The Legend of Zelda is a gaming staple and Link’s Awakening is the newest release in the series, albeit being a remake. With games like these, there’s little fear in buying them and getting a terrible experience. Even more so as the Zelda franchise hails from Nintendo, known for their “Nintendo Polish.”
However, if you’re still on the fence about getting Link’s Awakening, a look at our first impressions may be that ever so gentle breeze that could sway you either way off that darned fence.
Link’s Awakening: The Reawakening
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the Nintendo Switch is a remake. Meaning, well, it’s a redone version of a game that already exists. Again, meaning, it has to offer a new take on the original game.
Today, however, we won’t be making any comparisons to the original. You’ve read the title; this will be a fresh take on the game. I have personally not played the original.
This review will be for people who may be planning on playing this remake with a blank slate. Alternatively, for veterans, you may want to hear a fresh take on the title.
Further, this is only a first impressions review. As of now, I’ve only acquired the third instrument, the Sea Lily’s Bell. So I’ll only be talking about the gameplay up to that point.
That said, let’s start first with the graphics and the art style.
The Colors of Koholint Island
Before we even see anything, a beautiful 2D animation greets us. Link is braving a fierce storm. Completely overwhelmed, he succumbs to the wrath of the waves.
As he is washed ashore, you notice the art style changes into the cartoonish 3D chibi style that we’ll see for the rest of the game. This cartoony 3D style is far removed from the styles we see in Legend of Zelda entries such as Breath of the Wild, Skyward Sword, and Twilight Princess. It gives off a more lighthearted vibe akin to Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks.
While I haven’t played the original Link’s Awakening, this cartoony 3D art style seems like it’d be the perfect style for Zelda games of the Link to The Past variety.
The environments are very colorful. The character designs are simple, but in a good way. All in all, the art is pleasant to the eyes. While it’s not as charming, in my opinion, as Wind Waker‘s style, it’s got its own appeal that I wish to see again. Wink wink nudge nudge, Nintendo. Remaking other old Zelda games in this style and game engine, maybe?
The music of the game generally has a very nostalgic vibe to it. While I didn’t play the original, the music lends a feeling that this was a game of its time, despite the changes the remake applied.
The game’s version of the now classic Legend of Zelda theme plays as you explore the island. This theme, as always, instills a sense of adventure and discovery. The Mabe Village Theme gives off a safe haven feeling; a respite in between your perilous adventures. The Ballad of the Wind Fish is emotional and bittersweet.
The music will take you through an emotional ride as you explore the mysteries of the island.
The gameplay is such a joy. It is a top-down view game. If you’ve ever played Link to the Past it plays similarly to that. While Link’s Awakening isn’t quite as open as Breath of the Wild, it’s open enough to scratch that itch for exploration.
You’ve been stranded on this island and an owl tells you that the only way to get off it is to wake the Wind Fish from its slumber. In order to to do that, you must collect the Instruments of the Sirens to play for the Wind Fish.
These instruments are hidden in dungeons across the island. Within the dungeons are bosses or “Nightmares,” guarding them. Other than the instruments, various tools essential to your quest are also found within. Navigating these dungeons requires solving puzzles; usually having to do with intuitive use of items acquired within or before the dungeons. Standard Zelda gameplay, really.
The game starts you off with nothing and you gradually gain all the tools you need on your adventure. My personal favorite part of this process is that you can see all the obstacles in your way from the get go. You can wander off into a part where you don’t have the necessary tools to progress.
As said previously, the game is pretty open for exploration. This is perfect for setting up that feeling of progression.
As you progress and collect the necessary items, you can feel the map open up. Paths that you once passed by because you didn’t have the item that enables lifting heavy objects, for instance, become accessible. This gives the player the incentive to go on and see what other paths could open up as you find more tools. This also urges the player to go back to certain places and see what they might’ve missed.
Off the Beaten Path
Other than the main story, mini games and collectibles are also available for those who want to take a break from adventuring. You can collect Secret Seashells along your journey. These are hidden items scattered across the map. Think Korok Seeds from Breath of the Wild. If you can find the Seashell Mansion, you will be rewarded for every X number of seashells you find.
You can also fish. Fishing also yields rewards such as rupees or a piece of a heart. Players can also find a crane game within Mabe Village. The rewards of the crane game vary from collectible figures, arrows, rupees, heart pieces, and more!
You can even create your own dungeon! You can make dungeons with rooms based off of dungeons you’ve already been to. This little game is great for farming rupees if you need to. Also it’s an interesting side track to visit a weird Frankenstein’d dungeon of all the dungeons you’ve been to so far.
Link’s Awakening: A Call to Adventure
All in all, Link’s Awakening so far has been an adventure. It’s a visually beautiful game with a lot of things to do. Finding treasure, fighting monsters, exploring the island, and making friends along the way. And also finding time to chill out, fish in the village from time to time. As an explorer type gamer, I really appreciate the way this game was structured. Seeing all the things I could possibly do, places I could possibly go to and eventually getting there with the tools acquired along the way was a major part of my enjoyment of the game. It really instilled a sense of progress and motivated me to keep going.
I can already see where this story is headed. And it’s looking sad. But whatever happens, I had some good fun along the way and made some good memories.