Game Review: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (2019)

[Please note: I don’t know if I need a spoiler warning for a 16 year old game, but here it is. I’m not going to outright spoil the game, but some of the mechanics are intrinsically tied to the positives or negatives I want to review.]

Release date: originally 1993 / Switch in 2019
Version played: Nintendo Switch in 2019

Originally released in 1993 for the Game Boy, and re-released in living colour on the Game Boy Colour 1998, the 2019 Nintendo Switch release, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a remake of the latter. Travelling across the seas, Link’s boat is struck by lightning, and he awakens on Koholint Island, in the care of Marin, a familiar blonde haired girl in a flowing, regal dress. Players control link in a 2.5D, tilt-shifted perspective, as they contend with the monsters inhabiting the island and they solve puzzles, complete dungeons and acquire new equipment.

+ basic art style gives the game a dreamlike feel. I loved the tilt-shift photography style perspective, and particularly liked the monster design and environments. Frankly, however I was not entirely a fan of Link’s design, especially his soulless, Funko Pop style eyes
+ items such as the Power Bracelet and the Pegasus Boots no longer need to be equipped, and are ‘always on’ via a button press. Unfortunately, the same is not true for items such as the Hookshot, or Roc’s Feather which would have been perfect for one of the left/right bumpers. Still, little improvements are better than no improvements
+ the game is the definition of the standard Zelda gameplay loop we have all come to love; enter a dungeon, get an item from that dungeon, use that item to get to the next dungeon and repeat. In addition, a game-spanning trading sequence will have you returning to characters you may have long stopped thinking about
+ even after all these years, I love seeing a few familiar non-Zelda faces show up, and this games takes that idea and runs with it, to include an entirely separate side quest for collectable figurines

– there are some horrendous framerate drops, especially in the BowWow segment, travelling with Marin or any time there are more than a handful of enemies on the screen
– the original game was on a tile/grid system, whereas this goes for the more common open world layout, which makes for a few frustrating inclusions, such as you can now attack diagonally, but cannot sprint diagonally with the Boots, or still having those awkward corner pathways in several dungeons
– the new Mario Maker style dungeon creator is interesting, but frankly not worth the time or effort it will take to not only learn, but then complete it. I am sure the inevitable, but thus far unannounced ‘Zelda Maker‘ will be better, but as it stands, it’s not worth getting invested in
– there’s no photographer anymore. I loved that side quest, and that little mouse jerk

> first, defeat the imprisoned Pols Voice. Last, Stalfos. 10 year old MoshFish was infuriated beyond words.

Should you play this game: In general, I had a great time playing this. However, I did not have any greater of a time than when I replayed the DX version on my 3DS just a few months ago (for one fifth of the price). If this remake had included a full ‘Zelda Maker‘ game, or even a triple pack of Awakening and the Oracle duology it might be worth it, but otherwise wait for the unlikely price drop (ha, the thought of Nintendo ever doing a price drop).

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