocodiles in India lying very still in water and using sticks strategically placed on their heads to lure birds into their waiting mouths. [New Scientist]

The 5 Biggest Dirtbags Who Radically Advanced Your Digital Rights
Americans owe some of their most significant digital rights to some pretty awful people. You don’t have to like them, but you should be grateful for the legal precedents these dirtbags’ cases established. [WIRED Threat Level]

Those Investors Dumping Millions Into Uber Might Be Right After All
Of all the startups in Silicon Valley attracting ridiculous hype and over-inflated valuations, Uber reigns supreme. Valued at $3.5 billion, the startup announced plans this week to expand its services to delivering things — not just cars  – and people got very excited. Why? Remember that Amazon started out as a humble bookseller. [New York Magazine]

The 10 Best Memes of 2013 Didn’t Even Include a Cat
One minute, reddit is overrun with homages to the ridiculously photogenic guy, and the next, he’s been toppled by Grumpy Cat. This year, even cats lost some of their meme power. So in a world where 15 minutes of fame have been edited down to 15 seconds, who emerged as top dog? [WIRED Underwire]

The Devastating Legacy of the Doctor Who Lobotomized 2,000 U.S. Veterans
The U.S. Veterans’ Administration doesn’t have the best reputation for supporting our troops after they get home from battle. But one of the darkest moments in the VA’s history has faded from modern public memory: A once-lauded neurologist named Walter Freeman led a horrific medical campaign to lobotomize 2,000 war veterans suffering from serious mental illnesses and injuries. [Wall Street Journal]

American Technology Is Leveling the World
The technology and gadgets that have changed the way we communicate, work, and play may be made in distant nations like China, but they’re designed in America, by Americans, for Americans. The rest of the world is adopting our technology at a rapid pace, and as they do, they’re absorbing American cultural values — often at the expense of their (and our) own diversity. [WIRED Opinion]

Darpa’s Giant Folding Spy Satellite Will Dwarf All Other Space Telescopes
Forget about finding signs of life on Mars. You know what’s really exciting about the future of space exploration? Spying. The U.S. government’s defense research arm, DARPA, has a brilliant new plan to make a super-spy satellite that puts all other space telescopes to shame. [WIRED Danger Room]

What Happens When You Slaughter an Entire Ant Colony With Molten Metal
Last week, it was the Crazy Ants taking over Texas. This week, it’s the wondrous results when you torture and slaughter an entire unsuspecting ant colony by pouring molten aluminum down their anthill chute. If you have a heart, you shouldn’t try this at home. [Gizmodo]

What Does the CIA Have to Do With an American Man Who’s Been Missing in Iran for 6 Years?
When former FBI agent Robert Levinson went missing while on a business trip in Iran in 2007, the CIA insisted he wasn’t on a mission at their behest. But this week, a report revealed that some rogue CIA analysts had sent Levinson to Iran as a contractor, and the agency has been trying to sweep its mess under the rug. Meanwhile, no one has heard from Levinson in three years. [Washington Post]

Apple’s New Location-Based Technology Is Going to Change More Than Just How We Shop
At first, reports of Apple’s new iBeacon tech, which uses the GPS and Bluetooth on your smartphone to interact with you as you move through the world, made it sound like the technology was going to revolutionize our shopping — and not much else. But the beacons in our smartphones could change the way we interact with the world in big and small ways… [WIRED Design]

The Science of Building the Perfect Snow (Wo)Man
If the blustering wind and plummeting temperatures gripping the country lately have put you in a Scroogey mood, there’s a way to make the most of the cold. Turn that snow into a snowman! Behold, the definitive, scientifically tested and approved guide to making the ideal snowman (or snow woman). [Quartz]

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

This week, Twitter changed its “block” feature so that people who were blocked by users could once again interact with the users who had blocked them. After intense backlash from users — including the lively #RestoreTheBlock hashtag — Twitter reverted the change, saying it “never want[ed] to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe.”

What just happened, and what can other companies learn from this? This may have been one recent incident, but it’s not an isolated one — witness Twitter’s (and other social networks’) delay in implementing a report-abuse button, for example. These kinds of features aren’t just abstract; they have a concrete impact on individual users and the health of online communities overall.

First, the basics: In case you missed it, Twitter has a feature called “block.” If you block someone on Twitter, that user can no longer interact with you. But Twitter changed the feature from blocking to essentially muting someone, which meant that users wouldn’t see updates from the blocked person — yet they could still follow, favorite, retweet tweets, and so on.

The change punished users, not harassers. That’s why the truth-in-humor analogies ranged from things like calling the police about an attack and being told “Well, what were you thinking, going out in public?” to bullying someone in a classroom and then having the teacher offer the bullied student earplugs (that was one of mine). In short: ridiculous.

In Forbes, Kashmir Hill said that Twitter “moved itself out of the role of controlling what users do on the site.” But when you run a community, you don’t get to just step down and leave your members to fight among themselves. When you start a community, you make a promise: We will take care of you. Abdicate that responsibility, and your community will eventually falter.

Things worked out in the end, this time. But these are my takeaways for what companies need to consider and do differently in future — especially when changing features that affect user safety.

Derek Powazek

Derek Powazek has been creating community sites online since 1995. He is the Editor in Chief of Tonx; the creator of Fray; the author of “Design for Community”; and a consultant at Fertile Medium. Follow him on Twitter @fraying.

You Can’t Change the Rules in The Middle of the Game

Many Twitter members have spent years adding jerks, haters, and abusers to a carefully crafted block list. This ability created an agreement with Twitter: “I don’t want these people to interact with me again.”

When Twitter changed that agreement without warning, it meant everyone in that blocked group could suddenly interact with you again. Worse, when those blocked people now interacted with you, Twitter would hide it from you. This meant that if someone was harassing you, your friends could see it … but you would not.

Now, had Twitter added a new feature called “mute” that operated the same way the new block did, alongside the current block, no one would have complained. What Twitter tried to do is change block (a tool that severs ties) to mute (a filter). The fact that many third-party Twitter clients have built their own mute tools is proof that it’s needed. Twitter should still add it natively without taking away the existing block tool.

But to change the way an existing community tool worked — especially one so central to the safety and sanity of users — is to court disaster. Twitter changed block from something users did to others, to something users did to themselves.

People Always Notice

What made things worse was how the change was communicated to users. Which is to say, it wasn’t.

Implementing the change with no warning created the appearance of Twitter trying to sneak something past its users. I’m not saying that was their intent. But the way the change rolled out made it seem more incidental than important. In fairness, the company did talk to media, explaining that it was trying to prevent retaliation behaviors, and it did update information on its site.

But updating an FAQ and talking to industry press is not the same as communicating with your members. When a website, platform, social network, company, or other forum makes a change to a core piece of community functionality, it has to tell its users about it directly. In advance. Ideally even soliciting — and listening to — their feedback.

Of course you can’t run every change past the entire community, but Twitter is a communication platform; it’s not like they have no way to talk to their members. And whether they like to admit it or not, they’re managing a community. Communities aren’t just companies beholden to their board and stockholders — they have a responsibility to their users. (Which is also why Twitter’s reverting the feature is a positive sign.)

Never Make a Change That Punishes Victims

The most outrageous part of the recent block-unblock episode is that, despite Twitter’s claims to the contrary, they were basically fixing the problems of the people who got blocked — not of the people who were doing the blocking.

Twitter, when faced with years of complaints from the blocked, capitulated to them by restoring access to the users who had blocked them. (While some argued the change better reflected how the block feature actually works, Twitter said it was because retaliation scenarios could spur greater abuse.) But I’ve managed or worked with many communities with tools like this, and you’d be amazed how common it is for people who misbehave and get punished to come crying to the admins. Once you scratch beneath the surface of their complaints, however, nine times out of ten they were the ones in the wrong: “Well, yeah, I did break the rules, but I still shouldn’t be punished!”

When making a core policy change like this, the company has to ask itself: Whose problems are we solving? And: What additional problems might that change create? Only then can a company avoid the mistake of an illogical and insensitive change.

Large Communities Need More Tools in Their Community Management Toolkit

Block is a necessary tool for communities to manage themselves, but it’s not the only tool a community of millions needs. As I’ve described it in the past, having only the block feature in a large community like Twitter is like “setting the dinner table with only chainsaws.” We need more humane, nuanced tools for people to manage their networks (and attention).

Humans are weird and messy and therefore require a weird and messy set of tools. Here are just a few examples of more tools that companies should consider:

Dismiss. People often block because there’s no other way to remove a tweet from view. If Twitter added this tool for any tweet (just like the one that exists for ads), there’d be less need to block right away.

Timeout. I’ve often wanted a tool that operates like block with a time limit: blocking another user for a day or a two and then unblocking. This would be a great way to short-circuit a hot argument without implementing a long-term block once people have cooled down.

Spike. I also frequently use this technique, which I call a “spike”: blocking someone, forcing them to unfollow me, and then unblocking them again so there’s no trace. This is a workaround; I’d rather just have the ability to remove myself from someone else’s follow list without notification. It’s like leaving a party without saying goodbye.

Negative Feedback, Positive Reinforcement. Twitter should be monitoring accounts that get blocked a lot (or receive other negative feedback) for sudden jumps in activity. If a user gets carried away, goes off the deep end, or misses their meds, then Twitter could step in: “Hey, we’ve noticed you’re getting a lot of negative feedback today. Are you okay?” Sometimes just getting noticed is enough to calm someone down and defang vitriol.

Block List and Redress. Twitter’s block is still incomplete. Where is the page that shows all the people I’m blocking? There isn’t one. How can a user send a polite appeal to a user to get unblocked? They can’t. Twitter should finish building the feature it already has before changing its core functionality altogether.

* * *

I acknowledge that none of this is easy. But neither is creating a real-time, multi-platform messaging network that is used by millions, and Twitter has accomplished that despite the odds.

They’re also not alone in facing such tradeoffs and challenges. So this is a teachable moment for those of us building, participating, and moderating online communities today — one that I hope the rest of the industry is paying attention to as well. As we live more of our lives online, we need to get this right.

A system update is now live and available for the Nintendo 3DS. The update adds Nintendo Network ID functionality, as well as the Wii U’s super fun Miiverse, to every gamer that opts to download it (I tried it out and it took 5-10 minutes to complete, so don’t worry about having to wait around for EONS).

Firstly, about the Nintendo Network ID: gamers need to register an ID in order to download free stuff, like game demos, from the eShop now. It doesn’t cost anything, and if you already own a Wii U, you can use the same ID you registered on your console and integrate them together seamlessly. The great thing about this is that your eShop balance and Wish Lists will be shared between your 3DS and Wii U, though there is no game integration for things like NES titles that are both on the 3DS and Wii U, meaning you would still have to buy the same title twice to play them on both systems (which is a DAMN SHAME).

Secondly, Miiverse has been added to the 3DS, which means players can connect with gamers around the world and share game tips, experiences, and amazing drawings with each other, just like Wii U owners have been doing for some time now. An internet connection is required to use Miiverse fully on the 3DS; however, those who do not have da Wi-Fi can queue up to three posts and manually add them to Miiverse once they get their connection established. Gamers can add screenshots to their posts from either one of the 3DS screens, which is nifty!

Lastly, players who get another 3DS and want to transfer all of their stuff over to the new one (like me when I finally get the Zelda 3DS XL) can now do so an unlimited number of times, as long as it is once every seven days. In the olden days before this update, gamers could only do a system-to-system transfer five times TOTAL, so hooray for sensibility winning out!

More info on this very update can be found here, while all things 3DS can be located here. I encourage everyone with a 3DS to get on this, since you can no longer send friends notes in Swapnote and can use Miiverse to fill that gaping writing hole in your life!

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The GIF you see above came through my Twitter feet around 10:30 last night. It landed about an hour after I got word that Beyoncé had unexpectedly dropped a brand-spankin’-new “visual album” — the cool way of saying an album that comes with videos — on iTunes and realized we, the internet, were having a moment. In the ensuing hours, social media was talking about Beyoncé and nothing but Beyoncé. Tweets and Tumbls were omnipresent as her videos were seemingly GIF’d in real time and everyone went nuts on Facebook. Perhaps this says more about the people I follow than the world at large, but it seemed like Bey was out to break the internet.

That didn’t happen, of course — you’re reading this on the internet after all. But Beyoncé did wreak some serious havoc. Mentions of her Bey-ness on Twitter hit somewhere between 500,000 and 1.2 million in the hours after Beyoncé landed. iTunes reportedly crashed as people rushed to download the album in a frantic “shut up and take my money!” frenzy. It sold 80,000 copies in three hours. Following Beyoncé hashtags on Twitter and Tumblr became an impossible-to-follow flow of “omg” and “Can’t wait to tell my kids about the day Beyoncé dropped ‘Beyoncé.’”

It was nuts. It was like when Radiohead released In Rainbows, except it had a set price of $15.99. It was also genius.

By not promoting her album at all – no singles, no teaser videos, no street teams wheat-pasting in major cities – she made its release a surprise happening. Had we not just published our best music moments of 2013, this would’ve definitely made the list. She announced the album, posted a “Surprise!” on Instagram and gave fans enough material to keep them busy for days. Then she dropped the mic. Thanks to whatever death-to-snitches plan she had in place, word of the album never got out and nothing leaked. Even the NSA can’t keep a secret that well. In the annals of minimal-marketing marketing, it was a pretty smart move, particularly for an artist who is obsessively discussed on social media but engages with it selectively. (She has pretty active Tumblr and Instagram accounts, but hasn’t tweeted to her 13 million followers since August.)

Of course, this wouldn’t work for every artist. Only someone with albums as highly anticipated as Beyoncé’s can do this. Like her husband Jay Z, who can pretty much guarantee one million people will download his album via a Samsung app, she knows people are going to find her record no matter how she promotes it. So why not let everyone else spread the gospel for you? Or, as one smart tweet put it, “Beyoncé doesn’t need publicity. Publicity needs Beyoncé.” It also doesn’t hurt that the album, with its 14 songs and 17 videos, is a brilliant collection of music that also happens to have Easter eggs like a Big Lebowski line in French and someone actually saying the word “feminist” on what is sure to be one of the biggest pop records of the year.

This isn’t necessarily the future of album releases for major artists, but for someone like Beyoncé it might be the smartest way to do an album release. Whereas most artists constantly self-promote on social media, Beyoncé is using fever-pitch level of interest in Beyoncé to do the promoting for her. She didn’t put piles of pre-release teasers on YouTube; she released the album and let everyone else tease it for her. She is eating vegan cupcakes while you tweet and Tumbl and do the work other artists pay marketing people millions of dollars to do. It’s brilliant. When people are talking about you anyway, give them something to talk about. This piece and the fact that you’re reading it? QED. For further proof that it worked, look no further than Katy Perry – one of the many pop princesses Beyoncé is seen sweeping off of the table in the GIF above.

“Don’t talk to me today unless it’s about @Beyonce,” Perry tweeted earlier today. “THANX.”

Check out some other great internet reactions to Beyoncé’s new album in the gallery above.

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The MTA has posted another incredible set of photos from deep within the bowels of New York City. This latest batch shows the progress of the Second Avenue subway that’s being carved 140 feet beneath the bustling metropolis of Manhattan. It’s taken decades of planning and years of excavation, but the extension is finally starting to take shape, with concrete walls connecting massive tunnels. But they’re still a ways off from completion — the first trains won’t run until 2019.

Gaijin Games has just announced that one of my favorite Wii U eShop titles, Runner2, is coming to the PS Vita on December 17th, with a European release the day after on the 18th. Gaijin Games is hoping to make the Vita port of the rhythm-based title identical to the console and PC versions, with the same beautiful graphics, content, and craziness. Gamers can expect some Good Friends to be available for purchase the same day as Runner2‘s release (minus Atlas because of Steam exclusivity).

I adore Runner2 on the Wii U, especially its off-TV play, and am happy Vita owners are going to get to experience its wonder so friggin’ soon! Anyone getting their running shoes together for this upcoming release?

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Have you ever wanted to reclaim the joy you first felt when you played one of your favorite games?  Then, have you ever wished the story didn’t end once you beat the big bad, and you could stay in that world with new adventures?  Well, the Nintendo 3DS title The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds really is able to deliver all that.

As a more-than-spiritual successor to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the game feels like you never left your Super Nintendo.  The game takes place in the same world as ALttP but now it’s in 3D, and on a screen probably not much bigger than you originally saw the SNES version if you’re playing on a 3DS XL (OK, maybe that’s overstating the size of the 3DS, or assuming you had a four inch TV screen).  The point stands, however, that the game looks great with the same art style you remember, vividly displayed in 3D.  The 3D, although not a must, greatly showcases how a game can utilize the 3DS capabilities to really make the world pop.  The other point of nostalgia for those who played the ALttP is the sound effects.  An arrow hitting a target has the same thwack, the sound of falling is unchanged, and even the sound of a soldier alerted to Link remains as iconic and yet still unthreatening as ever.

Let’s get a little into the plot.  So spoiler alert, Link likes to sleep in (hey who doesn’t).  Reminiscent of ALttP, Link wakes up to find out there is trouble! …except the trouble is that he is late for work! Yes, Link in this iteration is an apprentice blacksmith, although this plays little importance for the rest of the game except for introducing the blacksmith and getting the story where it needs to go.  Once you get to the blacksmith’s, you discover that the Captain of the Hyrulian guards has forgotten his newly forged sword.  You are sent off to find the captain at the Sanctuary where he is battling a new foe, Yuga.  Yuga turns the priest of the sanctuary, defeats the Captain, and knocks Link unconscious.  Link awakens in bed, having been brought back by a merchant, Ravio.  Link is then summoned to Hyrule castle by Zelda where he is instructed to – you guessed it – retrieve three pendants, get the master sword, and defeat evil.

Somewhere along the line, you gain the ability to shift into walls like a painting, and this wall shifting allows you to enter cracks in walls of Link’s Hyrule to enter a new kingdom, Lorule.  This land is very reminiscent of the Dark World from ALttP.  The princess counterpart of Zelda in this land, Hilda, requests that you save the seven sages (like the previous game) in order to obtain the Triforce of Courage and achieve the mantle of hero your green tunic has designated you become.  Lorule seems to be collapsing and dying due to some force, and requires you to find different entrances around Hyrule to access all of the areas of Lorule, each containing a dungeon.

The plot is all pretty standard Zelda fare, with hardly any new story points introduced from ALttP.  However where the game does change is the dungeons.  The position of the levels remain relatively the same (desert, Kakariko village, death mountain, etc.), but the dungeons have been given a whole new layout, with some similar traps to their ancestor dungeons.  The puzzles are new and fresh, and using Link’s new power of wall-shifting becomes very crucial to beating some dungeons as well as finding extra rupees and even some hidden chests (Hint: do not leave a dungeon until you collect every chest on the map!).  The new challenges are not terribly difficult, and the dungeons even seem slightly more linear at times than I would like for a Zelda game, but the puzzles are fun and compelling nonetheless.  Perhaps a younger me would have had more issues figuring out some of the trickier puzzles, but having played so many puzzle solving games, I didn’t find any puzzle stumping me for more than a few minutes.  Some bosses end up being rehashed, but some are new and take into account the 3D aspect of the game.  Others give you new takes on the classic bosses where the same strategy to begin to defeat them works, but then they gain new abilities as the fight goes on.

An interesting aspect of this game is that pretty much every item is rented by Ravio, the merchant who sets up shop in Link’s house.  This makes some of the game fairly easy early on, as having items that you wouldn’t normally obtain till near end of the game – like the ice rod – allow you to plow through dungeons. There are also a couple of new items thrown into the mix like a sand rod as well as a tornado rod for some good 3D puzzle action for a new dungeon.  If Link falls in battle without a fairy to revive him, Ravio sends his bird to come collect his items, with you having to earn enough rupees to rent the items again.  This didn’t happen to me as I never died during the game, but it’s certainly an incentive to play smart and try not to die (or to at least carry a fairy with you at all times).

Final verdict:  10/10

A Link Between Worlds is a fantastic game, and it’s easy to see why it has received such rave reviews with nine and ten scores.  The only issue was that it seemed to end too quickly, but whether that’s because I already knew how to defeat some bosses or because some puzzles were reused, I like to think it’s because I just plain didn’t want to leave the world again.  The game has taken something most gamers have played and loved, and gave it a new spin.  This spin allows A Link Between Worlds to stand out from its predecessor, as an entity all its own.  Mixing nostalgic feelings into the gamer culture is a great way for game series to harken back to a time most gamers have fondly cherished, and to produce games that not only appeal to old pros by offering something new, but also allow newcomers to experience what we felt so long ago.  I hope A Link Between Worlds is the start of a trend.  A trend where we look back to what made us love a game, even if that means bringing you back to the same world and just tweaking it to keep you surprised.

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