Okay, before I start, I need everyone to hold their breath. I have never played the original Link’s Awakening. For whatever reason, it passed me by, and I started my Legend Of Zelda adventure on Nintendo 64 with Ocarina of Time. Regardless, I was extremely excited for Link’s Awakening, so much so I pre-ordered the Limited Edition – but did Nintendo’s latest remake live up to my high expectations?
It’s going to be impossible for me to cover this game, without first mentioning the art direction Nintendo have taken. It’s always amazed me how the aesthetic of The Legend Of Zelda changes so often. You have the dark look and tone of Ocarina of Time & Majora’s Mask, only for The Wind Waker to come out a few years later with its bright and cheerful tones. Even modern Zelda games do the same, while Breath of the Wild wasn’t necessarily a dark game, Nintendo went with more realistic art.
Link’s Awakening on the other hand, goes for a cutesy, almost Playmobil art style which works incredibly well. I’m tempted to say, Link’s Awakening Link might just be my favourite rendition of Link. He, as well as the rest of the game, just ooze with wholesome energy and makes every interaction an absolute joy to watch. A personal highlight for me, is the shot of Marin and Link sitting watching the sun – it manages to keep the essence of the original came, and throws in a fresh lick of paint to create a scene which is truly spectacular. And, this is true for the entire game. There is so much life and energy that comes through just from the visuals which makes exploring Koholint Island an absolute pleasure.
Enough about the art though, what actually happens in Link’s Awakening? I hear one of you ask. When you first boot up Link’s Awakening, you’re met with a beautifully animated, short little anime which shows our hero, Link, fighting a brutal storm. Evidently losing this fight, Link wakes up on the shore of Koholint Island, a tropical island with one notable landmark: A giant egg sitting atop a central mountain. The egg in question is home to the legendary Wind Fish, who has fallen into a deep slumber and must be awoken in order to leave the island. And so, Link sets off on an adventure to collect the eight Instruments of the Sirens needed to wake the beast and escape the island.
If you’ve played any Zelda game before, you should be used to the format, “collect this many McGuffins and return to beat the boss” is a standard plotline for these types of games. However, as with other Zelda games, it’s not the main plot that is the most interesting aspect. Nintendo have repeatedly created worlds which house some of the most interesting and deep characters in video games. Link’s Awakening is no different.
From a village filled with talking rabbits, to a young girl who just wants to explore, Link’s Awakening is filled with an impressive amount of character variety and depth. As previously mentioned, Nintendo don’t shy away from their characters in the Zelda franchise, but the relative small-scale of Link’s Awakening made me think Nintendo wouldn’t delve too deep into the characters. While no character gets too much attention, there is a colossal amount of world building included. Which is definitely needed considering the bizarre nature of Koholint Island.
Outside of the fairly diverse overworld, Link’s Awakening sees you explore a variety of dungeons in your quest for the instruments. Typically, each dungeon is designed in a way that you can play through the first half, acquire a new power-up, and then push through to combat the ‘Nightmare’ or final boss of the dungeon. But that descriptions fails to describe the complexity seen in some of these dungeons.
While some of the puzzles are straight-forward, there are many that will require some outside-the-box thinking. One example is in one dungeon, you encounter a type of enemy who mirror your movements, you go right, they go left etc. It’s not outright explained that you can defeat these, or how you go about doing so, but defeating them is crucial to completing the dungeon. You are left to your own devices in these dungeons and it is refreshing to see. There’s no overly steep learning curve and anything can be solved with good ol’ fashion trial and error.
As with any game, Link’s Awakening is not without its issues, luckily none are serious and are more of minor annoyances. The first is lag. Particularly when in handheld mode, I found when adventuring in the overworld, the game would stutter slightly. This was heightened when there were a large number of mobs, or in the raft minigame you unlock in the late game. I encountered it rarely, but when it did lag it was noticeable and often pulled me out of the experience. As mentioned before, this only really happened when in handheld and when in the overworld – when playing a TV (my preferred playstyle) the game ran smoothly and without any issues.
My second issue is probably not one many share. Throughout my adventures on Koholint Island I came across many creatures and animals that weren’t from the Zelda franchise and were, instead, Super Mario easter eggs. While I’m necessarily against a little crossover between the franchises, I just thought it was a little unnecessary.
In dungeons, when climbing down stairs, you’ll encounter small 2.5D platforming sections. While down here, I often came across Piranha Plants, Goombas and Cheep-Cheeps. Again, this isn’t a problem by itself, I just think there is so much potential in Link’s rogues’ gallery that it shouldn’t need to borrow from other franchises. The game already has small collectable statues from Super Mario, and I’d have personally preferred them to be the only crossovers – they’re rare and often hard to actually acquire and serve as much more of a challenge than as hostile enemies.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a beautifully created return to Koholint Island. While I personally have small annoyances with a few points, the game as a whole is an absolute treat to play and is a must-have for you Switch library. I’ve played many Zelda games in my life, but Link’s Awakening may be the first I see through to the end – Yeah, it’s that good and I cannot wait to get back to playing more.