Review: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

 Link’s Remakening.

Console: Nintendo Switch

Link’s Awakening is the latest 2D, top-down style Zelda game, a remake of the old Gameboy game of the same name. That game was a pseudo-sequel to the Zelda game before it, A Link to the Past. It uses the same general gameplay and art-style but switched the setting away from Hyrule, a first for the series. From all of the Zelda games, Link’s Awakening has arguably been the game that time had forgotten most about. Link’s Awakening got a port to the Gameboy Colour a few years later but even that didn’t manage to make it remembered more.

That’s why this remake is so welcoming. It finally puts the game into people’s eyes and allows them to experience one of the most unique Zelda games. Is the game worth a purchase though? It is a good remake or could you just as well stick with the, much cheaper, original. All in all, Link’s Awakening is a pleasant game that is a bit too pricey for the content that it is offering.

Let’s dive in.

The game starts with our hero Link getting shipwrecked. He ends up on the shore of a mysterious island where he’s found by a young woman named Marin. He brings Link to Mable Village, where she nurses him back to help. After waking up and venturing to the beach to reclaim his sword, Link is approached by a mysterious talking Owl. The Owl informs Link that the only way for him to leave this island is to wake the Wind Fish, a deity that sleeps inside of the giant egg that lies atop of a mountain. To wake him up, Link first has to find the eight magical instruments which have been hidden in Koholint’s most dangerous places. Thus, Link sets off to collect all eight instruments to wake the Wind Fish. However, Koholint Island is not at all what it seems…

The best way I can describe Link’s Awakening is ‘pleasant’. Unlike some of its 3D counterparts, Link’s Awakening keeps a light-hearted and fun attitude throughout the game’s story. The world is colourful and bright. The soundtrack/sound design is a combination of happy, upbeat yet calming tracks. The NPC's have funny dialogue, but with a mysterious undertone to help set up the game’s underlying mystery. Even when the cat’s out of the bag about the nature of Koholint island this ‘twist’ is treated less like a dramatic reveal which huge ramifications. It's more a bittersweet development that doesn’t dissuade you but gives you more or less something to ponder about. And yeah, I’m comfortable with telling you that Link’s Awakening’s plot has a big twist in it. The fact that the game has is no secret, though what it is exactly I’ll naturally won't tell you.

The story of Link’s Awakening, now that we’re talking about it, is fine. It’s a very simple affair with the immersion coming from the island’s inhabitants and the twist. The former is one of the game strong points. The characters of Koholint Island, along with the island itself, has their own enjoyable little personality and design that make them fun to interact with. I especially like the fetch-quest as it makes you interact with each of the island’s inhabitants in a more meaningful way, helping them out with some of their daily problems. I do have a minor complaint in terms of characters when it comes to Marin. She just pops up a few times too few to really justify the strong emotional connection the game has them build up I feel. Just a minor nit-pick, but still. One or two more moments with her would have been nice.

Comparison of the GameBoy Colour version and the Nintendo Switch remake. Credit to Eurogamer for the image.

The gameplay is exactly as you expected from a top-down Zelda game. You traverses an open world with dungeons scattered throughout with a boss fight at the end. Unlike other games in the series, Link's Awakening allows the player to jump over obstacles and onto platforms using the feather item. Aside from that Link has his trusty sword and shield, as well as a plethora of other classic Zelda tools like the Hookshot. One complaint that I have with the items is that the feather should have been given its own button. The original Link’s Awakening biggest flaw was the lack of buttons. The Gameboy necessitated that the player constantly had to switch between their items due to the low amount of buttons. The Switch has many more buttons so items such as the sword have been given their own button However, with how much the jump of the Feather is required in the game, I would have given that its own button too. Now, you’ve basically lost the use of one of your item slots.

Link’s Awakening also features side-scrolling platforming sections ala Super Mario. Whereas other Zelda games you would appear on the other side of a stairwell in a second’s notice, here they are often interconnected by a 2D-side scrolling section. These aren’t long, not even 30 seconds, but fun nonetheless. There are even some boss fights which use the side-scrolling style, so that offers you some variety there as well.

The side-scrolling sections aren’t the only thing that this game has borrowed from Mario. You have straight-up Mario enemies in the game, like Goomba’s and Chain-Chomps. It’s not just Mario but also aspects of the Kirby games that are in Link’s Awakening. As in: you have Kirby in this game. Instead of Pink though, these Kirby’s are orange in colour. Why? I have no idea, but it’s certainly charming!

Behold: a chain-chomp in the Legend of Zelda!

Completely new to this remake is the Dungeon Builder. As revealed in the trailers, you can create your own dungeon at Dampé’s little shack. Well, sort off. Unlike Super Mario Maker which lets you build a stage from scratch, the dungeon maker of Link’s Awakening is more of a dungeon aligner. After finishing a dungeon, you can use its different chambers to create your own dungeon. You can either participate in challenges for prizes or build a dungeon freely, which you can then save & share online. It’s not as robust as many would’ve liked but it’s a fun distraction nonetheless.

Lastly, some technical stuff. Before the game was even released, many complained about how the game looked. While similar to the previous top-down Zelda game, A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS, this game art-style looks, for a lack of a better term, ‘plasticy’. Like everything in the world is a plastic toy, from the trees to the characters. I myself didn’t like it when I first saw it, but I quickly got used to it.

There were also reports about performance issues. When Link’s Awakening was first sent out for review to multiple publications noted some performance issues. Slowdown, badly loaded in textures etc. In my experience though, I only experienced this slowdown in one section and one section only where there are just loads of stuff on screen. There are indeed some technical problems here but they’re (in my experience) not as grave nor frequent as people say it is.

Conclusion

Link’s Awakening for the Nintendo Switch is a good, pleasant game. It’s top-down Zelda at its finest with enjoyable characters and a twist that’ll definitely make you think. It also got the Dungeon maker that, while not as robust as I would have liked, is still a fun activity to delve into. It is a bit pricey though. For the 60,- price tag there isn’t enough content I feel. However, if you can pick this game up for less, either second hand or through a (Black Friday) deal like I did I definitely would.

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