One of my favorite aspects of video games is their ability to simulate worlds that reconcile the conflict between huge spaces and quick trips. Virtual spaces can be big enough to feel large and mysterious but small enough to mentally map as a contiguous whole, even after you get the ability to fast travel via the equivalent of a virtual jet. I’ve been replaying The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past recently and have found that I can still remember how to walk from the foot of the mountains to the middle of the desert by memory. Because of this, the game still retains its sense of place when I take a shortcut by instantly warping around the map. I may be skipping a lot of obstacles, but I know that they exist, and I know how they connect the world.
This feeling of connectivity is part of what makes the game (as well as many Zelda games) special; the world feels like an ecosystem, one in which fast travel and load screens are concessions to convenience and technical limitations, as opposed to a segmented approach to design. It’s also a feeling that was impossible for me to have in the latest Zelda title, Skyward Sword, a game whose very structure feels like a series of disjointed plane trips over a disconnected world.