Link’s Awakening is a perfect example of how to do a remake.
The first time I played the original Link’s Awakening, it was on my friend’s Super Game Boy. I was eight at the time and I just couldn’t get into it like Link to the Past. It was unusual and felt different from what I was used to (I hadn’t played Zelda II on the NES yet, now that’s a weird one). Having finished the remake, I have actually gone back and played the original to experience it in its original form. I can’t believe I’ve missed out on playing it all these years. It’s just a fantastic game, whether you’re playing the original or this remake. I absolutely love this game and it is damn near perfect in my eyes. It’s better late then never I suppose.
When Link’s Awakening begins, Link has washed up on Koholint Island after his boat was struck down by lightning. The lovely orange haired Marin & the spitting image of Mario; Tarin, have taken him in and right after you gain consciousness, you’re given your shield and you head out into the world. You’ll need to acquire the eight musical instruments to awaken the Wind Fish from its giant egg that sits atop Mt. Tamaranch in order to be able to leave the island and set things right. It’s a simple set-up, but the game is anything but that.
The island is full of secrets for you to uncover and side-quests involving trading items to various characters. While it might seem complicated, the remake is very good at pointing you in the right direction. New to the remake is the ability to mark points of interest on your map, much like Breath of the Wild. Being able to mark heart locations so you can go back later once you have the proper gear to grab them is great and I wish it was always a feature in the Zelda series from the start.
The various dungeons are designed extremely well, always incorporating various elements from previous dungeons while implementing new mechanics. It’s nothing new and we’ve seen this type of thing in other Zelda games, but it’s just so well done here. For a game that came out in 1993, I actually prefer it to some of the 3D games that seem to tack on too many mechanics. Link’s Awakening dungeons are never overly complicated and provide just the right amount of challenge. There are even certain parts of the dungeons you can’t access until you have certain items that you can only gain later on, so you’re never usually done with a dungeon even after you’ve acquired the instrument from it.
Your various abilities are assigned to different buttons. B will swing your sword, the R button will use your shield, and L will let you sprint once you have the proper footwear to do so. The special items you can use are assigned to the X & Y buttons. Link’s Awakening lets you equip beloved items such as the Hookshot or Bow, but you also have access to new items such as Roc’s Feather, which allows you to jump whenever you want. Being able to avoid enemy attacks makes combat engaging and also provides a different dynamic to how you solve puzzles. There are even side-scrolling segments and platforming. The way Link’s Awakening incorporates Mario characters into the game is ingenious as well. Jumping on top of Goombas heads, avoiding Thwomps, or accompanying a Chain-Chomp on a walk is charming and adorable.
The big standout though with this remake is the graphics. They look clay-like and bring the world of the original Game Boy game to life. Even the music and sound effects are updated from the pixelated tones of the past. It all comes together and just makes me love this game even more. Link’s Awakening really is the complete package and the developers have spared no expense with giving the original a gorgeous face lift.
Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a remake done right. It retains the charm of the original while presenting a gorgeous soundtrack, two difficulty modes to master, plenty of things to discover and creatures to battle, and some new adorable graphics to swoon over. If there was ever a game that was perfect in my eyes, this would be it. Even if you aren’t a Zelda fan, go buy this, now. It’s just a great game period. – NVJ
Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is now available on Nintendo Switch