My experience with the Zelda series is limited, by which I mean my first and only Zelda game to date was Breath of the Wild which blew me away so in a flash over 100 hours of my year were lost in a sea of glorious time wasting. Naturally I wanted to know more about this iconic series, which is the perfect time for a remake of one of the classics to come along, so I couldn’t be more chuffed to check out Zelda: Link’s Awakening with its massive overhaul on Switch.
If you are like me, a complete newbie to the series, Link’s Awakening is going to be a strange mix of “huh that’s cool”, and “boy that’s annoying”. This is because the game is faithful to its original with some annoying mechanics. This isn’t a deal-breaker though because in so many ways it’s so darn timeless.
The game kicks off with Link’s boat crashing in a storm and he wakes up on the beach of the relatively small Koholint Island. He is soon visited by a talking owl who vaguely guides him in order to find all the instruments so he can wake the Wind Fish and go home. If that story sounds bizarre and weird, it is, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. For a game so old, 26 years to be exact, it is surprisingly good. Keeping in mind its age, don’t expect a massive in depth through plot, there is plenty of characters with enough dialogue to be interesting, but you won’t be slogging through walls of text.
The game is top down as you move Link around hacking and slashing enemies. This gameplay is fun enough but as you collect a lot of your useable items, you need to go to the menu to map them to one of the two buttons you get to choose from. This is one of those old systems I found immensely annoying because I regularly wanted three or four at a time when I was experimenting with puzzles. It’s not a deal breaker because eventually you get used to it, but still something that would have been useful being tweaked some more.
The game’s puzzles and dungeons on the other hand are outstanding. I would have easily thought this game was designed recently by an especially creative indie dev team. The island has a wide selection of environments from foggy forest, to a desert, a mountain you climb, and grave site. Each of these present new requirements to learn game systems, and it kept impressing me. Puzzles sometimes involve beating what you see in front of you, and other times you need to follow a side story like a series of items you need to trade in order to have item you need to enter a new area.
Dungeons can become winding and confusing areas as you transition from room to room, with tasks you complete in one room helping you get past something six rooms away. I don’t want to spoil the details of dungeons, but they were consistently hard enough to give me pause, yet simple enough I didn’t want to slam my Switch to the ground. One of the weirdest things is its occasional use of side scrolling rooms, which are short but functional 2D platforming stages. I initially thought this must have been some quirky addition to the remake, but some digging showed this was in its 1993 release showing how clever these early devs were.
The game is a faithful recreation of the original game, with everything in the same places but with a massive graphical overhaul. I checked out a couple of old walkthroughs to see if I could pick it up at any point then follow it for a bit, and it couldn’t have been easier which is extraordinary that the game doesn’t feel that old. The new art style looks beautiful with a chibi-ish toy-ish style that looks cute as hell and totally fits the game’s vibe.
Zelda: Link’s Awakening is an amazing remake preserving everything about the original, giving it a new look that is unique and comforting. Players of the original that want to revisit this classic and newbies who never witnessed the original should both find a lot to enjoy in this game.
Released: September 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch