boxart
Game Info:

Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Developed By: Grezzo, Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development
Released: September 20, 2019
Available On: Switch
Genre: Action-Adventure
ESRB Rating: E: Comic Violence, Comic Mischief
Number of Players: 1- offline
Price: $59.99 USD
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I was 10 years old when the first rendition of Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening came out on the Nintendo Game Boy in 1993. I didn’t think I would get the game because, honestly, I didn’t think that I would be able to see it in order to enjoy it. I grew up with a rare genetic condition that thickens my blood over time and causes blood clots to form around certain parts of my brain, specifically my optic nerves. During one of my stays in the hospital, my father snuck into my room while I was asleep and placed a brand new copy of Link’s Awakening on my chest. It really was quite an “awakening” when I woke up to find the game. I played that game non-stop while I was in the hospital, even to the point where I could no longer see the screen because of my illness. My vision did end up coming back, by God’s grace, along with a renewed sense of wonder for the beauty of this life. That game helped me to see that beauty, so to say that Link’s Awakening is an important title to me is a gross understatement.

Fast forward 26 years; imagine my surprise when I found out that a new version of my favorite childhood game was hitting the Nintendo Switch. The beloved tale of a shipwrecked hero making his way through the mysterious Koholint Island landed on the Switch internationally on September 20th, 2019. Remastered by Greezo, the same company that brought us remasters of Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time, this retelling of a classic LoZ story is done in such a unique way that most players had to take a second look at this game to see if it was even real. Everything from the graphics to the controls have been revamped, leaving a place for bot new and experienced players of the game to find enjoyment in the fresh and familiar.

Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Highlights:

Strong Points: Fantastic and accurate remake of the source material; wonderfully charming graphics, and excellent musical score
Weak Points: The game is short and easy; some FPS issues will slow down the game from time to time
Moral Warnings: Soft hack'n slash action; Link can steal but probably shouldn't

Though this game’s franchise has a rather rich pedigree of success, I wanted to approach it with a critical eye, knowing that remakes have the tendency to play too much towards nostalgia or a complete reboot. However, I did not receive an overpowering sensation of either throughout the first few hours of gameplay. The developers created a masterful balance between making this game a remake and a brand new title. For example, the original game had screen transitions for all of its overworld play, but the new version has cut all of those out to create a Koholint Island that is completely connected with no screen transitions at all. Every bush, flower, and stone still holds their same place on the island as they once did in the GB version, except this time everything is simply more alive in stunning 3D. Along with this, the same soundtrack makes a comeback in this version; this time being enhanced by instruments and improved sound editing. Yep, this game is indeed Link’s Awakening, just…different.

When Nintendo announced this game during a Nintendo Direct in February of this year, many fans of the franchise expressed their disdain for the new character models. I will admit that I was a little taken back by the cutesy “chibi” Link of this game, but it grew on me over time. The developers wanted to create the game to looks like a giant diorama, and Link is one of the figures on the set. If this was truly their goal, Nintendo and Greezo nailed the aesthetic. I often felt like I was in control of a plastic variant of my favorite video game character, moving throughout the island digging holes and diving into dungeons. The plastic veneer didn’t affect the game’s action at all; the nightmares are more monstrous than ever, and Link can still swing a sword better than the rest. The controls allow for fluid movements and response times, even though some items have a natural “build-up”, like with the Pegasus Boots. An eventual death doesn’t punish the player too badly, as it will place them at the beginning of a dungeon or the mouth of the last structure they left. In comparison to other modern titles, Link’s Awakening is not very difficult, and maybe one of its deficits.

Just as there are no perfect people in this world, there are also no perfect games, and Link’s Awakening is no exception to this. For all of its beauty and creativity, this game has stuck so well with the source material that it continues to be a very short and simple playthrough. Many players will be turned off by the easy gameplay, despite having a “hero mode,” which makes Link easier to kill. The developers added a new “Dungeon Creation” system to this game that promises a degree of customization to the player. However, this mode is not a Mario Maker for LoZ, as many thought that it would be. Rather, it is simply a way for players to rearrange pre-rendered dungeon rooms to make a custom experience. It adds very little to the overall game and even slows down the natural action of the experience.

Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 93%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 95%
Violence: 8/10
Language: 10/10
Sexual Content: 10/10
Occult/ Supernatural: 8/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 9/10
Bonus: Theft is disciplined and bravery is rewarded +3

Legend of Zelda games have slowly gotten darker over the years, presenting themes of death, corruption, and evil. Despite this, Link’s Awakening harkens back to a time when these games simply told a story about a hero saving the world. Link does his share of monster-slaying, but the foes simply disappear in a puff of black smoke. There is no strong language or references to drugs or alcohol. In fact, Link can actually steal from the shopkeeper, but if he is caught he is heavily punished for his crime. It is actually a very endearing lesson about theft, found within a video game none the less! The main story of the game makes the player question reality itself, placing it in less of a theistic worldview, and more of a Descartian philosophy where dreams make reality. I feel that this matters very little, though, because the dream theme makes for a great story with a wonderful twist ending.

Having played through both the normal and hero modes of Link’s Awakening, I can honestly say that it is one of the best video game remakes ever produced. For those who are returning to the title, this game hits all of the high points of the original GB version that you know and love. For those of you who are new to the game, Link’s Awakening on the Switch provides a fresh and wholesome gaming experience that will keep you entertained while you navigate the mysteries of Koholint Island. Since finishing the game, I have passed it onto my 8-year-old daughter to play and enjoy just as I did when I was a child. It really is a joy to see how great games never truly die as long as the generations continue to appreciate them.