Before I start the review, let me admit to some bias: whatever score this game earns, I’ll give it a +1 for introducing the cutest version of Link ever.
Look at him! He’s so small and adorable and I love him and I want to see him in the next Smash game! I want to squish tiny Link and go aaawww!
Ahem. Let’s begin: Link’s Awakening (2019) for the Nintendo Switch is a remake of the 1993 Game Boy game of the same name.
If you’re a Zelda veteran, you might ask: “wait, didn’t this top-down 2D action adventure game already get a colour remake/re-release in 1998 for the Game Boy Color? Why remake it again?”
Two reasons, my learned friend: 1. A classic masterpiece deserves to be enjoyed by a newer younger audience, and 2. Nintendo didn’t have the technology back in the 8-bit days to portray Link’s Awakening like a well-loved children’s toy to capture the wonder, magic, and mystery of this dream-like world, but they do now!
Coming to Koholint
When the story starts, Link’s boat is caught in a storm and he ends up washed ashore on the mysterious Koholint Island. Link is rescued by the kind songstress, Marin, and he soon learns that to escape the island, he needs to awaken the Wind Fish who sleeps in an egg on top of a mountain by collecting eight magical musical instruments.
And with that, he’s off on another adventure!
If you’ve played the original Link’s Awakening before, then you’ll know how the gameplay and story will unfold, because 2019’s Link’s Awakening is a near-faithful remake in terms of mechanics and narrative.
Where it differs, however, is the most important: this remake looks and sounds absolutely amazing.
Sights and sounds
Link’s Awakening isn’t just a “HD remaster” with new textures; instead, the presentation is completely rebuilt.
The original’s sprite art is replaced with a new 3D aesthetic that makes everyone – from the bravest hero to the kindest songstress to the scariest Nightmares – look like tiny shiny plastic toys.
The soundscape is different too; the 8-bit chiptunes have been replaced with a full orchestral soundtrack, and I’ve often found myself taking a break from adventuring just to appreciate the jaunty wind instruments playing the Zelda theme song.
Even the small animation details – like Link’s cartoonish pitter-patter as he sprints or how he nom-nom-noms on an apple – is perfectly engineered to delight.
The end result is a world that’ll put a smile on your face as you explore it, even if you’ve seen its original 8-bit form.
Heck, especially if you’ve seen it in 8-bit – the new presentation breathes new life into the many colourful, weird, and wonderful characters you’ve met on Koholint Island, especially the kind- hearted Marin, who deserves to appear in more Zelda games, dang it. (She’s last seen in Hyrule Warriors, where she continues to spread joy by bashing enemies with a bell.)
Of course, like most Zelda games, the most interesting character is the world itself. Koholint Island a huge, tightly-packed puzzle box with secrets hidden in every corner, waiting to reward the curious.
Every new tool you acquire and every dungeon you conquer leads to new facets of the world opening up, and it’s always satisfying to reach areas that were hitherto inaccessible.
The one real gameplay addition that Link’s Awakening brings is the Chamber Dungeons, which lets you build your own dungeon using pre-existing dungeon rooms. It’s a nice bonus to extend your play time, as figuring out room placements can be a puzzle in and of itself, even though I found it a little too easy to make dungeons with way too many treasure chests.
One thing to note, however, is that Link’s Awakening is a departure from Breath Of The Wild’s open world, free-form exploration. Like many Zelda games from the 1990s and 2000s, Link’s Awakening is more of a “guided experience” – you’ll always reach dungeons and story beats in a specific manner, and most puzzles have one specific solution.
While this inflexibility isn’t itself a bad thing, the problem is that the puzzles were designed in the 90s when, sometimes, brilliant game designers were also crazy.
This means that while most puzzles in Link’s Awakening provide a good challenge and reward curiosity, pattern recognition, and clue-finding, other puzzles operate on...
Moon logic puzzles require an absurd chain of events to solve, with no logical cause and effect to comprehend. To cross a river, you need to cut a random bush; to reach a castle, you need to win an arcade game and then make a monkey happy; to use the bathroom, you need to pass your driving test, then teach your cat to play the piano.
Basically, don’t feel bad if you need to look up a walkthrough or a guide if you feel stuck, because some answers are so hidden that only a madman could intuit it.
In fact, let me share two tips (minor spoilers) so you don’t miss some bonus content: 1. If you die, reload a save or autosave instead of continuing, because zero deaths are required for a post-credits teaser. 2. When a girl follows you, take her on a date around town before you take her to meet a walrus.
What? It’ll make perfect sense in context. Koholint Island is a very strange and whimsical world after all, but that enjoyable strangeness ensures the island and its lovely inhabitants stay with you long after the ending.
Dream made real
Link’s Awakening is a solid recommendation for anyone.
If you’re a Zelda veteran, this remake’s beautiful new aesthetics presents the wonder and magic of the original in a whole new light, and it easily justifies the cost of entry, even if (or rather, especially if) you’ve enjoyed Link’s Awakening before.
If you’re new to Zelda, Link’s Awakening is a joyful little adventure packed with childlike delight and clever puzzles 99% of the time. Just don’t be shy to look up a guide or walkthrough when you’re stuck, because that other 1% really requires crazy person logic.
And if you’re Masahiro Sakurai, director of Super Smash Bros Ultimate, please add tiny Link to the game. I know he’ll be one-tenth the size of the other fighters, but it’ll be so darn cute!
Pros: An adorable new look for a classic game.
Cons: Classic game elements include “moon logic”.The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (2019)
Adventure game for Switch
PRICE: US$59.99 (RM250)
RATING: 5 stars