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Link’s Awakening has a history rooted deep in 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 developers 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 a lot of fans, the biggest concern diving into this game was that it wouldn't stay true to the original. However, 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 they put extreme effort into making this game have the same tilt-shifted, cartoon-y feel that would bring fans back to the olden days of GameBoys. For all the talk Nintendo gave this game's looks, it deserves every bit of praise. Immediately upon Link waking up, players will be overtaken by the fact that everything in the world is adorable. The tilt-shift effect adds to this sense that gamers are playing with little figures even more. The town, dungeons, NPCs, and mobs look 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 players into the world, though, the sounds everywhere are a treat. Whether it’s birds and crickets heard while walking through a forest or the waves crashing on the sandy shores, the sound design of this game will make sure players get lost in Koholint Island.
Although Link's Awakening is a direct remake from its 1993 original, the controls were brought into the modern age. The original Link’s Awakening never played poorly, but its controls were designed for the days of 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 well. This point has been addressed, as the game feels extremely smooth to play, and navigating around the world, puzzling through dungeons, and fighting enemies is all intuitive and feels natural. The mechanics of how Link moves and fights feel 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, Nintendo kept the classic tale exactly the same with this remake. For those who 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 doesn’t necessarily directly fit into the canon of the classic Legend of Zelda games, it is incredibly fun to experience. The game starts with a sequence showing Link sailing in a storm and presumably wrecking his ship. He then wakes up in the adorable, cartoon-like Mabe Village where he is in the house of a husband and wife who give him his shield and tell him to look for his sword on the beach where he washed up. Upon finding Link's sword, players will meet a mysterious owl who tells them about a sleeping Windfish. Several NPCs early in the game will let gamers know they need to travel carefully, as there are hordes of monsters infesting the lovely Koholint Island. The main story will take players 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 encountered 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. In particular, the bartering side quest is interesting, as it takes gamers all over the map and gets them involved with a ton of characters. It is easy to see why this game was popular enough for a color remake, and now a Switch remake, as its story was designed masterfully. It might sound a bit cliché, but Link’s Awakening for the Switch just feels like a “classic video game” in all the best ways.
A big part of this game is the combat in which players will engage or avoid if they choose. With the addition of many more buttons on the Switch than the GameBoy, combat becomes a more enjoyable experience. The story will suck players into this game, keeping them searching for clues and answers, but the combat is what gives Link’s Awakening enough challenge to feel rewarding. Players fight their way through enemies both above ground and in dungeons below. It starts with monsters that are fairly easy to defeat, and gradually gaining traction until players are fighting bosses that have them reloading saves multiple times. While this will change for each individual that plays through this game, the level of difficulty in Link’s Awakening is as close to perfect as it 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 of a challenge that fans feel a sense of accomplishment while moving along.
One aspect of this game to keep in mind is the amount of freedom players have. If they haven’t played Link’s Awakening before, or maybe they have never played any Legend of Zelda title, it might be easy to look at this game and assume the storyline is pretty well set and they’ll have a fairly straightforward path. However, Link’s Awakening is not restrictive in its gameplay at all. While fans will be following a main story throughout the entire game, there are so many hidden parts to find and side quests to take part in that they really do have a lot of options when it comes to how they want to progress. While it’s easy to look up all of the side quests and fun locations in this game, players should put in the time to discover things on their own. The main story of the game becomes much more rewarding when they're getting involved in all of the little stories and quests that the game has through NPCs.
Little Nintendo Easter Eggs are scattered throughout Koholint Island. Although this isn’t a new feature to the Switch’s remake, it 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. Seeing these little details is a great way to make this adorable title even more fun, and hearkens back to a day when it seemed like all Nintendo games were kind of 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, 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, which players wouldn’t have in the original Link’s Awakening. The Chamber dungeons allow gamers to design their 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 and 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 canon Zelda game, but it really came into its own with this remake. 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 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. 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. 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.
Fan can purchase Link's Awakening here.