The Legend of Zelda series has been completely transformed in modern times after originally being introduced as a 2D top-down action RPG. Breath of the Wild is wildly considered as the pinnacle of the series and it was a massive game with an open world to explore. This approach to game design is different than the classic Zelda games which continued until the transition to 3D begins with Ocarina of Time.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a remake of the Game Boy original which also received a remaster of sorts with a colored version for the Game Boy Color. Nintendo Switch version is a full 3D remake of this classic which is wildly considered as one of the most underrated Zelda games. If you want to find out about the history of the game and whether it is worthy of being considered as a cult classic, this might be the best way to experience it.
Link’s Awakening ditches some of the things that the series is traditionally known for and instead focuses on exploration in an exciting new Island. The game is not set in Hyrule but an entirely different location called Koholint Island. Link washes ashore on this Island after he loses his ship in a thunderstorm. The locals of the Island find him along with his Shield and save his life. Link then attempts to find out how to escape the Island which turns out to be a complicated case.
Koholint Island is not a regular Island as it is guarded by a deity that resembles a whale. The locals refer to it as the Wind Fish and it is up to link to find a set of musical instruments hidden all across the Island to wake up the Wind Fish. This sets up the basic story premise for Link’s Awakening and it is kept simple for a reason. The major focus of the game is on the level and dungeon design with plenty of puzzles to solve along with monsters to fight in them.
What is remarkable to see in this remake is how much care has been put in making sure the authenticity of the original experience is kept intact for both newcomers and returning fans. The map design is almost a match with little to no changes made to make it different. The game is carefully crafted to preserve the legacy of the original level and dungeon design but with modern twists to make them more pleasing and enjoyable. The art style has a cute animated look that gives everyone a chibi appearance. It does work well with the overall presentation and looks visually striking.
Link’s Awakening expects you to return to many of its locations because you won’t have the ability to reach some of the secret areas until later in the game. The layout of the levels is easy to remember so it is hard to get lost in the world. Even if you lose track of your progress, there are many ways to get back on the right path. You can also look for many of the power-ups or collectibles that help Link grow more powerful. The map feels decently sized but it has a lot of secrets buried in it which will take some time to figure out and unlock.
Combat feels rather lackluster in Link’s Awakening and it is honestly quite easy to beat most of the enemies on the default difficulty. Boss fights are a little different as they take some time to figure out and learn the attack pattern of the boss. You will be able to fight these bosses in dungeons which are usually linked to getting one of the musical instruments. Defeating them means you gain a piece of musical instrument and once you have all eight of them, the next part of the story begins.
If you want, you can continue to explore the Island to uncover any of the secrets and find collectibles but it is not a long game by any means. It took me between 10 to 15 hours to finish the story without having to worry about any of the side content. The optional side content can take a couple more hours depending on how good you are at exploration. It can be quite rewarding to find out the secrets and do optional activities because you can get some unique items this way.
If you are a Nintendo fan, chances are that you will enjoy the cameos that the game is littered with including characters from the Super Mario series. There is also a great nod to the series with some side-scrolling dungeons. They were a nice surprise to discover in the game. They also offer a change of pace from the standard top-down gameplay.
Combat in Link’s Awakening is straight forward with an attack and defense button. You can also assign items to different shortcuts so that they can be quickly used during battle. This applies to key items as well as supporting items that can help you overcome enemies or perform magic on them. Link starts with basic abilities but can learn new moves after playing more of the story.
One of the major issues with the game is its inconsistent performance. I have no idea why it happens but if you are sensitive to frame rate, there can be slight hitches that can ruin the mood when playing Link’s Awakening. These hitches and stutter can happen randomly, or during combat, and they feel annoying because of it. I hope Nintendo can patch out these issues with an update, but if you can tolerate frame rate drops, it might not be a big deal.
In conclusion, this can still be considered as one of the best classic Zelda games even if it is a remake. The design of the map and every dungeon is just amazing and the puzzles feel simulating. The game looks stunning due to its careful use of visual effects that blend in nicely with the art style. Perhaps the price can be a deciding factor because even if it is a remake, it is still an old game that has been given the full price treatment.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: As Link, explore a reimagined Koholint Island and collect instruments to awaken the Wind Fish to find a way home.
Final Score - 9/10
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening brings back the charm of classic 2D Zelda games with a modern touch. It is arguably one of the better old school Zelda games for newcomers to dip their toes in since the upgrade to the visual design has made it a great looking game. This does come at the cost of performance.