I suppose I’ve been a little mean to A Link Between Worlds‘ graphics (mean, perhaps, but not wrong). So I will balance it out, for the sake of pre-review fairness, by pointing out one area in which the game totally nails its graphics: Link’s new ability to become a painting.
Early in the game, Link gains the power to stand next to a wall and flatten himself into a two-dimensional version of himself affixed to and capable of shuffling across walls and cliffs. This has certain limitations such as time and obstructions, but it plays a key role in just about every dungeon and greatly enhances the game’s puzzle design. But on top of that, Link’s two-dimensional form is really clever in and of itself.
When Link moves as a painting, he shuffles awkwardly, like a poor Flash animation. But instead of coming across as jarring, it fits perfectly for a manifestation of the stiff, pre-Hellenistic art style in which he’s rendered. And you’ll notice a remarkable amount of detail when he transforms. The screenshot above is clearly from the unfinished version of the game, because Link’s eye moves to focus on nearby enemies and key environmental objects while he’s flat. Also, he wears a bracelet in the final game that always appears on his left arm (in proper latter-day Metroid style, his 2D sprite isn’t simply mirrored when he changes orientation). When Link moves slowly, he often faces away from the wall so you can see his eyes look shiftily down and to the side, giving the impression that he’s creeping stealthily. His image color changes to reflect his current tunic. And my favorite detail of all: If you equip the lamp in one of the active item slots, his painted image will suddenly have a lamp affixed to its belt.
Is it a cliché that I’m praising the game’s 2D art while excoriating its polygons here on a site called 2-Dimensions? Yeah, well, deal with it.