The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Review
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is the latest installment of one of Nintendo’s oldest and most successful franchises. Based on the 1993 game of the same name, this remaster will be available on Nintendo Switch tomorrow! The question remains: is this remaster a glow-up that’s worth the purchase or is it a blow-up that’s worth the pass? Let’s find out!
It is hard to believe it has been over 25 years since Link’s Awakening launched on GameBoy; But it has and now we’ve got a game that’s completely remastered from the ground up by Grezzo, the team who helped remake Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask for Nintendo 3DS.
In this review, I’ll be covering what makes the game worth picking up, regardless of if you’ve played the game prior. For those familiar with the original game, you’ll find that it’s a square-by-square remaster where each of the dungeons puzzles, even the Color Dungeon, is the exact same from how you remember it, even down to the text boxes.
For those unfamiliar, the story takes place where Link is sailing and his ship capsizes due to a thunderstorm. He then awakens on Koholint Island and is greeted by Marin and Tarin who equip him with a shield. Link then runs off to explore Koholint Island and rid the land of various nightmares, or bosses, found in dungeons scattered throughout the land.
One of the most impressive aspects about the game is the visuals. Everything, minus the dungeons, are seamlessly integrated. Long gone are the square tile loading zones in the overworld! There’s even a blur aesthetic along the edges of the screen that makes everything look much more crisp. Playing with Link in Koholint is almost like playing with a giant diorama, as each of the characters and NPCs have a toy-feel to them!
Historically, Zelda games have pretty stellar music and Link’s Awakening continues that trend. Listening to remastered and orchestrated versions of the original soundtrack is so much fun, especially jamming out to Tal Tal Heights!
As far as changes from the original to the remastered version go, there’s a lot of quality of life improvements that will have veteran players excited. For starters, the sword, shield, and Pegasus boots are all mapped to buttons on the Joy-Con which means that you won’t have to click the menu to swap them into your two different active items anymore.
Not only that, but the Power Bracelet is also an automatic equip, like in the newer versions of Zelda Games. Even though buttons are mapped automatically to L and R, the ZL and ZR buttons are left as clones of L and R and you can’t map any more weapons to those, which is too bad. It would have been really convenient if you could assign Roc’s feather to ZR for jumping and the Bow and Arrows to ZL.
Another quality of life change that was made is the fact that annoying pop-ups about lifting heavy stones don’t get displayed the moment you brush up against said stones like in the original game. The map functionality within the game has taken a page from Breath of the Wild and now allows you to zoom in and place pins wherever you need. I found this particularly helpful when it came to searching high and low for the secret seashells and pieces of heart hidden within Koholint.
For players seeking a greater challenge, you can now have access to Hero Mode from the start! This mode allows daring players to play the entire game where Link takes double damage from attacks and no hearts or fairies will spawn in the overworld, so the only way to heal would be to visit fairy fountains. Good Luck!
This brings me to another Zelda staple: Collectibles. In any Zelda game, you’re met with a whole bunch of collectibles that you can spend time obtaining and Link’s Awakening is no different. The original version had a total of 14 heart containers and you needed to collect 20 secret seashells to unlock the Level-2 Koholint Sword. This version boasts a total of 20 heart containers and 50 secret seashells hidden throughout Koholint! There are also some fun Mario Character statues like a Goomba, Piranha Plant and Shy Guy that you can win from the Trendy Game to decorate some villagers’ houses.
The biggest addition to Link’s Awakening on Nintendo Switch is that the Camera hut has been replaced with Dampe’s Shack. Dampe, the gravekeeper from Ocarina of Time, makes his appearance and is in charge of Chamber Dungeons – a brand new Dungeon Creator mode within the game. Think of all the different rooms that you’ve experienced within certain dungeons, now take those and make them into interchangable tiles that you can slap on a grid and you have Dampe’s Chamber Dungeons.
As you progress through the game and beat certain dungeons, you’ll unlock more tiles to use in the creator mode. If you have any of the Legend of Zelda Series Amiibo, you can transfer a saved custom dungeon to it and bring it over to a friend’s house to play. Also, you can scan in up to 5 different Zelda Series Amiibos to receive special chamber tiles to use in Dampe’s Shack.
Aside from that, Dampe has a whole bunch of challenges that he will offer, such as creating a dungeon where you can’t use your sword or creating a speedrun dungeon that you have to beat within a certain amount of time. Honestly, I spent more time completing all of the Dampe Challenges than I did with beating the entire story mode. While this mode may look good on paper, the execution is a bit lackluster.
Each of the Dampe Chamber Dungeon Challenges requires the use of your inventory of tiles and each of those tiles aren’t that different. You’ll find yourself going through the motions, almost to a point where you can solve each of the puzzles blindfolded, only to come out of the dungeon to spend another 15 minutes placing tiles onto the next one. The excitement really dies down after the first few challenges, not to mention the “Golden Shovel” challenges simply offer the finite reward of Golden Rupees.
The biggest upset about the Chamber Dungeons is the fact that it’s not a fully customizable dungeon and you’re not able to share online with anyone. This begs the question if the whole concept was an afterthought that didn’t get too much time in development. Knowing how well Super Mario Maker has done with its ability to fully customize an entire level, from the floors to ceilings, from mushrooms to fire flowers, and from Goombas to Bowsers, Link’s Awakening Chamber Dungeon Maker is a pale comparison.
Imagine having full control over what Zelda enemies spawn, what treasures hold, or even what kind of traps lay within! Then putting all of that into a dungeon that you can share with the millions of users online! Now, I may be getting ahead of myself with that one, but I feel that if it were fleshed out a bit more and even more development time was put towards the mode, it would warrant the $60 price tag. Which leads to my next point of the review: Is the game worth it?
This is a hard question to answer. I’ve gone back and forth a few times with this one. One side of the argument could say that the game is a beautiful tribute to the original and the addition of Chamber Dungeons makes it even more worth the price. Plus, if a player has never played the original, it’ll be a brand new and exciting experience. Meanwhile, the other side of the coin is that the game really only takes about 8-10 hours to beat 100%, you’ll probably end up playing Hero Mode once for another 8-10 hours. With zero online functionality this equates to a total of 20 hours of gameplay.
Compare this with the hundreds of hours that you spend exploring Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. After playing this game for over 20 hours, the replayability factor of the game is very limited. You’re always going to have those Zelda fans that will want to continue to play the game over and over again to speedrun it and get faster times, but if you’re not in that boat, Link’s Awakening doesn’t leave you with much to do so in post-game other than Dampe’s Chamber Dungeons.
I would have liked to have seen a much more expansive post-game, where after beating the original dungeons and the final boss you can come back to your save file and start new quests and have a few new dungeons to beat, each with their own unique bosses and weapons. Imagine there were throwbacks to other Zelda Bosses that would be incorporated and if we got elemental arrows! I would have also liked to have seen an even more expanded shop where you can spend your thousands of extra rupees on a collection of trophies that pay homage to different Zelda characters throughout the series or have the ability to purchase alternate costumes!
Please don’t get me wrong on this one. I love Zelda games as much as the next fan, but I can’t help but want more from a title like this. It almost feels like if people don’t purchase this game for what it is, Nintendo will think that we wouldn’t want a full, top-down remaster of other older Zelda games such as Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons.
Overall, Link’s Awakening is a wonderful remaster of the original that will delight fans old and new alike, while simply leaving us wanting more content. At this point it seems unlikely that Nintendo will add online functionality, so I highly recommend going into this one knowing you will only get the 10-20hr Story Mode out of it.