Debuting for Game Boy way back in 1993, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening now has a brand new remake so let's check it out.
One console that I have a ton of fond memories of is the original Game Boy. Although I had about a dozen games for it, I specifically recall playing The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening a lot. Traversing the delightful and unconventional Koholint Island as Link while I squinted at the small screen in the back of my mom's car on the way to visit a relative or browse the local garage sales was a lot of fun. So, when I started playing this remake on my newfangled Switch, the memories came flooding back as it's the exact same game but with way more modern visuals and completely redone audio. There are a few additional pieces of content thrown in to add value, too, but I'll get to those later. For now, I'll just say that I'm very happy that I got to relive Link's Awakening in such a gorgeously presented package.
No matter which version you're playing, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a great game. It's not like the 3 Zelda games that came before it which were all set in Hyrule. In fact, Link's Awakening is a lot like Super Mario World in that both games feel like they belong in the series yet there are plenty of aspects that make them stand out as unique. For example, Link's Awakening features lots of Mario series cameos as well as oddities like a talking owl who guides Link in his journey to recover 8 instruments and wake the Wind Fish. It's strange stuff indeed and Zelda isn't even in the game although Link mistakes the delightful Marin for her in a passing comment.
The core gameplay holds up well and will be very familiar to anyone who has ever played an overhead Zelda game before. Aside from slashing and charging your sword, you also utilize items such as magic powder, a shovel that allows you to dig almost everywhere, bombs, and an expensive bow and arrow. The campaign includes plenty of rewarding dungeons complete with enjoyable boss fights and clever puzzles and there are even fetch quests where you constantly trade items in anticipation of what the final reward will be. It's such a solid formula that holds up amazingly and will keep you playing until you uncover the entire island and all of the secrets within.
On a graphical level, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is obviously a huge improvement over the original. Of course, playing the original still makes for a wonderful time but I digress. The entire game world is rendered as if you're watching a tilt-shift photograph come to life in the world of Zelda which makes for a lovely effect as everything comes across as if it's miniature and it's all very adorable. Meanwhile, the music is redone with whimsical orchestral movements and charming ditties which I found to be fantastic yet I did yearn to hear the retro music so I wish you could alternate between the 2 as you played. That would have been awesome!
This iteration of Link's Awakening has some nifty supplementary content. The mini-games from the original remain although the Trendy Game is altered with new controls that I find make it much easier so if you're short on rupees, keep playing that sucker again and again and watch your bank account grow! You can also win character statues there that you can display whenever you find their respective holders that are scattered across the island and within people's homes. If you want more of a challenge, you can dive straight into Hero Mode where Link receives twice as much damage and heart drops are removed. There are some quality of life improvements as well such as a few more warp points, a detailed markable map, and collectible memories such as conversations and your seashell total.
Along with all of that, this Switch version of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening includes a dungeon editor that you can access after talking to the goofy Dampé. Although this sounds awesome, don't get too excited. For starters, all you do is just arrange rooms then play your assembled dungeon whenever you're done. You can also scan Zelda amiibo to unlock more rooms and earn them through various other methods as well as store dungeons on amiibo statues. However, those bells and whistles don't add much to the fact that you're still just dropping rooms on a grid and many of these rooms are lifted straight from the in-game dungeons so traversing your creation ends up being a familiar and disappointing experience. Don't get me wrong; it's still cool that they added this feature.
Finally, I'd like to discuss a couple of odd performance issues. First, I noticed some minor frame rate drops while playing undocked which detracted a bit from the immersion but it's nothing deal-breaking, that's for sure. Next, I found jumping with Roc's Feather to be a little finicky as Link does this weird brief hesitation whenever he lands that can be rather disorienting and get in the way of the gameplay's momentum. Obviously, these aren't huge problems by any means but I think they're at least worth mentioning.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was a wonderful game when it first released and this new Switch version may not deviate much from the original but it definitely looks and sounds great. The few sprinkles of additional content add some much-needed value, too.
- + Same great game holds up wonderfully
- + Fantastic new graphics and music make it feel fresh and exciting again
- + Contains welcome additional content
- - Primarily just a reskin of the classic
- - Although the new content is welcome, it isn't as cool as it could have been
- - Some minor performance issues