One handheld classic got the full remake treatment last year when the fantastic Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! (and Let’s Go, Eevee!) was released on the Nintendo Switch, and this year it is another handheld classic’s turn as the fantastic and much-loved The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening gets a full HD remake. There is always a danger of remaking such a beloved classic, but as the hero of Hyrule knows all so well, without risk there is no reward, right?
Bit of a history lesson first, I’m afraid, before we get into this review. The Legend of Zelda series is so vast that a little explanation is probably needed. Link’s Awakening is a top-down 2D entry and was first released in 1993 for the Game Boy. It actually started its life as a port of A Link to the Past but became its own game during that production. It is also a rather unique entry in the Zelda series as it is one of the few games not to be set in Hyrule, and it also does not feature Princess Zelda or the Triforce at all. The original release is beloved by Zelda fans, with the game showing just how in-depth Game Boy games could be. It was also super successful as Link’s Awakening and the 1998 updated version for the Game Boy colour, Link’s Awakening DX, sold over six million copies.
Link’s Awakening, as previously mentioned, does not take place in Hyrule. It instead takes place on Koholint Island, where Link is stranded when he washes ashore after a storm destroys his boat. When he awakes, Link is met by a rather chatty owl who informs our hero that the only way he’ll be able to return home is if he wakes up the Wind Fish, the guardian of Koholint Island. To do this, Link will have to find the eight Instruments of the Sirens to wake the Wind Fish. Can I just say, as a quick note, after typing the plot to Link’s Awakening, I F*****G LOVE ZELDA!!!!!!
The first thing you’ll notice when you wash ashore on Koholint Island is just how drop-dead gorgeous this HD remake of Link’s Awakening is. All the characters look like toys, a little bit like Funko Pops but with a bit more detail. When the first trailer and screenshots were released for Link’s Awakening, there were some grumbles about how it looks too child-like. But that was some of the same early criticism of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and everyone soon got over that, and that will be the same here. The characters all look fantastic, especially Link who has probably never looked more adorable. Koholint Island is also beautiful, from lush grasslands to the dry desert, it all looks wonderful. To accompany the new visuals is also a fantastic new orchestral soundtrack replaying classic songs that, for all us original players, will send you straight back to the 90s in a warm, fuzzy blanket of nostalgia. What isn’t fantastic, however, is the frame rate. You will notice on quite a few occasions the frame rate struggling and stuttering. It generally only lasts a second or two, but for a first-party Nintendo release, it is noticeable.
Link’s Awakening’s core gameplay, which makes the original release such a favourite amongst Zelda fans, is still there, just with some much needed 21st-century updates. The best of these modern upgrades is now you won’t have to constantly swap out equipment. Due to the original being released on the Game Boy, there were only two buttons for you to use. Now, your sword and shield are permanently mapped to R and B, the Pegasus Boots are used by pressing L and the power bracelet is just constantly working. You will still have to swap out equipment every now and then but nowhere near as much as you had to in the past. It is also far easier now just to keep the Roc’s Feather equipped at all times, so you can flip all-around Koholint Island at your leisure. While flipping around the Island, you’ll also notice that the map has been brought into modern times, and you can actually mark places to come back to later. Fairy bottles are also introduced in this HD remake, a series staple that finally makes it to Link’s Awakening. There is also a new feature that isn’t quite as useful as the others…
Have you ever wanted to create your own Zelda dungeons? If you are like me, the answer is YES!!! PLEASE, OH, SWEET GANON, PLEASE!!!!! Well, do not get your hopes up, but you sort of can in Link’s Awakening. To do so, you’ll need to visit Dampe’s shack where you’ll be allowed to create a dungeon of your own, BUT, and this is a big “but”, you can only make your own dungeon using chambers of the dungeons already in Link’s Awakening. So, if you just want to take your favourite rooms from all the dungeons and mash them together, then here is where you can do that. There is also another downer here: Dampe’s shack has completely replaced the Photographer’s House and that associated side quest.
Underneath everything, this is still the game we all know and love. There are secrets to find, monsters to slay, girls to flirt with and dungeons to conquer. The bonkers but fun trade quest has also made its way across, which sees Link running all over Koholint Island trading sticks for pineapples and such. Also, numerous characters from Super Mario and other Nintendo franchises, such as Yoshi and Chomp, are still present here. The dungeons offer some challenge, but Link’s Awakening was never the most difficult in the series to begin with. The only times you’ll be really stuck is if you haven’t noticed you can blow a wall up to find a door, or you having to smash everything in the room to find a key. If you are stuck and have been running around the dungeon or island, then you can get some help from either an owl statue or by visiting one of the huts with a phone on the top to get a tip from Ulrira.
Combat is still simple, and it nowhere near has the depth (and lunacy) as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun. Enemies will all be defeated in two or three strokes of your sword, but there can be times when you find yourself in a bit of trouble if there are half a dozen or so enemies all surrounding you. The boss fights are the highlight of the combat in Link’s Awakening, and again, they are not the taxing battles you’d find in BOTW, but they will sometimes require some thought behind how to defeat them.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening may be a sensational remake of a classic in the Zelda franchise, but if your only experience in the Zelda series is Breath of the Wild, this may seem like a huge step backwards. I implore you though, do not just write off Link’s Awakening. There is a lot to offer here for new players of this style of Zelda game. It looks and sounds gorgeous, there are some incredibly funny parts and combat, while simple, is a lot of fun during the boss fights. So please, do not just dismiss this and instead see how the Hero of Hyrule used to do things before BOTW.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 20th September 2019
Do you agree with our review of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.