Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Action, Adventure
No. of Players: 1
Version Reviewed: eShop Download
Release Date: September 20, 2019 (Worldwide)
Price: $59.99 USD
Back in 1993, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening released on the Nintendo Gameboy. It was the first time that the Zelda Series came to Nintendo’s handheld consoles, not including the Game & Watch. It followed the same 2D, top-down perspective of the previous games but this time, it didn’t have the titular Princess Zelda.
Instead, it had colourful characters like Marin, Tarin, Richard, and the talking animals in Animal Village. The original Gameboy version released with its typical monochromatic visuals so the characters had to have more personality in order to add more ‘colour’ to the world of Koholint Island.
The game saw a new release for the Gameboy Color as The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX. It brought the game into full colour and introduced the Color Dungeon that took advantage of the new visual features of the Gameboy Color.
26 years after its original release, Link’s Awakening has returned with a whole new remake for the Nintendo Switch. It is a 1:1 remake with some extra changes made on top. After all, the Switch doesn’t have the same limitations as the original Gameboy so the developers could really go all out, re-envisioning the exotic Koholint Island.
Our hero Link finds himself trapped amidst a horrific storm. He tries to keep his small sailing dinghy afloat but his luck runs out and his dinghy is struck by lightning and knocking Link overboard, where he then falls unconscious. Come morning, the storm has passed and link washes up onto the shore of a mysterious tropical island. A young maiden finds Link still unconscious and brings him back to her house.
Link eventually recovers and awakens to find himself in a small room with the young maiden and an older man. They reveal themselves to be Marin and her father, Tarin. Tarin calls Link by his name and hands him back his shield. Link thanks them for their hospitality and returns to the beach where he washed up to retrieve his sword.
As beautiful and as exotic the tropical island Link has found himself on is, it holds a secret that Link must uncover if he is ever going to leave Koholint Island and return to Hyrule. In order to do this though, he sets out to awaken the guardian spirit of the island, the Wind Fish.
The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, which I will now continue to refer as Link’s Awakening for short, is a 2.5D Top-Down Isometric, Action, Adventure game in the similar vein to most handheld Zelda titles with some areas that feature side-scrolling platforming. Link has to solve puzzles, fight monsters and find his way through several dungeons in order to fight bosses and eventually save the day.
Link can use his sword, shield and a myriad of other items like bombs, hookshots, boomerangs and bow & arrows. Unlike the original game, where only two items could be used at a time. In this version, the Sword and Shield are mapped to different buttons, essentially freeing them from being restricted like the other items. This means that you don’t have to keep swapping out for your sword and shield. Instead, you will only need to do this with the other items.
While Link can’t normally swim or jump for that matter, there are items in the game that allow him to do so. The Flippers and Roc’s Feather make a return, allowing Link to traverse tricky terrain that he wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Key items also make a return and are needed to complete sidequests. That baby is not going to stop crying until it gets its Yoshi Doll, you know.
Koholint Island is a vast place with varied environments. There are forests, castles and deserts to explore but they are not all reachable from the get-go, this isn’t Breath of the Wild. The paths to such places are blocked and require special items to open up the way to them.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
When you want to take a break from monster mashing and dungeon crawling, there are a number of minigames to enjoy. Be it a spot of fishing, the Crane Game, riding the rapids in the Rapids ride region or helping the locals. There is always something to do when not adventuring.
Much is the staple of Zelda games, you only start out with so many hearts. You can expand your lifeline by finding Heart Pieces and Heart Containers. Heart Containers can be obtained after defeating bosses. Heart pieces, on the other hand, can be acquired by completing minigames or found in hidden areas around the island. The original Gameboy Game only allowed up to 14 hearts. The Nintendo Switch version has up to 20 hearts which means there are even more Heart pieces to collect.
Some elements that were never in the original game but have appeared in later games in the series are Bottles and Hero Mode. Bottles allow you to capture fairies and keep hold of them until you need them to resuscitate you. Hero Mode is a harder difficulty in which, hearts won’t spawn upon defeating enemies and you will take double damage from attacks. Hero Mode is available prior at the start of the game, allowing veteran Zelda Players or anyone willing to try out their luck in the harder mode.
The Color dungeon makes a return from Link’s Awakening DX. This feature was originally just to show off the capabilities and features of the Gameboy Color. However, it is still a welcome addition for those that played it in the DX version. After all, Nintendo is all about adding extra content to their remakes, not removing it. That said, the Camera Shop has been taken out as the Switch version does not support the Gameboy Camera.
A new feature has taken its place though, quite literally. The Camera Shop is now the Chamber Dungeon. After beating your second dungeon, you will have access to Dampe’s House, which is where players can create their own little dungeons to play about in. You are given a set of dungeon layouts that you must add rooms known as ‘tiles’ to. These tiles come from dungeons that you have already beaten during your actual adventure.
Each Chamber Dungeon must have an Entrance and a Nightmare (Boss) and locked doors cannot exceed the number of chests. amiibo has a new kind of functionality this time around in that you can unlock up to five new Chamber Dungeon Tiles. The new Link’s Awakening amiibo adds Shadow Link to your dungeons gives them an extra challenge as he follows Link throughout the dungeon. Defeating him will give the player more rupees but it is a high risk, high reward gamble, as he is tough and can kill Link easily.
In a backward kind of way, instead of being able to save your Chamber Dungeons online for others to play, you can save them to amiibo. This is fine if you only want your friends to play your dungeons, but I don’t think people want to be sending their amiibo halfway across the world just so their distant gamer buddy can try out their new ‘Dungeon’.
The Zelda series has always had such an incredible soundtrack and Link’s Awakening is no different. Done away is the 8-bit chiptunes and we are greeted with a full orchestra. Though I will admit, I would have liked the option to use the original soundtrack as well but I know that it just wouldn’t fit in with the new modernized aesthetic of the game.
All of Link’s classic grunts and cries are here though, more modernized as well, I wouldn’t be surprised though if the voice samples were taken from one of the other recent handheld titles like A Link Between Worlds or Tri Force Heroes. That said, Nintendo could just as easily have got the voice actor from those games to re-record the lines as well.
Link’s Awakening is very music-centric. So much so that Link has to recover instruments from each of the Dungeons in order to wake the Wind Fish. The Musical Easter egg of Totakeke’s Song also returns and shows just how much love and attention has gone into the audio of the game.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
When it was first announced during the February 2019 Nintendo Direct, I was wowed by the opening cinematic and then became very disappointed with the new art style when the next scene went to Link & Marin on the Beach. After seeing more of the gameplay and eventually playing it myself, I began to take it as it is and started to love the game for its charming, claymation visuals.
The cute and colourful world that you see before you really does add charm to the game. I still get that “Coraline/Funko POP” figure vibe when looking at some of the characters but now it doesn’t bother me as much as it did before. The new visuals also gave the developers more freedom in design. When visiting the homes of NPC’s, the rooms look more personalized and ‘lived in’. There is more furniture like ornaments and pictures hanging up on the walls or decorating the tables. There is a much more homely feeling that only accentuates the sense of welcoming.
As regards to how the actual game performs, when I played the demo earlier in the year, I was a little perturbed with the graphics when there were a lot of instances on screen. The bushes, for example, would lose their smoothness around the edges of the leaves. This might not be too noticeable in Handheld mode with the smaller screen. However, in Full TV mode, it is hard not to see it. Fortunately, I have yet to notice issues like this in the full game, even when playing on the TV, which is a relief for me.
The transitioning from screen to screen is much smoother than the original though. Whereas the original game was restricted to what could be shown on screen at any time. The Switch is more than capable of rendering in the background and therefore, moving across the screen is seamless. What is noticed though, is that there are drops in Frame rate when a lot is happening on-screen. The game mostly runs at 60 fps, it drops down to 30fps in some areas. This wouldn’t usually be a concern if the game was always in 30fps but because it is in 60 frames per second, the sudden drop is noticeable. This may be a deterrent for some people but it doesn’t make the game unplayable and shouldn’t be a deciding factor in buying the game or not.
To be fair, I find it hard to fault this game. While it is shorter than most Zelda games, it is still packed with so much fun and content that it will keep players entertained for hours. The Chamber Dungeon certainly adds more replayability when it comes to creating new dungeons for your friends to play or playing dungeons that your friends have created. I do hope that an update will come to the game at some point that will add more layouts to the Chamber Dungeon and perhaps some new tiles to really shake things up.
While I have mostly played 3D Zelda games on home consoles, I have dabbled in the 2D handheld games from time to time. I had a lot of fun playing The Minish Cap on GBA and I am reminded a lot of that game when playing Link’s Awakening. I do wish that amiibo had a bit more functionality with the game or at the very least, Nintendo would release a Marin amiibo at some point as well. I have all the Zelda series amiibo to date but I can never have too many of them and the Link’s Awakening amiibo looks a little out of place alongside the others.
I have wanted to play this game for a loooooong time. Ever since my brother has been raving about it and wishing it would get a remake on a modern Nintendo Console. I wanted to see what the fuss was about and now I finally have. I may not have much experience with the original game, so I can’t make too many comparisons or say what did what better. My experience with the Switch version is new and fresh and I feel might be the case to many who are reading this review as well. Playing the original may take away from experiencing the story of the game, but the gameplay is still as fun as ever.
The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening brings back the joy of the original Gameboy Game and is given more than just a new lick of paint. The visuals are cute and charming and the return to Koholint Island has been a long-awaited one. Link’s Awakening is a return to the formula that has been a series staple for 30 odd years and still loved today.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*A download key was provided by the Publisher for the purposes of this review
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This post was written by Mike Scorpio