I enjoy a good Legend of Zelda game as much as the next person but in all honesty, I do prefer the top-down games of the large open-world experiences. There’s just something magical about it and takes you back to the old-school days. Minish Cap is still one of my all-time favourite entries in the series and not to mention A Link Between Worlds. So when it came time to sit down and write this The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening review, I was thrilled to be able to share how superb this remake of the 1993 classic really is.
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I played the original in my childhood days and the remake truly holds up in every single way. The hidden chambers, the iconic soundtrack and of course, all the charm of merging some familiar Super Mario Bros. characters into the Zelda universe. Sure, the game is lacking in the story front as it is not as big and ambitious as to say, The Breath of the Wild but this further enhanced the overall gameplay as the pure sense of discovery as you try and explore the large world shows there doesn’t always need a crazy story to hold it up.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening takes place in the land of Hyrule and unlike many games in the series, there is no Zelda to be seen. Instead, the game focuses on Link and his adventure through the lands as he explores dungeons and untamed areas in search of a set of instruments to wake up the whale-like deity called the Wind Fish.
Like many Zelda games of yesteryear, Link’s Awakening is tough to follow. There are very little hints to what you need to do next and often I was left running around the same area trying to solve a puzzle by figuring out cryptic hints found by speaking to an owl statue. Basically, the only guidance you have during the game is this owl that flaps around and tells you where to go. Forget that and you are stuck with a repeated message on a telephone scattered throughout the world.
This gameplay direction really took me back to the days where we had to rely on hunts from friends or dare I say “guidebooks” to help us navigate through the many harsh worlds found in video games. It captured this magical essence and added another level of exploration to the game.
Like many top-down Legend of Zelda games, Link walks around the world finding new items to get into new locations he has yet to discover, fights bosses around the areas and gathers items which have no guidance. You need to discover everything and solve every puzzle by just a few lines of script handed out by the loving characters.
The game’s focus on exploration and combat means the core of the experience is just that; smacking around enemies and exploring the many dungeons and locations in the world. The further you get into the game, the bigger and more challenging the scope of the dungeons get. Boss fights get harder to achieve and the puzzles require the use of all the items you gather throughout the adventure.
At first, I could walk slowly and explore my surrounding but before I knew it, a few dungeons in, I was sprinting while slashing up enemies and leaping over giant gaps to get to the other side. It is the typical, yet effective nature of a Zelda game. You explore the lands and as you unlock new items you are then able to return to the first locations you visited to blow up walls, leap across gaps and fight enemies once unbeatable. It is just superb game design and continues to evolve you as a character throughout the game.
The famous “Sea Shells” from the original 1993 classic return that sees you track down 20 of them to unlock something special and the game also features the DX version’s colour dungeon which was great to see. As for new features, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has a dungeon maker built right into the game. You unlock this a little while into the story but once unlocked, you can build and share dungeons you make.
The builder requires you to have parts of these dungeons which most replicate the previously-visited places in the game. You slot them into a grid, place enemies, treasure chests and a boss and you then have your very own dungeon. There are a lot of pieces you can obtain by unlocking Amiibos in-game but I did not have any to test out.
Once you have created your own unique dungeon you can then test it out and even earn any rupees you gain while exploring the darkest corridors of your own creation. This system is limited though as the customization features don’t hold up as well as I hoped. Each chunk of the dungeon you can place down is taken right out of the game’s current pre-sets so they feel a bit dated. Especially if you were running around the same dungeon for a good hour.
Still, it is a great additional feature and it could be something great for an end-game experience as you try and create the ultimate of all ultimate challenges.
Now not everything in Link’s Awakening is a masterpiece. The game suffers from some nasty frame rate drops throughout. It impacts gameplay during intense moments and one particular area, the swamp, was hard to get through. This is mainly an issue while playing the game docked. I am not sure if it is just lack of power on the Nintendo Switch but some areas where there was a load of enemies, it never slowed down at all. Regardless, just know that the frame rate issue is strong with this one.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a superb adventure. The remake brings the original 1993 version back to life with some refreshing new additions and gameplay enhancements while still staying true to the classic game’s tougher challenge. The story may take the sideline in this Zelda game but its emphasis on combat and exploration has never been stronger.
This The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening review was based on a code sent to us by Nintendo.