The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening




Following the recent hit titles like Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, it’s easy to overlook the humble origins of The Legend of Zelda: a 2D overhead adventure set in a dense world brimming with secrets and dungeons. The contrast between these older-style games and the new open-world blockbusters couldn’t be more pronounced. However, with the Switch remake of the Game Boy classic The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Nintendo gracefully reminds Zelda fans that every one of Link’s experiences capture the same adventurous spark.

Released in 1993, Link’s Awakening marked the fourth game in the series, but the first to land on a handheld console. Consequently, it holds a special place in the hearts of many longtime players. It is no wonder then that Nintendo deemed Link’s Awakening worthy of a full remake for its Switch console, despite other possible candidates like the Super Nintendo’s A Link to the Past or both Nintendo 64 games, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.

The new Switch rendition of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remains remarkably faitfhul to the nearly three-decade-old original, preserving the entire story and cast of characters. Stranded in a nasty storm at sea, Link washes ashore on Koholint Island, where he is discovered by Marin and nursed back to health in the house of her father. Upon reclaiming his sword, a mysterious owl instructs Link that he must awaken the slumbering Wind Fish if he is ever to leave Koholint and return home.

Link’s Awakening delivers a melancholy and dreamy story, skilfully crafted to engage players while maintaining a whimsical air. This light-heartedness gives Link’s Awakening a distinct charm among the extensive library of The Legend of Zelda titles. For instance, The Wind Fish, rests in a colossal egg atop Mount Tamaranch, and can only by awakened through the harmony of eight instruments. As Link gathers these instruments, he encounters a colourful array of characters from across the Nintendo universe, including Goomba’s and even Kirby.

True to the classic Zelda style, Koholint Island is densely packed with content, especially when compared to Link’s modern escapades. Due to the technical limitations of the Game Boy, Link’s Awakening is even denser than 90’s contemporaries like A Link to the Past. It is therefore interesting that Nintendo has opted to remake the overworld of Koholint with pixel-perfect precision, maintaining the placement of houses, plots of grass, boulders, and even hidden areas exactly as they were in the 1993 original.

As is customary in The Legend of Zelda series, acquiring new and improved equipment to deal with obstacles and progress through the story remains at the core of the gameplay. Most items are found within the eight dungeons scattered across Koholint. These dungeons consist of multiple rooms and keep the single-screen challenges typical of old-school Zelda games, making dungeon crawling in Link’s Awakening more of an exercise in finding your way into a room rather than solving the puzzles or defeating the monsters inside the room.

Thanks to the new tools and items, each dungeon presents fresh challenges and progressively difficult navigation. Furthermore, Link’s expanding arsenal of weapons and accessories incentivizes players to revisit earlier areas to uncover previously inaccessible locations and discover additional upgrades, such as heart containers that bolster Link’s health.

The puzzle aspect in Link’s Awakening is possibly one of its weaker points, particularly for newcomers. While owls statues offer assistance, mastering the synergy between Link’s various tools can be daunting. Even more frustrating is the lack of direction thoughout the game: the mysterious owl flies in now and again to give a slight nudge in the right direction, but knowing how to get there often requires trial-and-error that goes beyond what can be expected from naturally curious players.

While the story, world building and gameplay remain largely unchanged, the same cannot be said about the graphical presentation of the game. The graphics have undergone a complete overhaul, evoking a vibrant Animal Crossing aesthetic with bright colours and cartoonish characters. Nontetheless, the remade Link’s Awakening retains the original’s charm with updated graphics making hidden locations and objects easier to spot – cracked walls, for instance, are now more conspicuous than in the Game Boy version.

Regrettably, the Switch’s graphical splendor comes at the expense of occasional framerate issues, especially noticeable when new location are revealed or when Link decides to bushwack his way through a field of grass – a favoured activity of many players. Thankfully, these framerate drops do not significantly detract from the overall gameplay experience, parrticularly as they are absent during dungeon exploration.

Other quality of life upgrades, apart from the graphical fidelity of the game, seem small, but streamline gameplay elements from the original Link’s Awakening. When leaving a dungeon room, for example, previously unlocked doors will not close again and remain acccessible. This change makes backtravelling faster, invites players to explore more, and does not penalize trial-and-error approaches to puzzle-solving.

Other enhancements include the ability to stamp points of interests on the world map, the option to save and reload from anywhere in the game, and more fast-travel locations scattered throughout the overworld. Furthermore, Link can now capture fairies in bottles for a quick health boost in the wilds. However, perhaps the most significant improvement, is the usage of the Nintendo Switch’s four face buttons, doubling the input options available on the Game Boy. This makes swapping out weapons and equipment much less common, turning exploration and combat into seemless experiences.

In summary, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on Nintendo Switch offers a beautiful recreation of a Game Boy classic. With this remake, Nintendo underscores that the essence of Zelda games – rooted in adventurous curiosity – remains as vital today as it was in the series’ inception. Consequently, the revamped Koholint Island beckons not only to newcomers, but also to veterans of the Game Boy release, inviting them to rediscover the island’s wonders and perhaps remember how to get past that pesky sleeping walrus blocking Link’s path.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *