With everything that’s happened in gaming in just the past couple months, one could be forgiven for forgetting all about The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I know I kind of did once my copy of The Outer Worlds arrived. But taking a recent trip back into the game to uncover a few extra goodies that I had left behind reminded me of how, for a several weeks in September and October, all was right with the world thanks to Link’s Awakening.
Having not played the original game, everything about the story of Link’s Awakening was new to me, and thankfully, it’s story was remarkably straightforward. After a dreadful ship wreck, Link washes up on Koholint Island, where he’s rescued by a girl named Marin. He quickly learns that the only way he can get home is by waking a creature on the island called the Wind Fish with eight magical instruments. And the instruments, well…they are hidden in eight different dungeons on the island, and so begins Link’s adventures on Koholint.
Upon first being unleashed on Koholint, after obtaining Link’s primary weapons – sword and shield – my immediate reaction to the game was the same as many. I was fully delighted by the adorable and colorful graphics, as well as taken in by the brilliant soundtrack. Between those two items alone (graphics and music), the remake definitely hit a home run. Adding to that was some wonderfully solid and responsive gameplay. Never did it feel like Link was going to accidentally slide into danger or hit something I didn’t want him to. Nope, I had little but my own poor reaction times and lacking attention span to blame for Link’s many (many) falls into various holes or run-ins with the local enemies. After having played a string of large, realistic games with poor aiming and other quirky quirks (yeah, I’m lookin’ at you Red Dead Redemption II), Link’s Awakening truly felt like a sunny day after a long-winded storm. The game’s excellent and funny dialogue, as well, certainly helped allay my fears of flailing about. Laughter is the best medicine for just about anything, after all!
Beyond the sheer look and feel of the game was a quality experience, too. Upon viewing the island map for the first time, I was struck by how small it was. But there was far more to it than met the eye. For one, exploring the map’s surface was rich and rewarding, with lots of secrets hiding in tall grasses and behind cracked walls. But many of those secrets led to special places and underground passages, proving that the map had plenty more depth than it seemed as first glance. Among those many special places were, of course, the game’s primary dungeons, eight total, and each one more remarkable and exciting than its predecessor.
I am perennially bad at puzzling in Zelda games, primarily because I tend to overthink things. (Getting stuck in one of Twilight Princess’s dungeons was one of the causes for me putting off finishing it for so long. Breath of the Wild’s shrines were fine but frustrating, and not my cup of tea.) Therefore, I’m proud to say that I managed to get through the dungeons in Link’s Awakening with minimal help for the Internet. And if anything, it wasn’t the puzzles that gave me problems but rather, I needed some visual aids to help navigate through a few confusing spots, particularly in the final two dungeons – Eagle’s Tower and Turtle Rock. For the most part, progression through each dungeon felt natural and challenging, but never so difficult that I felt like I was going to fling my Switch at the wall. (I dare say!) Rarely do I ever want to revisit dungeons in games like this, but here I found myself traveling back to many of them to uncover even more secrets for the simple joy of discovery.
All in all, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a stellar game, and, based on Hatm0nster’s review, it’s also a beautifully-crafted remake. I’ll admit only that I’m not sure it has much replay value. While I’m going back now and again to find more things that I missed, including somehow figuring out the townsfolks’ collectibles scenario and mastering its dastardly mini-claw game, I’m not immediately keen on starting it over. That said, it’s a worthy addition to any Switch library, even if only to see just how do to a remake right. Between its gorgeous graphics, solid gameplay, and simply sweet (but not simplistic) story lies a game that demonstrates well Nintendo’s prowess for giving its fans nothing less than brilliant gaming experiences. I’m not really one to gush over games these days, but it can’t be helped here. Link’s Awakening is a worthy…nay, more than worthy addition to any Switch library, because there’s not an ounce of disappointment to be garnered anywhere from its low, low plains to its tall, tall mountains.
All images, including lede, © Nintendo (2019). They were captured by the author on the Nintendo Switch during gameplay.