While the majority of review scores have been 9 and higher, Destructoid gave the game a 6.5 out of 10. Opinions are divided on if the person who did the review was perhaps looking at the game from the wrong angle, comparing it more to games like Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword and not as an old-school throwback handheld entry.
Jim Sterling gave it a 3.5 out of 5 (which translates to a 70 out of 100 on Metacritic), resulting in some frustration.
Was Yuga a Treacherous Advisor and False Friend to Hilda who was planning to betray her from the start? Or was he a genuinely loyal follower of Hilda who was slowly corrupted by Ganon's hate and ambition? Reading Ravio's journal in the game's hero mode reveals it to be the former.
In addition, is Yuga really meant to portray the Lorulean counterpart to Ganondorf? Or is he an original character with no clear Hyrulean counterpart? Ravio and Hilda have black hair but otherwise appear to look exactly like their counterparts, Link and Zelda, while Yuga really has very little aesthetically similar to Ganondorf.
On the topic of Ravio, is he really the coward he proclaims to be, or simply executing a different kind of courage, having to stand up to his best friend and confidant but unwilling to fight her directly? Or, is he actually as courageous as Link in any other circumstance but is berating himself for not being able to stand up to his beloved princess?
Author's Saving Throw: Some Zelda games (mostly later 3D games) are criticized by some for being too linear and having tedious exploration. ALBW addresses these concerns in several ways: by allowing the Hyrule and Lorule dungeons to be completed in almost any order, by providing a convenient transportation system early on with Irene and the weather vanes, and by allowing most items to be used early on through Ravio's rentals.
Awesome Music: The game's music has been widely praised, with many of the tracks remixed from A Link to the Past. Composer Ryo Nagamatsu aimed to have the music sound as much as possible like live recordingsnote it's actually sequenced due to the Nintendo 3DS' sound quality limitations, and it did manage to fool some people.
Breather Boss: Margomill (the boss of House of Gales) can be this on Hero Mode due to a few factors. The quadruple damage only applies to enemy attacks, and Margomill doesn't hurt you by directly damaging you but by trying to knock you into the Bottomless Pit surrounding the arena. In other words, the fight hasn't really changed between difficulty modes.
Fans are split as to whether "Lorule" is a clever pun or just cheesy.
The issue of Ganon returning after a seven-year absence and not doing anything, as Yuga possesses him. Some love it for inverting Hijacked by Ganon, other think it disrespectful to the series' overarching Big Bad.
There is also disagreement on whether the short length of the game compared to the immediately preceding 3D games is because of Padding being by shortening dungeons or because of laziness on the part of the developers in terms of adding content.
Clearing the Endless Mode at the Cucco Ranch, which requires you to dodge Cuccos for 999 seconds, unlocks a very trivial and minor reward: a giant Cucco supposedly sits near the ranch, and talking to it heals your hearts. Because of how tedious it is and how minor the reward is, fans are split whether or not getting it counts towards 100% Completion or not.
The games' art style, which uses fairly undetailed textures and Super-Deformed models even during cutscenes, which differs from its slightly more realistic official art. Some fans love it for its color and character, helped by the fact that the game runs at 60 frames per secondnote as opposed to the Zelda standard of 30 fps, while others (including a few reviewers who otherwise like the game) claim that it's hideous.
Complete Monster: Yuga starts off as The Dragon to Princess Hilda of Lorule, working with her to capture Hyrule's Sages to revive Ganon so the Triforce of Power can be returned to the mortal plane. He also imprisons several soldiers around Hyrule Castle by turning them into paintings. Yuga merges with Ganon and mercilessly attacks Link, only to be stopped by Hilda who sets him off to free the Sages. After all the Sages are freed, Link gains the Triforce of Courage. After wearing Yuga down, he then betrays Hilda, puts her in a Fate Worse Than Death in a painting, and then merges with her to get her stolen Triforce of Wisdom. Yuga reveals himself that he didn't care about restoring Lorule at all: all he wanted was to reshape it in his own image. He even tries to cause Lorule's destruction at the end for that purpose, with only Link standing in his way.
Contested Sequel: While ALBW is widely praised and has avoided many of the criticisms of other modern Zelda games, fans seem undecided as to how it holds up compared to A Link to the Past. Generally, ALttP is seen as more influential, while ALBW is seen as more polished and refined.
Counterpart Comparison: Yuga with Kefka Palazzo; not only do the two look very much alike, what with the ghostly white faces with borderline clown make-up and garish, colorful clothing, but their stories are also extremely similar. Both work with an 'evil' royal who plan on stealing godly power (in both cases, the power of a trio of gods), both absorb a lot of magical power to become the Big Bad of their games, and both turn on the royals they were pretending to be The Dragon for. The only big difference is where Yuga failed to gain the Triforce, Kefka succeeded in stealing the power of the Warring Triad.
The bomb throwing Hinox in Lorule is far more dangerous than its A Link to the PastDark World counterpart. It throws bombs at a much faster rate, and the explosion radius from these bombs are larger and stronger too. The only guaranteed safe way to take it out is from a distance using the Bow or the Master Sword's Sword Beams.
Lynels, centaur-like beings that previously appeared in A Link To The Past, are back with a vengeance. With the Forgotten Sword, they take an insane 30 hits to shut down (that's eight with the Golden Master Sword). If they spot you, they spew out a long stream of fire continuously for over five seconds and track your movement so you can't circle around behind them, holding you at bay for the most part until they stop. They also dish out a shocking amount of damage: three hearts per hit in the green tunic (that's TWELVE hearts in Hero Mode). If you're facing them without any item upgrades, it would be best to simply avoid them, and if forced to fight, never engage more than one Lynel at any one time. They cannot be stunned or dazed by weapon attacks; even the Sand and Tornado Rods are useless. Only the Ice Rod can momentarily freeze them on the spot for a few seconds, and if it doesn't have the "Nice" upgrade, you'd have to get well inside their attack radius to use it. Counter-intuitively, however, the Nice Fire Rod shreds them, since the column of fire stun-locks them and hits them repeatedly.
Because Gramps from StreetPass seems to have all of the same skills Link has as revealed as him being the Bonus Boss of the StreetPass challenges, many believe that he is the Link from A Link to the Past. Those who don't think its Link speculate a lot on just who a 100+ year old man who can do one-handed handstand push-ups might be.
Because Lorule is a Parallel Universe to Hyrule complete with several characters having Alternate Selves there have been countless theories regarding the Lorulean mythos, including the Triforce's virtues and the creation goddesses, among other things.
Fandom Berserk Button: Thinking that this game is actually a remake of A Link to the Past instead of a sequel doesn't sit too well with certain fans. Saying that it's different enough that it could almost be considered its own game is probably enough to make a fan's head explode.
"Funny Aneurysm" Moment: If you talk to Ravio after buying all of his items, he'll make up a silly, nonsensical tune and then cheerfully remark that it's been a while since he's been in the mood to sing. This becomes more poignant when you learn that he's a Lorule citizen who knew firsthand about the plan to steal Hyrule's Triforce; that'd put a damper on anyone's mood.
The Tornado Rod. It stuns most enemies around you for a considerable amount of time, and outright kills most flying enemies. The Nice version increases the area of affect, ensuring that almost nothing can reach you short of surprise or stun immunity.
The Nice Fire Rod is incredibly powerful. It can hit multiple times, burns away any enemy shields, and hits multiple enemies, making it an excellent ranged item. The only downside is that the flame hurts you as well if you walk into it by accident, since it sticks around for a while and moves pretty slowly compared to Link.
The Great Spin has great range and power, especially when combined with the Level 3 Master Sword. It also makes Link invincible until it finishes and isn't affected by enemies that can block or deflect Link's slashes or electrocute him when hit, and covers half the screen. Between this and the other two aforementioned items, it's pretty easy to clear the Treacherous Tower, a 50 floor survival match. The only drawback is that using it on multiple enemies that push Link around when he hits them (like Hardhat Beetles) will often end with Link being pushed into a pit.
The Nice Ice Rod. Drops four large chunks of ice on enemies, with both a fairly decent range and the bonus of being able to hit things on higher ledges and in the air. Oh, and because it's ice based, enemies get frozen solid upon being hit (with a few exceptions), allowing you to one hit kill them afterwards with any melee or fire based weapon.
Red and Gold Bari can become this if you're not patient. The Biri they split into when killed immediately electrify themselves upon splitting, making them more time-consuming to kill than in other 2D Zelda games.
The Wonderful 101 made a Zelda shout-out by naming one of its areas "Lowrule". Come this game's revelation that there is a world called "Lorule" and it makes you wonder if Eiji Anouma was talking to Hideki Kamiya.
It's Easy, so It Sucks: Another common claim about the game. Since you're able to tackle most dungeons in any order you want, they all have roughly the same difficulty level, rather than having a proper difficulty curve. This makes the game easier and easier as you become more proficient. On top of that, there's the upgrade system, which exacerbates this to ridiculous levels. Hero Mode makes an attempt at offering a bigger challenge by making enemies deal four times as much damage as in normal mode, but the fact that it's locked until the game is completed at least once (and especially game producer Eiji Aonuma's justification for it) is in turn criticized as well.
It's Short, so It Sucks: Many people claim that it is one of the shortest games in the series, even if you go for 100% Completion. However, whether or not this is a bad thing depends on who you ask. It may be because players have been used to longer games from the late 90's onwards. Difficulty aside, Link's Awakening may be even shorter, and that's nothing to say about the original Legend of Zelda.
Memetic Mutation: "Mumbo jumbo, mumbo jumbo..." has become a humorous phrase passed between Zelda fans.
Moral Event Horizon: Yuga crosses it either from kidnapping the sages, one of them being a little boy, or his eventual betraying Hilda when he reveals he doesn't care about Lorule's fate and plots to become a God and bring further destruction.
The Ice Ruins. It's a very treacherous Slippy-Slidey Ice World with very narrow pathways and tough enemies throughout the dungeon. If you don't have trouble with it on Normal Mode, you're surely going to on Hero Mode. Amusingly enough, the game seems self aware of the level's status, as several wooden signs proclaim your doom along the route you must take to reach it.
Skull Woods. Except for arguably a couple of places, it's pretty straightforward for a dungeon with multiple entrances and exits, but inside, you'll be constantly besieged by Wallmasters who will only be stopped for a while by killing one. Normally they'd just be a nuisance, but there's several points where you're walking on extremely narrow paths over pits, dealing with darkness, fighting White Bari who take time to kill if you don't want to take damage, standing on moving platforms over pits that move very slowly, or carrying an essential object that slows Link down - and more than once dealing with most of the above all at once as the Wallmasters relentlessly try to grab you. And while the Wallmasters can be defeated, giving some breathing room before eventually respawning, many puzzles in the dungeon require the Wallmasters, so if Link defeats one then finds a button that requires their assistance, there's nothing to do but wait for it to respawn. It doesn't help that your Skull Woods experience is capped off with what some players deem That One Boss.
Zaganaga, the boss of the Desert Palace, is a tremendous pain. The arena is one big quicksand trap with small pillars that you can stand on dotted throughout it; the boss pops out of these pillars at random, and you have to use the Sand Rod to raise temporary platforms so you can get close enough to hurt him. Thing is, the temporary nature of said platforms means you may or may not have enough time to run all the way up to Zaganaga and slash him, and the whole time he spits out dozens of Peahats that fly into you and knock you into the quicksand. Making matters worse are the long-range beam attack he gains after he Turns Red, and the fact that he seems to have a lot more health than other bosses. At least the Sand Rod can be upgraded to the Nice Sand Rod so that the platforms it creates don't disappear, but it's not going to help too much with the Peahats if you don't also have the Nice Bow, and the beam attack will still give you trouble if you're not fast enough.
Knucklemaster replaces Mothula as the boss of Skull Woods, and it's no less aggravating. Its punch attack is very difficult to dodge, and requires quickly merging into a wall to avoid so it can crash into a wall and be vulnerable. Damage it more, and it gains a slamming attack that's also difficult to dodge, and destroys the ground you fight on, making it even harder to avoid its attacks. When it Turns Red, things go downhill fast. Its slams are faster, most of the walking space will be destroyed at this point, and every time it's left vulnerable, you'll get maybe three hits in before it starts attacking again. It can be skipped, but unless you've got a specific item to dodge its attacks, good luck.
Dharkstare, the boss of the Ice Ruins, is also a pain. First off, the arena is an icy surface, which means you'll slip all over the place, and is surrounded by a Bottomless Pit, and there's also a pit in the middle as well. Dharkstare never holds still, making it extremely difficult to melt its ice shield off with the Fire Rod, and it attacks by sending three energy balls out around your position in a triangular shape which, after a few seconds, freezes the area inside it. Unless you're already moving when it sends the triangle out, good luck not getting frozen. And when it Turns Red, it starts sending out a second triangle.
Getting all 50 StreetPass medals too. Given that it's a Socialization Bonus, it's already impossible in many parts of the world, and some of the challenges are annoying even then (kill Dark Link in under 10 seconds, kill Dark Link without moving, use a Bee/Golden Bee/Sand Rod/whatever in the battle). While the game can generate Dark Links on its own, it takes 4-5 hours for each one and putting the system in sleep mode doesn't count, and due to the nondescript appearance of the NPC running the system, it's easy for players to end up ignoring him completely and never turning StreetPass on for the game which means that getting StreetPasses even via relays tends to be disproportionately rare. Its mitigated by the likelihood increasing if you go with your 3DS to game stores or just transit through populated urban environments, but only to a point. It doesn't help that Shadow Links vanish after losing against them too, giving only one chance per fight. So despite being able to get a Bonus Boss out of the deal, many completionists are ignoring this one too.
While the Advanced Treacherous Tower is a lot fairer than the above two, it can still be very challenging, especially if you go into it in Hero Mode without fully upgrading your sword and tunic.
Some people have loads of trouble with the Octoball Derby minigame. The Hotfoot race also gives some people trouble. note unless you use the warp to Lorule, travel via broom and the warp point closest to the finish line back to Hyrule
The Scrappy: Cucco Girl and her Rooster Level minigame. Taunts you whenever you lose and even if you are .5 seconds from completion, she doesn't offer the next round for free.
The Tetris Effect: Wall merging can get into a player's mind quite easily, and lack of wall merging...
They Changed It, Now It Sucks: For the first time in 15 years (if not even longer than that), a Zelda game averts this part of the Double Standard. The biggest change, the possibility to beat (almost) any dungeon in any order you want, has been unanimously praised. Some people argue that it contributes to the game being short and/or the story not being as engaging as some previous installments, but they mostly come from a tiny minority.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The story of the game has one of the most morally ambiguous themes ever explored in the Zelda continuity: Is it justified to save a dying kingdom (Lorule) by condemning another one (Hyrule)?. The problem? It's only addressed in the last 20 minutes of the game. Before then, with the exception of some brief, few and far in between Foreshadowing moments, it had what looked like little more than an Excuse Plot, which felt like a huge step back in the improving narrative of the franchise. The ending resolution of a Deus ex Machina magically fixing everything, thus averting any sense of sacrifice or consequence, also cheapens the conflict. On the same note:
Hilda's motivation and Anti-Villain archetype could have easily turned her into one of the most complex and fascinating characters in the Zelda mythos. But as she gets tossed to the side by Yuga in the final battle, she is "just" a plain good, if a bit underdeveloped, character.
Yuga as a villain is novel: he's a savvy cross between Agahnim and Ghirahim, he fights Link as a Recurring Boss, and he actually usurps Ganon as the Big Bad. However, he merges with Ganon a third into the game, losing his distinctive appearance in favour of looking and acting just like Ganon, and Link doesn't meet him again until the final battle. One feels like they could have saved his One-Winged Angel form until later in the game.