The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Review – Pure, Fun
Link’s Awakening is a game that is purely Nintendo. It could only have come from the teams working away in Nintendo’s Willy Wonka style video game factory. When you look back at the creation of the original Link’s Awakening on GameBoy and the guerrilla development that made it possible, it’s actually pretty amazing that it even exists.
Not to mention that it’s a Legend of Zelda game with Goombas, Thwomps, Shy Guys and other Mario enemies and 2D side-scrolling sections.
It also lets you jump.
Link’s Awakening is the Super Mario Bros 2 (Doki Doki Panic) of the franchise. And the Switch remake is a stunningly great game that is incredibly good fun from start to finish.
Link’s Awakening Review
I never owned a GameBoy so I never got to play Link’s Awakening back in the glory days. I did, however, own A Link to the Past on SNES and I played that game over and over and over. To me, A Link to the Past is the ultimate Zelda game. Given that Link’s Awakening started as a GameBoy port and is fundamentally designed using the LttP style, I really love it.
Playing Link’s Awakening reminds me of being 12 years old, playing Super Nintendo with my younger brothers and taking it in turns to beat temples. It reminds me of being young and just absolutely LOVING video games so much.
Do you remember those days? When you were young and when playing games was a pure joy with no drama?
When video games were fun?
That’s what Link’s Awakening is. It is the perfect antidote to ‘modern’ AAA gaming. You don’t buy parts of Link’s Awakening or a subscription to it. Nor do you need to buy extra pieces for 99 cents. There are no roadblocks to playing.
You simply buy it, turn it on and have a great time.
In Link’s Awakening, Link has been shipwrecked on Koholint Island. This strange place is similar to Hyrule but has key differences. With no way to leave the island, due to his ship being wrecked, Link sets out on a new adventure.
He discovers that a giant egg on the highest mountain peak on Koholint Island holds the sleeping Wind Fish. If Link can collect the eight Instruments of the Sirens, he can waken the Wind Fish and escape Koholint Island.
And so, a classic Legend of Zelda adventure commences.
In the beginning, Link has nothing. Not even a sword or shield. He can’t lift grass, he can’t lift pots and basically, he’s useless. Koholint Island and Link’s quest for the Instruments is one giant scavenger hunt intertwined with one long puzzle.
When you find one item, a whole new section of Koholint Island opens up. From there, you can explore new dungeons, find new items and in turn, move onto the next section and the next section. And so on, until you finish the game.
This is the way the Zelda games used to be designed. Once they moved into 3D, with Ocarina of Time, the giant, slowly opening puzzle box gameplay changed. It’s not to say that one was is better than the other, there’s just a certain charm and feeling of discovery that comes with figuring out your next step in Link’s Awakening and its ilk.
This is especially true given that Link’s Awakening really doesn’t give you much in the way of help. There aren’t waypoints or a journal to tell you where to go. Instead, you’re supposed to work things out for yourself.
You do have the option to use the Telephone Booths to get hints but in most cases, they point you in a general direction and don’t outright tell you what to do. I must confess that on more than a few occasions, I was completely stuck.
I had to wander around the map until I found something I’d missed and then the game could continue.
Playing Link’s Awakening is so simple that anyone can do it and everyone SHOULD do it. It’s that good.
You move Link with the left stick, use X and Y as interchangeable inventory buttons, R for Shield, B for Sword and A to read signs. The control scheme works perfectly, especially as I’ve read that in the original, players spent hours in their inventory swapping items on and off the A and B buttons of their GameBoy.
Combat is incredibly simple. Swipe at enemies with your Sword until they die. That’s pretty much it. Sometimes you’ll need to get them to attack your shield so they’re stunned and open to damage but for the most part, you just have to slash at them.
As you unlock items, you’ll get new ways to fight enemies and explore but the basics don’t really change. In fact, a lot of the items you find and unlock only serve a purpose for a short time and are then pretty much forgotten about. As long as you understand that you need to equip items, slash with your sword, block with your shield and pretty much keep Roc’s Feather equipped for the duration of the game, you’ll do fine.
As Link’s Awakening is a complete remake of a GameBoy game it’s visuals are brilliant. I said in my preview that I was initially not impressed with the visual and art style of Link’s Awakening. Having spent quite a lot of time with it, I’ve changed my mind.
The chibi, almost plastic look of Link’s Awakening absolutely suits the game and looks amazing, especially in hand-held mode.
There’s an attention to detail in the crafting of this cute little world that absolutely helps bring it to life. Link has a huge range of facial expressions and bobs around the map with a jaunty little job. Enemies roam the world and react with surprise and horror when they see our green-clad hero.
It’s all very cartoony and only adds to the fun.
Additionally, the re-recorded music, sound effects and voice acting all make the experience even better. The only issue I have, and it’s a small one, is that as Link moves from screen to screen, the game suffers some serious slowdown.
It totally detracts from the experience. It doesn’t affect the gameplay but it is distracting and does pull you out of the fun. Since you transition between screen so frequently, it does feel like an issue the longer you play.
But that’s it.
That’s really the only negative I can come up with. Link’s Awakening is a wonderfully remade game that is just as good now as it was in 1993. It is yet another Switch game that is an absolute must-play.
Link’s Awakening was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by Nintendo.
Game title: Link's Awakening
Wonderful visuals - 9.6/10
Incredible old school design that still plays well today - 9/10
Woeful slowdown transitioning between screens - 6.3/10
Incredible re-recorded music - 9.4/10
Improved controls - 9.8/10