With the announcement of the Breath of the Wild sequel at E3 this year, the hype for The Legend of Zelda is truly at a high. The Link’s Awakening remake is a welcome addition to the Switch as the wait for a brand new Zelda game begins.
Link’s Awakening was the first Zelda game for a portable console, released on the Game Boy back in 1993 it has become a beloved classic for many Zelda fans. The set up is rather different for a Zelda game as Link, after ending up shipwrecked on Koholint Island, is informed that the only way to escape the island is to wake the mysterious Wind Fish.
I would like to start this review by saying that I have never played the original game. In my defence, the first Game Boy I had was the Advance and I will admit that Zelda games completely passed me by in my youth. The first full Legend of Zelda game I played was Twilight Princess when I was at university and since then I have fallen in love with the series, and this is why I was so excited for the remake of such a beloved game.
I know nothing about Link’s Awakening, nothing at all, that is why I was so surprised to find no Ganon, no Triforce and the very strange addition of familiar faces from the Mario franchise. I will admit at first I was sceptical and it took me a while to get into the game, purely because it wasn’t what I was used to in a Zelda game. But as I progressed I was hooked.
The style of the game is absolutely adorable and looks gorgeous. It’s completely different from any Zelda game so far, there is only one word I can use to describe it and that’s charming. In fact, the entire game is charming. From the style to the music, the characters and dialogue, it is charm personified.
From what I have heard the game is a very faithful remake, and this is possibly why, in part, I struggled with it a little bit. As I have said I haven’t played many older Zelda games and when I have gone back to play certain ones, mainly Link to the Past, my frustration got the better of me.
There were moments in Link’s Awakening where I had no idea what I was doing. The game expects you to either know everything or at least know that you have to try using everything in your inventory to get something to work. There are certain things like defeating enemies with a charged attack, but you have to have your back to them, and you have to figure out for your self. I will admit that I had to begrudgingly look things like this up because I was getting so lost.
I guess this is all part of the experience of playing an older game and I am half grateful that they kept these elements in the remake, as I may have felt cheated if they had watered the experience down. But at one point I was aimlessly wandering around a dungeon for too long trying to figure something out and continually getting lost despite having the map and compass. The fun of the game was replaced by a sense of wanting to get it over and done with, which I desperately didn’t want from this experience.
Aside from these occasional bouts of frustration, the game is a lot of fun to play. Especially out in the open world setting of Koholint Island. There is so much to explore and for such a small space it is so rich with stuff. There is so much to do from collecting seashells to embarking on one of the longest trade sequences I have ever played.
One aspect that I love most about this game is the mystery, as I said before there is no Triforce, no Zelda, no Ganon. Your only objective is to wake the Wind Fish and even then you have no idea what it is, or what this means. The air of mystery is developed so well and it really gives you the sense of being trapped on a strange island.
Zelda games all have a wonderful way of making you feel comfortable in the world you are in right from the start, you know who Link is and everything is established for you right away. In Ocarina, you are the boy without a fairy, Windwaker, a resident of Outset island with a Grandmother and sister. Link’s Awakening was so different, Link is a stranger in this world, you have no idea where he was before this and where he is going; and even though the gameplay was very Zelda, the story and set up was so different.
Overall, despite my occasional frustrations, I did love this game, it was visually stunning and adorable, the gameplay was a lot of fun (aside from some minor hiccups) and it truly feels like I got the Link’s Awakening experience. One thing that it has done is make me want to play the original, which I think makes a remake a roaring success.