I got into the Game Boy late in its lifecycle, but that never bothered this little gamer. Shortly after, I got my hands on “Pokémon Ruby,” and the Pokémon craze ensued. One of the trends was the “Pokémon Trading Card Game.” Why am I mentioning this? Because, much like the notorious item-trading sequences in “The Legend of Zelda” series, I embarked on a similar journey. Little did I know, after a series of Pokémon card trades, random toy swaps, and Game Boy cartridge exchanges, I would acquire one of my favorite games: “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.”
“Link’s Awakening” transported me to a portable world that I instantly fell in love with. Those tiny monochromatic sprites will forever hold a special place in my heart. I played that game countless times—so many that I lost count. Back then, the map felt vast, the adventure immense. Different dungeons, a variety of collectibles, and secrets waiting to be discovered—everything I loved and desired in “The Legend of Zelda” series. When I first saw the remake of “Link’s Awakening” earlier this year, I was thrilled. The graphics looked fantastic, the music reimagined, and I was eager to experience the revealed enhancements. I must say, despite some drawbacks in the remake, Nintendo delivered an outstanding performance in “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening” on the Switch.
The World of the Wind Fish
The game kicks off with a brand-new hand-drawn animated sequence, showcasing how Link finds himself on the mysterious Koholint Island. We are then introduced to the new art style of “Link’s Awakening,” where Link and the entire world exhibit a claymation-like appearance. This visual style perfectly suits the reimagined portable game of 2019. Additionally, there’s a slight tilt-shift blur effect that seems to simulate the original top-down perspective. This change, combined with the open-world nature of this game, results in some unfortunate performance issues.
When I first explored Mabe Village (the place where Link wakes up after a shipwreck), I immediately noticed some stuttering and frame drops. The performance dips slightly whenever the player emerges from buildings or caves into the overworld, then stabilizes. Experiencing such issues in a Nintendo game is regrettable. Considering games like “Super Mario Odyssey” on the Switch that look and run smoothly, it’s almost unbelievable that Nintendo would release a game in this state. I had hoped for a day-one patch to address these issues, but unfortunately, none was found. Fortunately, these problems did not occur in half of the game’s dungeons.
One aspect of “Link’s Awakening” that I love the most is its music. One of my all-time favorite game soundtracks includes key tunes from this game, such as the Ballad of the Wind Fish and Mambo’s Mambo. All the music has been reorchestrated, and it is a delight to the ears. From the Ballad of the Wind Fish, the trendy game shop tune, to boss battle music and even the “secret discovered” jingle—everything is splendid.
Welcomed Changes to Koholint Island
For a game that has been remade after 26 years, there are certainly some changes. Most, if not all, are welcomed and necessary improvements. Simple quality-of-life changes make “Link’s Awakening” better than ever before. Yes, it’s possible. The most significant and crucial change is the control scheme. If you remember the original Game Boy, it only had two buttons for operation: A and B. For those who haven’t played the original, these buttons were used for everything—your shield, your sword, and every item. You might whistle while roaming with one button mapped and throw bombs with another, without seeing your sword and shield. This is where the most significant and crucial change takes place. Your sword and shield are always mapped to the same button, with two additional items released on X and Y. This new control scheme brings about a revolutionary change that is very well received.
Before the game’s release, I was curious if it would include the additions from “Link’s Awakening DX,” such as the most significant change: colored dungeons. Fear not, as these dungeons are indeed present, offering a possibility for those who seek additional assistance. In my opinion, both sets provide too easy bonuses for normal mode. Fortunately, they added a new hero mode, providing a greater challenge and accessible from the beginning without unlocking. Thank you, Nintendo.
A new feature has been added, replacing the original Camera Shop, and that’s our beloved gardener, Dampe. Dampe’s shack is a new location where players can create their own dungeons using completed dungeon tiles. Dampe also has his own challenges, creating maps and completing tasks. I found this new addition to be enjoyable. It not only required me, a perfectionist, to pursue every item but also offered a new experience that I enjoyed. Unfortunately, the lack of an online sharing feature is a missed opportunity. I was genuinely looking forward to trying out maps from other players, similar to “Super Mario Maker.”
While many other changes were added on the Switch, the last one I want to mention for “Link’s Awakening” is the addition of new items and collectibles. The number of hearts has increased, leading to more heart pieces to discover. Shells, a collectible from the original, providing rewards based on the found quantity, have doubled. Some fun decorative items can be placed in the main village, adding vibrancy. Other classic items, such as fairy bottles, make a return. For returning players, I appreciate having new items and secrets to discover, leading to more gameplay time.
Classic Zelda Reimagined
Throughout my journey playing “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening,” I wore a constant smile. It retained everything I loved about the original, making it feel fresh while preserving the nostalgia. I probably took over a hundred screenshots, using the Switch’s built-in feature, just to be able to revisit certain moments that stuck with me.
“Link’s Awakening” is a classic Zelda experience that every fan should explore, whether a newcomer or a seasoned player. Traverse the entire world, discover the personality of each region and dungeon, face multiple bosses, complete a delightful item-trading sequence, and recognize cameo characters from other Nintendo games. Even for me, someone who has played the original countless times, I discovered new revelations in the Switch remake.
I’ve seen many concerns about the full $60 price tag for “Link’s Awakening.” I understand. It’s a Game Boy game, sold at a much lower price back in the day, and may not seem worth the hefty price tag. However, having played the game and seen everything it offers, I can easily recommend it at full price. The new additions and features make multiple playthroughs possible while still remaining delightful.