While The Legend of Zelda franchise has always been special to me, it wasn’t until The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening release that I got my first taste of the series. I remember that specifically because I got it when my parents took me and my sister to Disney World. It was an amazing game, even though I never beat it. So when Nintendo decided to remake it for the Nintendo Switch, I was needless to say thrilled. And though it took me 25 years, I finally got to finish it.
Game Name: Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 7/20/19
For those who haven’t played the game yet, I’m about to spoil everything about the game, but here is a brief intro if you just want to read this paragraph. Link (being Link) is off on a journey, but as he’s sailing through a rough sea his boat gets struck by lightning and he ends up on a place called Koholint Island. And now, he is stuck there until he can wake up the Wind Fish and find his way off the island. Due to that, he’ll need the instruments of the Sirens, as well as help from the people and animals of the island.
That’s all you get, spoilers coming now!
One of the reasons that Link’s Awakening is so special in the minds of Zelda fans is that while it does play like a Legend Of Zelda title in terms of dungeons, items, and more, it feels more unique than most others. For example, we don’t have the Tri-Force in the game, Ganon is not the bad guy, or even related to him. Much like the handle games that would follow (Oracle of Ages and Season, Minish Cap, etc.), the people at Nintendo wanted something more fresh and unique. Including having one of the best twists in the entire Legend of Zelda series:
This whole adventure is technically within a dream, the only thing real in it are you and the Wind Fish.
Try and think about that twist from the mind of 5-year-old me. I’m totally in love with Marin, I want to save the people from the Nightmares and also get on my way. So for all of this to be a dream? All while knowing that waking the Wind Fish will technically kill them all? Yeah…that’s heavy. And remember, this was the first handheld game in the Zelda franchise, so they wanted a special experience here.
Which I can happily say is uberly faithfully recreated on Switch. So whether you’re a returning player (via the original GB version or the GBA remake) or this is your first time on Koholint Island, you’re going to have a good time and a great Zelda game to play.
Obviously, the biggest “update” for Link’s Awakening is the graphics. They took the sprite graphics of the original games and turned it into a full-on 3D title. I was a little apprehensive that the game looked a little “cute”, but it honestly works in this games’ favor. It helps it stick out while also making Koholint Island feel unique from all the other realms of Zelda.
Everything else though, from the story to the gameplay and the dungeons has been faithfully recreated. I honestly couldn’t believe how much I remembered about this game from my time with the Game Boy version. I knew exactly where the first few dungeons were, I remembered the characters and some of the bosses, the crane mini-game that is SO FRUSTRATING at times, and more. This is nostalgia, but that’s not a bad thing.
Especially since this is old-school Legend of Zelda at its finest. The dungeons are difficult, and each one will have you trying to remember everything while also trying to advance. It’s not easy at times, I’m not afraid to say that I needed help in some spots. But it was worth it so that I didn’t get stuck.
Also, the world of Koholint is difficult on its own. Enemies and traps everywhere, plenty of places to explore for Heart Pieces and ways to enhance your inventory, this is a true Zelda game straight from the ’90s.
Going back to the graphics, I prefer to play my games in Handheld Mode, and because of the visual style, this allowed me to enjoy it with literally no visual hiccups, framerate drops, or graphical downplays that sometimes plague the Nintendo Switch.
Now, if I was to play devil’s advocate and note some down points on the game, it would be thus. First, since this is an older Zelda game, it doesn’t exactly have the depth and such of the modern Legend of Zelda titles. Yes, there are sidequests, and one of them is vital to the game, and there’s the typical looking for treasure chests and heart pieces that you would expect. But because of the nature of the game, they aren’t the most in-depth.
Plus, depending on how good you are, the game can be finished rather quickly. I got through the first two dungeons within 90 minutes, and by the time you reach the end, you can do it in about 10 hours or so depending on how much time you spend on other things. So don’t come into this expecting another Breath of the Wild or even Ocarina of Time experience, it’s not like that, and it shouldn’t be judged as such.
On the graphics side, while the game looks great, they have this odd area of effect blurring on the edge of the screen. While you won’t always notice it, when it does appear, it does ruin the illusion a bit.
Finally, there’s the new Dungeon Creator side-game. It’s clever, but it doesn’t feel vital, and it honestly doesn’t add much to the game in terms of length unless you’re really into that kind of thing.
But don’t let these small points get in the way of the quality and fun of Link’s Awakening. There’s a reason Nintendo brought it back and remade it for the Switch. This is honestly one of the best Legend of Zelda titles of the lot, and regardless of your previous experience with it, you’re going to enjoy it again.
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Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening Review
The Legend of Zelda Link’s Awakening brings a classic story from the Game Boy era to the Switch with great results. I’m thrilled to have gotten to play this game again, and I hope you’ll try it out too.