‘The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’ Review
By Tyran Batten, Contributor
The Legend of Zelda as a series has evolved outstandingly over its 30 plus year history. With the release of Breath of the Wild in 2017, we saw Nintendo create an immense open world for us to explore, filled with monsters, puzzles, and adventure. Having spent nearly 100 hours in that world, I was fascinated when Nintendo decided to remake Link’s Awakening, a game that was originally released in 1993 for the Game Boy. The result is a game that stands apart from the rest of the series while still holding onto the classic formula that veterans will remember.
The world of Link’s Awakening is so memorable compared to other titles in the franchise. This is the only mainline Zelda game where Princess Zelda herself does not appear in any fashion. Instead we are introduced to Marin, a young girl who finds Link on the beaches of Koholint Island after a terrible storm washes him and his boat ashore. We soon learn of his quest to awaken the Wind Fish, who sleeps atop the island’s mountain, encased in a giant egg. This mission is unlike any other since there is no world to save or princess to rescue. Instead you need to find all eight magical instruments (found in each dungeon of the game) that when played together will awaken the Wind Fish who will hopefully help you escape the island. It’s a goofy dream-like plot and it makes this journey more memorable than any other Zelda story.
Having only brief experience with the Game Boy original, I found myself constantly impressed at how many elements felt modern and original. The puzzles and combat are consistently innovative, forcing you to reinvent your approach as you uncover new items that change the gameplay. Each dungeon introduces a new mechanic that builds on the last, allowing you to access new areas of the map and meet new characters. The dungeons are challenging, with increasingly difficult enemies and puzzles to solve. If you are a veteran to the series, I would recommend trying the game on the higher difficulty setting. I played the game on the lower difficulty at first and found some bosses to be far too easy for my taste.
Adding to the charm of this already great game are the numerous characters that all feel realized and well-imagined. The writing in the game is humorous and sometimes even emotional with a few key moments that will bond you to the island of Koholint and its inhabitants. From a simple village rabbit to a giant eagle boss, every character has a personality that pulls you deeper into their world. The island is littered with characters that make it feel real and lived in. You can really tell that Marin has been stuck on this island her whole life, and her dream is to fly away one day is incredibly heartwarming. This is one of the few Zelda games where I can say that I was enamored by every new character I met; they all had their own ambitions and desires.
The biggest issue I have with Link’s Awakening is how often the game would lag whenever the screen was filled with one too many elements. The frame rate of the game drops far too many times for a modern Nintendo game and it takes you out of the experience as you watch your character flash through the busier areas of the overworld. Fortunately, this is made up for by the beautiful high definition reimagining of the original Game Boy sprites. The characters look plastic, evoking a theme of toys and make-believe. The music has also been reimagined through a fully orchestrated score that feels both epic and perfectly tailored. I listened to the original Game Boy soundtrack for comparison and was impressed with how they were able to capture the feeling of the classic tunes while still making a score that feels brand new.
Link’s Awakening gives Zelda fans a chance to explore a world unlike any other in the series. The world of Koholint captivates with every character and every location. The dungeons are filled with puzzles and monsters that will reward you through their challenge (assuming you choose the right difficulty setting), and the island will feel more personal than other Zelda stories while still feeling equally important in scope. It’s an intimately handcrafted experience that will you leave you dreaming of a chance to really meet the people of this unfortunately fictional world.