Let’s face it. Nintendo has a monopoly on all of our nostalgia due to all of the beloved titles they’ve released over the years. They are the Disney of the video game world and they know it. One of the biggest fan favorites is the Legend of Zelda series. I remember back in my childhood spending countless hours playing A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening. While the former got a sequel on the 3DS, the latter got the full-on remake treatment.
What struck a chord with many Zelda fans was that this was the first title to move away from Hyrule and set Link on a journey not involving Princess Zelda. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was also the first game to deal with darker story elements and pull on players’ heartstrings. However, when any game is remade there’s always the fear that it will lose the spirit of the original. Will this title be any different?
We begin as Link has set sail in search of adventure after the events of A Link to the Past. Link is caught in a dangerous storm and his boat is destroyed. Fortunately, he washes up on the shores of an unknown island and is rescued by a local girl named Marin.
After bringing him home, Link goes out to collect his sword from the beach. It is there that a talking owl informs him that his only hope of leaving the island is to wake the legendary Wind Fish from its slumber. In order to do so, he needs to danger the islands many dungeons to collect all of the legendary instruments.
Link – A young hero on the search for adventure. After his last victory, he sets sail but is caught in a nearly fatal storm. Finding himself on an unknown island, he must wake the Wind Fish if he hopes to ever get back to Hyrule.
Marin – A young local girl who finds Link washed up on the beach. She hopes to someday leave the island and seemingly has romantic feelings for Link.
There are a number of various characters littered about the island. However, none of them are essential to the plot and therefore don’t have much of a background. Still, Nintendo did a great job giving each one of them big personalities and helping the island feel populated.
This game plays out just like any of the old Zelda games. The perspective is mostly top-down with a shifting camera in certain areas as well as some 2D scrolling areas, just like in the original. Your quest begins right away and is mostly made up of collecting items, solving puzzles, and defeating monstrous beasts.
As you progress through the story, you’ll obtain items that will allow you to gain access to areas unreachable before. It’s to give you the feeling of having a free-roaming map while forcing you to explore it somewhat linearly. There are also a few mini-games to try out such as the raft ride, the crane shop, and the fishing game. Nothing new was added in this regard, so they function as they did back in the original. With one exception: the darn crane game has a gravity feature, unlike in the original.
This means that you could perfectly navigate the crane to your prize and because of gravity it will bounce out of the claw or off of the conveyor belt. It’s a minor frustration and one that just results in you having to spend more rupees. However, I can see why they added it in because without it the game would be ridiculously easy.
The biggest addition to the gameplay was the inclusion of Dampe’s dungeon maker. This feature functions almost like Mario Maker but for Zelda dungeons. It’s a really neat addition that grants a quite a bit of replayability for fans that enjoy making and exploring new dungeons. There’s not as much in-depth control as there is in the Mario Maker games, but it’s definitely enjoyable!
One of the best parts about remakes is the graphics and soundtrack overhaul. Zelda games have some of the most memorable and enjoyable soundtracks, and this game features a lot of those beloved tunes. However, they’re now in HD quality and remade with modern musical capabilities with a hint of retro thrown in for nostalgia.
As mentioned before, the graphics are another aspect of remakes that really make you appreciate modern technology. For the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, developer Grezzo chose a claymation chibi style and it is absolutely as adorable as it sounds! Everything in the game from the enemies to the landscapes look like they were molded out of clay. Link and everyone else looks miniaturized as they did in the original so that only adds even more to the cuteness.
However, there were definitely some lag and hangs, especially when transitioning from one area to another. This was an issue with Breath of the Wild as well, so I’m not sure what the issue is with Zelda Switch games and lag. I played the majority of the game with the Switch docked, so you’d expect there wouldn’t be any framing issues especially in 2019 on one of the top consoles in the industry. It’s such an unfortunate issue that is really disappointing to see.
Another initial issue for me was the blur that’s present around the edges of the screen. At first it bothered me but, eventually, I completely forgot it was there. I think this was done to focus the attention of the player in the center of the screen, which seems to have worked.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening does a great job of taking fans on a trip down memory lane by keeping the heart of the game, as well as all of the original features, and adding in a few new additions. What you get is a polished and beautiful looking game that both old fans and new players can appreciate. The story is as great as it was back then, the humor translates well, and all of the feels hit just as hard as they did back then.
Some people may question the price tag. Their view is that $60 is too much to pay for a game that was already released back in the 90s. That is a completely valid view and I can understand that perspective. However, in my opinion Link’s Awakening is different in that it had to be built completely from the ground up considering it was an 8-bit Pixel game originally. So that means it had to go through rigging, modeling, programming and all of that in it’s re-release. I kind of see it the same as I do the Resident Evil 2 remake, if the work and care was put in to make it I feel like the price tag is worth it.
If you’re someone who goes into it not expecting anything new or groundbreaking then I think you’ll enjoy it. You just have to accept it as the pure fan-service game it always was. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is sure to hit all the high notes for old fans of the series. Be prepared to kick back, relax, and enjoy your time on Koholint Island.