The latest Zelda game on the Nintendo Switch is a retelling of one of the most acclaimed games in the series.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening appeared before the Game Boy in 1993. It was then a milestone for Nintendo: never before had a full Zelda game appeared for a portable device. The game contained a fully-explored island with multiple dungeons and puzzles, at a time when Game Boy games were often simple and short.
The game got a new color version in 1998 when the Game Boy Color appeared on the market, which is now being followed by a complete remake on the Nintendo Switch. In this, Nintendo trades the coarse pixels of the original for a cute 3D world that looks almost like an old showcase.
This new style is perfect for a retelling of such an old game. In old Game Boy games, designers always had to give game characters exaggerated designs - with large heads, weapons and bright colors - so that despite the limited number of pixels you could see what you were looking at. By opting for a cute and puppet-like design for the remake, Nintendo can continue to use those exaggerated designs without feeling strange. This makes the game feel familiar to former players.
In Link's Awakening , protagonist Link washes up on a mysterious island. He soon learns that he cannot leave the island until he has woken up the Wind Fish - and that is only possible by collecting eight instruments by crossing eight dungeons.
In every dungeon you will find a special item that should make your mission easier. You will receive a special spring that allows you to jump high, a bracelet that lets you pick up heavy objects and a magic stick that shoots fireballs. These objects help you to cross the dungeons, but also allow you to reach new areas on the island itself. Because of this there is always a new secret corner of the game to explore.
The game has remained largely identical to the original. Everything looks nicer, but the puzzles, dungeons and locations on the island are actually all as former players will remember. There are only a few minor changes, such as the way some enemies fight and the number of collectibles you can find.
The old Game Boy only had two action buttons, so you had to constantly switch menus between your weapon, shield and extra tools. Fortunately, that is no longer the case in the Switch version. Your most essential items have a fixed place on the controller, while you can find the rest under the X or Y button. This makes the game a lot easier to operate.
In Link's Awakening you are also sent on an exchange mission. You quickly acquire a doll that you can exchange for a hairpin, which you exchange for some dog food. And with that dog food you can get bananas.
It sounds like a somewhat annoying distraction, but the game lets you visit all the residents of the island that way. This gives you an idea of who lives on Koholint, which makes the island feel like a lively place. The game gives a kind of village feeling, like we haven't actually experienced in a Zelda game since.
Koholint sometimes looks suspiciously familiar to Nintendo fans. Link's Awakening is packed with references to other Nintendo games. The game sometimes suddenly changes into a platform game in which you have to jump on Mario 's mushroom monsters. A little later you will see a Nintendo character Kirby as a monster.
Make your own dungeons
A new addition is the possibility to design dungeons yourself. An impressively comprehensive function with a lot of potential, but with one crucial mistake: you can only share your designs with others by loading them onto an Amiibo doll. You have to physically hand these dolls over to others to make them play your levels. That while it would be obvious to share levels online.
Link's Awakening sometimes feels a little frayed. If you play the game on a television, everything slows down as soon as a certain number of enemies are on the screen at the same time. In addition, we had some bugs during our game session, which sometimes required us to restart the entire game.
The game may also be a bit short compared to modern games: we had finished the game in a weekend and found all the hidden objects. This is in stark contrast to the previous Zelda game on the Switch, in which we had not seen everything after hundreds of hours.
That short playing time does not have to be a disadvantage. Everything in the game is closely stacked, so that every room and every field has something special to offer. You may get through it quickly, but do a lot in that short time.
The remake of Link's Awakening has actually changed little compared to the original, but the game nevertheless feels anything but outdated. This is a very atmospheric and memorable game, with a unique village atmosphere and a huge amount of puzzles. The few bugs should not scare anyone - this is a classic that everyone in 2019 has to play (again).