Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has reawakened the joy of Zelda
The 2019 remake of Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on the Nintendo Switch is a tour de force of recreation, a love letter to the original, which was published in 1993 for the Game Boy.
And those years have worn well on this remake, producing a vivid, lifelike world using current-gen technology to pull this game out of its 8-bit legacy and bring it in full brilliant color into our lives.
The game retains many of the original elements from the top-down design of the 1993 version and incorporates some portions from another re-release of the game from 1998 for the Game Boy Color.
The characters in Link’s Awakening have gone from 2D sprites to pop-out toy-like 3D renders who wander a world that is tilt-shifted – a photographic technique that makes real world objects appear like dolls. This technique is used as a sort of bridge between current-gen graphics and the retro effect of older styled character models.
The game world is set on the open world of Koholint Island, where the game’s protagonist, Link, is shipwrecked after a particularly violent storm at sea. He is rescued by a girl named Marin and then embarks on a quest to collect the eight instruments of the Sirens in order to awaken the island’s legendary Wind Fish and thus escape the island.
The open world evokes much of what makes Zelda such an iconic and memorable game by including much of what made the original Link’s Awakening tile-for-tile. Everything, including the old dungeons and much of Zelda’s objective-based questing still exists – such as requiring that players traverse the land and enter particular dungeons for certain items in order to progress.
Suitably true-to-the-original dungeons, boss fights and puzzle-based elements still exist in the game. Link’s Awakening does a good job of awakening nostalgia without shirking on how well the new technology of 3D re-imagines the old game.
Unlike the 2D games that this remake is based on, players will find Link able to jump over obstacles.
The game also presents totally different types of gameplay in portions that are side-scrolling platformers instead of the tilt-shifted top-down design of the rest of the world.
Another new addition to the game can be found in the old “Color Shop,” which used a photography mode in the Game Boy Color version. This is no longer available because the Switch does not have a printer (an old gimmick that allowed players to print out images from games). Instead, it has been replaced with a modular dungeon builder, which allows players to build and share their own dungeons constructed out of pieces of dungeons they have already visited.
Although Link’s Awakening is trough-and-through a Zelda game, it also borrows elements from other games in the Nintendo universe. This includes stomping on Goombas, being sucked up by Kirby and taking a Chain Chomp for a walk.