There's no getting around the fact that the latest entry in Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series, A Link Between Worlds, is dog-ugly. Its simplistic polygons and lumpy visual design look amateurish at best, downright offensive at worst.
I suppose you could pin the blame on the fact that A Link Between Worlds hews so closely to its direct predecessor, A Link to the Past. 1992's definitive Zelda adventure featured a very unusual art style, with a rounded look to its environments that led to oddities like trees that appeared to have been made from injection-molded plastic and rocks that resembled congealed chocolate. A Link Between Worlds reproduces entire elements of A Link to the Past wholesale, and it attempts to recreate quirky 20-year-old bitmap graphics in polygons. The effect, unfortunately, doesn't quite work, and the whole affair is an eyesore -- especially cutscenes, where the awkward appearance of characters (who come off as refugees from the lowest grade of third-party Dreamcast software) deflates any intended dramatic impact.
You can't help but be disappointed by this outcome, as the Zelda games have generally featured fairly attractive graphics. You'd certainly never know about this legacy by looking at this latest entry, though. Even the DS games, low-resolution as they were, demonstrated a pleasant art style that worked well within that system's constraints. A Link Between Worlds reminds me less of Phantom Hourglass and more of those laughably terrible CDi games that Philips developed (leaving a permanent stain on the franchise's reputation to serve as Nintendo's penance for backing out on their "Play Station" deal with Sony). I many hours into A Link Between Worlds at this point, and throughout the entire adventure I've cringed at the agony being inflicted on my eyes every time I glance at the screen.
Read the rest of the review at US Gamer.