Nintendo is no stranger to remakes and remasters. They were probably one of the first companies to release a remaster in 1993 with the release of Super Mario All-Stars on the Super NES, which took the original NES games and updated them with improved 16-bit graphics and sound. Also in 1993 The Legend of Zelda was published: Link Awakening for the Game Boy. This would be Link’s first trip into the world of handheld computers, but certainly not his last. It was then remastered in colour for the Game Boy Color, with some nice extras like a new dungeon. Now, 26 years after its first release, we are witnessing what Nintendo likes to call a re-experience with the release of Link’s Awakening for Nintendo Switch. Since I hadn’t beaten any of the previous playthroughs, I was determined to finish it, and I’m really glad I did! It’s become one of my favourite Zelda games so far, which isn’t easy.
In the context of this review, I think it is important to note my history with this game to put my views into perspective. I was barely a teenager when we got the NES in August 1988, and my love of Nintendo games really took off. The following year, I was lucky enough to receive a brand new Game Boy for Christmas. I played it a lot for the next two years, but there was a new console on the program. When the Super NES was released in August 1991, I had saved all my money by babysitting and mowing the lawns to buy it at the time of launch. It was my most exciting system ever, and I couldn’t wait to finally play Super Mario World.
Even before the release of the console, game magazines such as Electronic Gaming Monthly were already showing screens of the new game Zelda. I spent hours searching through every ounce of information I could find and viewing screenshots to get what was definitely unhealthy. So when Link to the Past was finally released in April 1992, I played it right away. Needless to say, I almost completely stopped playing the NES and Game Boy because the Super NES was so much better. I may have been a graphic snob at the time, but if I had a choice, I’d rather play 16-bit games than anything else.
When Link’s Awakening was finally released for the Game Boy in 1993, I picked it up shortly after its release. I remember really enjoying it and having a good time with it, but what bothered me the most was the constant need to go in and out of the submenu to change equipment. Much of the game was heavily dependent on the shielding mechanism and the need to jump, which required an annoying amount of pauses, exchanges and then restart. This, combined with the constant stream of new 16-bit games and the upcoming Sega CD (I was sure at the time that this would be the future of entertainment), meant that I didn’t get very far in the game. If I had to guess, I’d probably go through two dungeons in total. Snel vooruit naar de release van Game Boy Color, en ik was blij om het geld uit te geven om het spel weer in kleur te spelen! I still have the same problems with changing elements, and I probably played it in much the same way as the original. After a while I heard on various podcasts and websites that Link’s Awakening was a very special game for many people. That’s why, when Switch was announced, I knew this would finally be my chance to experience the whole game once and for all.
For me, Link’s Awakening on the Switch was practically a new game. It’s been so many years since I’ve spent so much time in this world that it all seemed so important to me. I remembered little things like Bow Wow, the Chain Chomp in the starting village, and a few NPCs, but then I started a whole new quest. As far as I know, this version of the game is almost identical to the previous versions. So if you know all the secrets and how to solve the puzzles, you might have doubts about spending $60 on what is essentially a nicer version of the game that you already know so well. On the other hand, if it is a game that you love and cherish and that is one of your favorites, then it may be worth the value proposition.
I strongly recommend this game for new players because although it originally looks like a Game Boy game, it’s a full-fledged Zelda game. Somehow I kept thinking that maybe there wouldn’t be any dungeons, or that there would be fewer objects, or that it wouldn’t be over for a few hours. That was just the beginning of my experience with the Game Boy games of the time, like Super Mario Land, which only had four worlds, or Mega Man with only four bosses. Fortunately, there is nothing to worry about, because the game is full of places to explore and secrets to discover. In the end, my playing time was about 15 hours, and I didn’t even collect all the hidden shells or Nintendo action figures. Suffice it to say that there is much to do in this area.
With many more buttons at your disposal, this version of Link’s Awakening certainly plays a better role. The developers were able to match the shield with the R Button and the running shoes with the L Button. Swords are permanently assigned to key B, and keys Y and X can be assigned to any item in your inventory. I had the Roc pen on the Y button (to jump) and I replaced the X button with what I needed at that moment, whether it was bombs, arrows or whatever. By simply using more buttons, the game becomes more accessible and gets the modern quality of life it so desperately needs.
The biggest changes that will be immediately noticeable are improved graphics and music. When I saw the new art style, I was immediately addicted. The game still retains its top-down perspective, but things are very different from before. Pixel-shaped elves have disappeared, but there are figurines that look like plastic figurines. The whole game, from the characters to the buildings and environments, looks like something torn out of a miniature toy game. The style of the animation reminds me a bit of the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon that used freeze frame technology. It’s not quite like that here, but the plastic trees and the stone facades, which almost look like they are chiselled out of clay, certainly look the same.
In combination with the top view, it almost feels as if you are looking at a diorama or something like that in many scenes, which is quite a big effect, especially in the dungeons. With the light effects and the colour saturation, it really is an amazing achievement. This game is simply beautiful to watch, it is so vivid and colorful that sometimes it almost hurts. The water seems incredibly realistic, especially the small rivers and the lake. Enemies live beautifully, and I love the different reactions when Link blocks a spear with his shield or repels a rock from an octopus. The various locations seem to have been handmade, and it never seems as if anyone has copied and pasted a set of tiles to create an area. The amount of detail is impressive, and I absolutely love the decision to go that way.
The soundtrack of this game is just as impressive. In this respect I must congratulate the original piece, because I never realised how long the many songs lasted. Zelda games for Link’s Awakening had one or two dungeon themes, but this game has eight different themes – one for each labyrinth. The composers took the original melodies and modernised them with orchestral samples that sound fantastic. In most cases, the chiptune is extended and considerably extended to prevent the song from repeating for about 30 seconds. In addition, some pieces of music with original beeps and boops provide an extra dose of nostalgia. The sound effects are just as satisfying as the normal blades and thighs of your sword and shield. The jingle that plays when you discover a secret, like the explosion of a piece of wall, is also very popular, because it’s never boring!
The legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a return to the core of what makes a Zelda game a Zelda game. They have a ton of puzzles embedded in the other world, as well as the hells and mysteries that seem to be on every screen. For the first time players will encounter real puzzles, and these puzzles are exponentially more fun to solve. You’ll meet a variety of characters in the short conversations, and as the game progressed and the story unfolded, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of sadness when I realised what the end of the story was likely to bring.
Although the gameplay and locations are largely identical to the Game Boy version, there are a few differences. Apart from the increase in the number of collectibles and the slightly different places of dialogue, the biggest change is the inclusion of the bedroomerker. You can find coins in the dungeons and place them in a similar Zelda minigame to create your own maze. It’s pretty easy to learn, and I imagine some of them have a lot of fun making their masterpieces. In a very Nintendo approach, you can not share dungeons online, but instead you have to register them on an amiibo link and a friend can then tap their copy of the game and play your dungeon. I spent a total of about 20 minutes in this mode, but I didn’t like it. Chances are that the number of kilometres varies.
Perhaps most impressive of all, this game proves that there is plenty of room for different styles of Zelda to play on the Exchange. Link’s Awakening is a much more focused and linear experience than Breath of the Wild, but both manage to quench the same thirst for epic adventure. The mild stuttering problems and the tendency of gambling to lead you down a one-way street where backsliding can be a little painful do not detract from a wonderful experience not to be missed.
The Legend of Zelda: Awakening Communication
- Graphs – 9.5/10
- Sound – 10/10
- Gameplay – 9/10
- Late call – 8/10
Final thoughts: EXAMPLES
The legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a fantastic experience from start to finish. With an incredibly charming artistic style and a great soundtrack of the most notable updates, the improved controls make this game truly more accessible than ever. Beginners can expect at least 15 hours of play (more if you want to collect everything), while veterans should have no problem getting through the game at a much faster pace. The price is in the eye of the beholder, but after watching the credits, I felt that the $60 price was more than fair.
Craig has covered the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published in various media. He is currently editor and employee of Age of Games.
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