If anyone says they didn’t enjoy the re-imagined Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, they are lying or wrong. Kidding, but Nintendo really did knock this play on nostalgia out of the park when it comes to delivering a new experience on the handheld Switch platform while still preserving what made many of us fall in love with the original in the first place. Plus, who doesn’t want to go back to the heckin’ weird Koholint Island and with updated graphics?
Beginning the Link’s Awakening adventure was nothing short of stunning. It retained the original vibe while completely transforming the experience to be not only adorable but captivating as well. Everything about the environment was immersive and the redesign still felt very much on-brand for Legend of Zelda while still being something new entirely. It’s a delicate balance, a balance that Nintendo pulled off very well.
Gone are the sprite graphics and instead players can dive in as a chibi Link in all of his lofty adventures. With updated audio and visual overhauls, every step of Link’s Awakening was a trip, one that felt fresh and truly encourages a dedicated and rewarding play session. The story is also in line with the original on an umbrella structural base while still offering new elements with updated enemies and a more centered narrative and it absolutely kept the original formula of puzzle dungeons in-tact, offering a challenge without being frustratingly impossible.
The only downside to Link’s Awakening on the Nintendo Switch is that it seemed to have a few frame rate issues, especially when loading in certain scenes. I’m assuming this is probably due to how Nintendo approached depth-of-field and how certain effects are applied to achieve a certain aesthetic. For those players that are extremely technical, this could be seen as an issue, though it wasn’t anything painstaking and definitely wasn’t a deal-breaker when it comes to scooping up the Big N’s latest re-imagining.
Another aspect of Link’s Awakening is that it stands on its own right, despite being a remake. It doesn’t ever feel forced or like it’s trying to be something it’s not. The entire title feels very natural, very fluid, and comfortable in its own nature. Though it is very reminiscent of other games in the franchise, it doesn’t try to outdo or out-maneuver other Zelda titles and it didn’t try to be a carbon-copy of the original Game Boy entry – which is something that could have rubbed the most die-hard fans the wrong way.
The progression set up of the game is easy to work with as well. Though the island of Koholint is bigger than most players will remember, Link has a wise companion in the form of an owl to help guide him to where he needs to be and how he can get off of Koholint. The flow of quests is also very natural made even more so by the help of Ulrira. Players will find him at trees that look like phone booths, where he’s available to talk to at any given time. Talk to him by phone and you’re golden, try to do a face to face and you’ll see how truly shy this character is.
One thing that I think is a fair point to bring up is comparing this game to other recent releases, namely Breath of the Wild. Leading up to launch, many on social media kept asking “how will it stack up” to the open-world adventure, and I personally think that’s a very unjust comparison. These are two very different game types, two different genres, and two very different mechanic types going in. To compare Link’s Awakening to Breath of the Wild just doesn’t make sense, so if you’re looking for a replica of that stunning open-world adventure, you might want to keep looking. Link’s Awakening is phenomenal in its own right, but it’s nothing like Breath of the Wild.
That being said, this is yet another Zelda entry that fits well within the Switch’s control scheme. Since the Switch has a lot more options than its Game Boy predecessor, linking attacks, movement, and utilizing power is much more effective and easier to control. Basically everything a player needs is right at their fingertips, versus constantly having to revert back to the menu like we had to with the original.
Between the more manageable controls, the modernized dungeon system, and the expansive narrative design of the remake, Link’s Awakening is the perfect blend of what we loved from the original mixed with a new experience that both Zelda veterans and newcomers alike can enjoy. Fans will feel that familiar sense of importance that each questline gives, while also a sense of rewarding accomplishment once those credits roll. It’s the perfect game for any Nintendo fan looking for a new adventure to sink their time into.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is available now exclusively on Nintendo Switch.