Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: September 20th, 2019
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Link’s Awakening is a game that has its history deep in the roots of Nintendo. Not only has the Zelda series been a foundation of every Nintendo Console, but Link’s Awakening in particular comes from a time of game development where a bunch of haphazard ideas from devs could turn into a cult classic, being reborn more than a quarter century later. The original Link’s Awakening from 1993 was truly a blast to play, not a perfect game, but pretty close. When Nintendo announced the remake of the game, immediately there was both excitement in the community and just the slightest amount of worry. For myself personally, and for a lot of fans too I would imagine, the biggest concern diving into this game would be that it didn’t stay true to the original, but this worry of mine was erased quickly upon playing the game. Nintendo stayed true to the original game with incredible accuracy, while still bringing it into 2019.
The looks of this game was one of the most frequently talked about points when Nintendo was revealing details. From far before this title was released Nintendo was sure to point out that they put extreme effort into making this game have the same tilt-shifted, cartoon-y feel that would bring you back to the olden days of GameBoys. Honestly, for all of the talk Nintendo gave the looks of this game, it deserves every bit of praise. Immediately upon Link waking up you’ll be overtaken by the fact that everything in the world is just so darn cute. The tilt-shift effect adds to this sense that you’re playing with little figures even more. The town, dungeons, NPCs, mobs, everything just looks incredible, it’s clear when playing this game that Nintendo put a lot of time into bringing the spirit of the first Link’s Awakening into modern gaming with gorgeous graphics. The looks aren’t the only part of this game that sucks you into the world, though, the sounds everywhere are a treat. Whether it’s birds and crickets you hear while you’re walking through a forest, or the waves crashing on the sandy shores, the sound design of this game will make sure you get lost in Koholint Island.
Although this game is a direct remake from its 1993 original, I found that the controls were brought into the modern age, which is definitely a positive. The original Link’s Awakening never played poorly, but its controls were designed for the days of the GameBoy, and as such it’s unlikely that trying to keep the controls on this game to only directional buttons and an “a” and “b” would work very well. This point has been addressed well as the game feels extremely smooth to play, and navigating around the world, puzzling through dungeons, and fighting enemies is all very intuitive and feels natural. The mechanics of how Link moves and fights feels very true to the original, while still matching up with the cute new art style of the game.
For anyone who’s played the original or color remake of Link’s Awakening, you’ll be happy to hear that Nintendo kept the classic tale exactly the same with this remake, too. If you haven’t played any version of Link’s Awakening before, this is an incredible way to get into the now series of remakes. Although the storyline of this game doesn’t necessarily directly fit into the cannon of the classic Legend of Zelda games, it is incredibly fun to dive into. The game starts with a sequence showing Link sailing in a storm and presumably wrecking his ship. You then wake up in the adorable, cartoon-like Mabe Village where you’re in the house of a husband and wife who give you your shield and tell you to look for your sword on the beach where you washed up. Upon finding your sword you’ll meet a mysterious owl who tells you about a sleeping Windfish. Several NPCs very early on in the game will let you know that you need to travel carefully as there are hordes of monsters investing the lovely Koholint Island. The main story will take you through dungeons and on winding paths throughout the Island to solve mysteries and try to find Link’s way home. One of the best parts of Link’s Awakening, though, is all of the fun side stories that you can participate in along the way. Part of what makes this game so rich and fun to play is all of the mysteries and quests among the NPCs that you can take part in. In particular the bartering side quest is one of my favorites, as it takes you all over the map and gets you involved with a ton of characters. It really is easy to see why this game was popular enough for a color remake, and now a Switch remake, as its story really was designed masterfully. It might sound a bit cliche but Link’s Awakening for the Switch really does just feel like a “classic video game” in all the best ways.
A big part of this game is the combat you’ll engage in, or avoid if you choose, with the monsters and bosses along the Island and in dungeons. With the addition of many more buttons on the Switch than the GameBoy that this game was originally designed for, combat becomes a more enjoyable experience. The story will suck you into this game, keeping you searching for clues and answers, but the combat is what gives Link’s Awakening enough challenge to feel rewarding. You’ll fight your way through enemies both above ground and in dungeons below. Starting at first with monsters that are fairly easy to defeat, and gradually gaining traction until you’re fighting bosses that have you reloading saves multiple times. While this will change for each individual that plays through this game, I personally feel that the level of difficulty in Link’s Awakening is as close to perfect as this game could get. It’s not so much that it takes away from the great story and adventure of exploring Koholint Island, but it’s still enough challenge that you feel a sense of accomplishment while moving along.
One aspect of this game that I personally thing is a good thing to keep in mind is the amount of freedom you have as a player. If you haven’t played Link’s Awakening before, or maybe you’ve never played any Legend of Zelda title before, it might be easy to look at this game and assume that the storyline is pretty well set and you’ll have a fairly straight path along the way. If this is a worry you have, though, make no doubt that Link’s Awakening is not restrictive in its gameplay at all. While you will be following a main story throughout the entire game, there are so many hidden parts of the game to find and side quests to take part in that you really do have a lot of options when it comes to how you want to play through. Another little side note on this topic, although it’s important to note that it’s really just my opinion, while it’s easy to look up all of the side quests and fun locations in this game, I really would suggest putting in the time to discover things on your own. The main story of the game becomes much more rewarding when you’re getting involved in all of the little stories and quests that the game has through NPCs.
Another part of this game that I really enjoyed was all of the little Nintendo easter eggs scattered throughout Koholint Island. Although this isn’t a new feature to the Switch’s remake, that almost makes it even more fun as all of the chain chomps and Yoshi references are nods at an older era of games. This level of cross-platform participation makes Link’s Awakening feel a little less part of the Zelda universe and a little less serious, but neither of these are problems as they fit right into the game that this is trying to be. Seeing these little details is a great way to make this adorable game even more fun, and takes me back to a day when it seemed like all Nintendo games were kind of just meshed into one.
The first remake of Link’s Awakening included a Camera Shop as the only real noticeable difference to the meat of the game. The Switch remake of this game, however, removed this location and replaced it with the Chamber Dungeons shack. It’s important to note that this is the only real difference added to this game that you wouldn’t have in the original Link’s Awakening. The Chamber dungeons allow you to design your own dungeons in a sort of puzzle-dungeon-builder, and then travel through them to victory and rewards. This is a great way to take small breaks from the main game itself and just have a bit of fun defeating enemies as Link while getting rewards.
The Legend of Zelda series has been one of the greatest parts of Nintendo for as long as they’ve been making consoles. The Switch has done an incredible job of bringing Link into the modern age with Breath of the Wild smashing all expectations and being one of the best video games of the year overall. It’s clear that Nintendo is committed to bringing incredible titles to the Switch, and has no plans of slowing down. Link’s Awakening was such a fantastic game when it originally was released, and even when it was remade for the GameBoy Color. It may not have the glamour of a main-line cannon Zelda game, but it really came into its own with this remake. I’m sure that a lot of people who buy and play Link’s Awakening on the Switch will be doing so out of nostalgia for the original, but I think that this game is even more important for the people who perhaps haven’t ever gotten into the Zelda series before. Link’s Awakening brings the tried and true classic video game from the days of the GameBoy into modern times, and does so with an incredible story and world that’s filled with lore. I would definitely recommend this game to anyone with a Switch, regardless of whether they’re long time Zelda fans or haven’t played a single title. On a slightly different note, though, the fact that Nintendo remade such an incredible game from so long ago for the Switch bodes well for the future, I think. It really would be fantastic to see Nintendo put the effort into making more remakes as good as this from games that were released long ago. We highly recommend that you make a purchase if you are a huge fan of the Zelda series. You can do so by clicking right here.