Game Reviews

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Review

Relive Link's journey across Koholint Island.

by Dean James
Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

The Legend of Zelda series has seen a number of different remasters over the years with some graphical and gameplay related improvements, but never before has the series actually had a full remake from the ground up that includes a complete visual redesign. Already having plenty of history with the franchise as a result of their development of the Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask 3D releases, as well as co-developing Tri-Force Heroes, Nintendo enlisted Grezzo to remake the fan favorite The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the Nintendo Switch.

Originally releasing back in 1993 for the Game Boy, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was later released for the Game Boy Color in DX form with a new dungeon and the addition of color. Since that time, the game had only been released on the Virtual Console and otherwise had been left alone. Even with the limited re-releases for the game, it has always remained a fan favorite in the series that pushed the limits of the Game Boy at the time.

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The story starts with a beautifully animated cutscene that replicates the one from the original, where Link finds himself in the middle of a nasty storm that leads to him getting shipwrecked on Koholint Island. Link is found by Marin on the shore and brought to her house with her father Tarin. After starting the game and being instructed to find your sword, you will run into an owl who explains that you must gather the eight Instruments of the Sirens to awaken the Wind Fish before you can escape from the island.

In typical Legend of Zelda fashion, this means that you have eight main dungeons to explore, each of which will provide you with one of the instruments that you need to awaken the Wind Fish. There is more to the story that comes about much later in the game, but going further into that would really ruin the experience for anyone that has never played the original. Even outside of the main story, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening features a lot of great character moments, even from side characters you only interact with a time or two. This is something that the franchise has always done a great job with and this game definitely exemplifies that.

The original The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening featured your run of the mill Legend of Zelda art style, though it still had its own flare with the different characters and enemies. Rather than rebuild that style, Greezo instead decided to try something completely different with a very different art style for the characters that almost make them look like figurines. This was definitely a bit jarring at first to see, but it truly looks exceptional in action. The colors bouncing off of the characters and environments are vibrant and really fit in perfectly with this aesthetic.

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One of the coolest inclusions in the original game that still remains today are the Nintendo cameos found in the game, especially from the Super Mario series. Throughout the game, you will run into enemy Goombas, Cheep Cheeps and even what are known as Anti-Kirbys. In addition, there are two major Chain Chomps found in the game that play a role in the game as friendly pets kept within Mabe Village. This is something that was exclusive to this game and it was great that Nintendo did not remove these really neat homages in the remake.

While The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a near perfect remake, it does have a couple issues related to draw distance and frame rate. When walking around, you’ll very quickly notice that the furthest areas on the screen to the north and south of you will have a blurry filter over them, which do not become clearer until you move more in that direction. This does not ruin the experience in any way, but there is no question that it can be a bit of an eyesore at first and definitely takes some getting used to while playing through the game.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening also features some frame rate issues when you are in certain parts of the game. While the game is meant to run at 60fps, you will see drastic drops down to 30fps at times when a lot is happening on screen. For a game that certainly does not push the limits graphically, you would think the framerate could maintain at a stable 60fps. Like with the aforementioned blurriness, this does not tarnish the experience too much considering it only happens occasionally, but it is something that should really not be a problem in a game like this.

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Even with the framerate issues, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening retains the classic gameplay style that people know and love from the classic top-down Legend of Zelda games. Link always has his sword and shield at the ready, but also has two item slots that he can fill up with various items you collect in the game, such as Roc’s Feather, the Bow, and the Hookshot. There are also other items that you gain access to automatically after obtaining them, such as the Power Bracelets or the Pegasus Boots. This game has a good variety of different weapons and items to find here that aren’t any different from the original release, but there really was no need for new items here in the grand scheme of things.

As mentioned above, the game features eight dungeons for you to find and explore on your adventure to awaken the Wind Fish. Rather than just have you go to each of the dungeons and walking right in, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening requires you to complete other tasks ahead of time to be able to gain access. This can range from getting a key or item that you need to gain access to the dungeon or completing a sidequest that allows you inside, which almost makes it feel like you’ve started the dungeon even before you’ve entered it.

Once you get inside the dungeons themselves, you are treated with some really fantastic dungeon design in this game. There are the usual keys and dungeon items to find to advance further and eventually fight the boss, and of course you can’t have a Legend of Zelda game without some sort of water dungeon. Each of these dungeons feel distinctly different and often require some thinking on how to advance. Having the more intuitive map and compass can really help you when you get lost as well, with the compass now making a sound if a chest is nearby.

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While the entire original game is fully intact here, including even the Color Dungeon from the DX version on Game Boy Color, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on Nintendo Switch also adds something completely new to the experience as well with the Chamber Dungeons. By visiting Dampe, who fans of Ocarina of Time and a few other games should recognize, you can create your own dungeons in the game based on existing chambers that you can collect by playing through the game. There is even amiibo support here that adds a few exclusive rooms into the mix as well. It does feel like there could have been a bit more done here to make it feel more customized in design, but that can be saved for a Super Mario Maker like spinoff one day.

It would be hard to truly call The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening a hidden gem since it has always been a very popular title in the series, but there is no question it has not garnered the fanbase of games like A Link to The Past and Ocarina of Time due to its handheld only roots. That has now changed with the latest release on the Nintendo Switch, where the game has been replicated to near perfection along with new colorful visuals and multiple quality of life changes that make The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on Switch a pure joy to play.

The Verdict

The Legend of Zelda series is known for its quality across both consoles and handhelds, with the latter often standing out for their uniqueness within the franchise as a whole. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was a shining example of that on the Game Boy and once again proves why it deserves to be talked about among the best in the series with its remake on the Nintendo Switch.

"loved"
loved

  • Available On: Nintendo Switch
  • Published By: Nintendo
  • Developed By: Grezzo
  • Genre: Action-Adventure
  • US Release Date: September 20, 2019
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
  • Quote: "The Legend of Zelda series is known for its quality across both consoles and handhelds, with the latter often standing out for their uniqueness within the franchise as a whole. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was a shining example of that on the Game Boy and once again proves why it deserves to be talked about among the best in the series with its remake on the Nintendo Switch."
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