I’ve always been a massive fan of the 2D Zelda games, but for some reason, I don’t think I’ve ever played Link’s Awakening. I suspect this is the same for many gamers, which is why Nintendo has opted to remake, what is probably the most creative and wild Zelda game.
Link’s Awakening doesn’t really give you much context, as far as the story goes. You’re awoken on a beach in an unfamiliar location and have to follow an Owl’s instruction in order to figure out what to do next. It’s this sense of mystery and the fact that the game takes place in a fairly small map (which means that you get to talk to almost all characters multiple times) which will keep you eager to keep pushing forward in order to discover the mysteries of the island.
If you’ve played a Zelda game, you’ll be pretty familiar with how the game plays out. You’ll slowly unlock items which will allow you to access different areas of the map. As far as puzzle design goes, I found it to be the perfect amount of difficulty. There’s enough ambiguity there that you’ll always be a little stumped in terms of what to do next, but then there’s enough structure that you’re never feeling frustrated or cheated.
The enemy design in Link’s Awakening is extremely memorable. You’ll see characters that you recognise from Mario and a few other iconic Nintendo franchises. The combat is a little bit on the easy side, and if you’re outside of dungeon, you’ll literally respawn right where you died. The boss battles that take place over the variety of dungeons are also memorable (due to their downright crazy designs).
Something that I wasn’t expecting to be talking about is performance, but I was fairly let down with how Link’s Awakening runs. For majority of the time it runs at a solid 60FPS, but it has some really weird slow down in certain areas. When you’re leaving a building, entering a new area or encounter two/three enemies at once, there’s a jarring slow-down before it shoots back up to 60FPS. Obviously, this isn’t a reason not play the game, but it’s not something I’ve noticed in too many other Switch games, and certainly wasn’t expecting to see performance issues here. This does seem to be worse in handheld mode, but it was definitely noticeable in docked mode as well.
As far as the game goes, the game is fairly faithful to the original. It’s obviously had a visual overhaul and it looks absolutely stunning, but if you’re expecting new dungeons, or new items, then there’s nothing like that here. There is however, a Dungeon Builder which you get a way into the game. It’s a nice little touch, and fun for a little while, but the dungeons are far too simplistic to really want to spend a lot of time with.
Controls have also been improved greatly. Obviously, the Gameboy only had two buttons, so it was a little bit of an awkward game to play. but with the Switch’s vast array of buttons, it feels a lot more natural to play through and those that have played more recently Zelda games will feel right at home. The game’s map has also been overhauled, so you can now put marks on the map in order to remind yourself to return to certain areas.
I don’t always talk about price when reviewing a game, but an RRP of $80 for this feels a little bit steep. It is a remake of an extremely old game, and when you put it next to Breath of The Wild (which is a system defining game that you could spend over 100 hours with), it doesn’t have anywhere near the same amount of replayability or innovation. The game launches around the Switch Lite and it does really feel like the perfect handheld game.
As far as things to do around the world, there’s a variety of mini games, such as the Crane Game, in where you’ll be able to get a Yoshi doll as well as some other Nintendo franchises. If you’re up for a bit of a challenge, you can play Hero Mode from the start of the game, which means that Link takes double the damage and no hearts are dropped by enemies.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is another must-play Nintendo Switch game. It still stands the test of time and in no way feels outdated, which is impressive for a 20 year old game. Don't let performance issues and a high price point stop you from playing this absolute classic.