A Wonderful Remake of a Classic Zelda Game.
As I watched the credits roll after I finished Link’s Awakening, I began to think back to how this game was when it first released on the GameBoy back in 1993. Even though I didn’t play it until around 1999, as I was turning 10 years old, I still vaguely remember how it looked and felt. Seeing it through the eyes of a young lad, it was an incredible thing to behold. This whole pixelated world of adventure awaited me and I struggled to put it down, but because I wasn’t that great at solving puzzles, I struggled to finish it so I eventually gave up and I have my regrets. Fast forward 26 years later, Nintendo have re-re-released Link’s Awakening which would make it the third remake (the second being Link’s Awakening DX which came out for GameBoy Colour in 1998). This is classic Zelda in every way and maintains a solid reputation, even after two decades have passed. Now we have the 2019 version out for Nintendo Switch and it looks and plays better than ever.
Link’s Awakening differs from the other titles as the game doesn’t take place in the land of Hyrule. After the events of Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past, Link travels by ship across the world in preparation for more dangerous threats that plague Hyrule. Unfortunately for Link, a storm destroys his boat whilst out at sea and washes ashore on a remote island known as Koholint. A young girl named Marin finds you on the beach and takes you to her town to recover. Once you awaken, you go to collect your sword from the beach, where you are greeted by a friendly Owl. He tells you that you must gather eight musical instruments from across the island in order to wake the Wind Fish who is sleeping in a gigantic egg at the top of the tallest mountain. You cannot leave the island until you do so and this sets the stage for your traversal across Koholint.
Right from the get-go, it is obvious the game has had an entirely new coat of paint, everything is brought to life with vibrant colours, gorgeous lighting and shadows and lovely details that really pop out at you with dashes of blur stroked across the screen for added visual effect that works wonderfully. It is very easy to compare the art style of Link’s Awakening to the likes of Animal Crossing, and this works well for it. It does unfortunately suffer here and there due to the graphics, as the Nintendo Switch seems to struggle occasionally with loading the game. However, it was nothing too game breaking and it certainly didn’t stop me from continuing my adventure.
Rich with wonder, the island of Koholint is chock full of areas and secrets to discover, from the welcoming homes of Mabe Village, to the mists of the Mysterious Woods, and the clouded tops of Tal Tal Heights. Everything is exactly how it was in the original, an imitation at its finest. Transitions in the game are a lot more absent now as most areas blend seamlessly together, although they are more apparent in the dungeons which makes them feel more like a maze. This adds more of that classic Zelda challenge and it was great to feel like you were on a whole new adventure. As you progress, you gain more items to aid you on your journey across Koholint, such as the hookshot, a feather which allows you to jump, and a power bracelet to lift heavy objects. I actually found it a delight to stumble upon a path I couldn’t get through as I then knew I had missed something along my adventure and I love to explore every nook and cranny to find items I wouldn’t expect to be there.
Throughout your time in Koholint, you will come across a wide variety of memorable, charming characters that either help you with your quest or chat some nonsense. Either way, it is great to get to know the locals. The Zelda series is no stranger to well-crafted characters and Link’s Awakening is full of them. You have chatty rabbits who dream of being carrots, charming Crocodiles with the strangest of hobbies, even a witch! What is not to love.
Aside from the main quest, there are a couple of side quests and activities which you can take on, including fishing and water rapids. One side quest has you collect a certain item from a certain somewhere, give it to a certain someone in exchange for another item in which you must find another certain someone, give them that item to receive another item and so on. I found it a nice little distraction as I traveled across the map gathering the musical instruments whilst also thinking ‘I wonder if this character needs this Pineapple I acquired earlier’. Little things like this make the world feel more alive, and I never got bored of exploring what Koholint had to offer.
If you are relatively new to the Zelda series and have played the most recent Zelda: ‘Breath of the Wild’ then you will quickly realise how small Link’s Awakening’s world is compared to Hyrule. Back in the nineties, we certainly didn’t have the technology we have today, but bigger doesn’t always mean better.
Just like the first installment, the game puts you in a top down perspective, showing everything in lovely 3D. The unique aesthetics complimented by the traditional Zelda music make the world a joy to explore.
At a first glance, you may think the art style is aimed more towards the younger generation, and I’d agree! However, that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. Link’s Awakening is full of challenges and the dungeons are tough to get through (unless you played the original game and have a great memory). I have to be honest, I struggled a couple of times in navigating through some of the later dungeons, missing something as simple as a cracked wall in the corner of a room, which was rather frustrating after spending hours trying to figure it out. This isn’t the game’s fault, but it was quite difficult to see something so obscure in a dark room as it blended in quite well with the surroundings.
The bosses were a treat to go up against. They offered plenty of variety and kept me on my toes as I frantically tried to figure out their weak spots whilst quickly dodging and countering attacks. It felt extremely satisfying to overcome the final challenge of each dungeon and claim my prize. Link’s Awakening rewards you very well for your efforts.
A surprising thing about this game is that, other than it being a full remaster, it includes something new in the form of ‘Chamber Dungeons’. This allows you to create your own dungeons that you can share with your friends via Amiibo. However, it would be easier if online functionality was included. The chambers themselves are all set pieces so you cannot edit any themes or tones which I thought was a let-down. Using the new Link Amiibo adds a Shadow Link foe to your dungeon for more of a challenge, offering you more rewards upon completion. This isn’t compulsory but it’s definitely a step in the right direction towards creating more elaborate dungeons in future titles perhaps.
Link’s Awakening is a true replica of the original 1993 classic Zelda title with stunning new visuals, music and much more. Despite a few flaws, it is a must have for Nintendo Switch owners, even if you have played others in the past. Link’s Awakening is a classic Zelda game in every way, shape and form and is a charming treat for all ages.
Written by Wild Link.
Developed and Published by Nintendo.
Released on September 20th 2019 for Nintendo Switch.