I said this before in our preview piece a month ago, and I will repeat it here. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is my least favorite game in the whole series (and no, I’m not counting those dreadful CDI games as part of that list).
I don’t know what about it I disliked, but as a kid, playing it on the Game Boy and again on the Game Boy Color, it just didn’t appeal to me. I don’t know if it was because of how it looked or how it played, but the game was just not something I enjoyed.
As such, going into the Switch’s version review, I was mildly hesitant on if the gorgeous visuals and additional content would sell me on the experience. For the first few hours of gameplay, I was still put off by what I was playing, but as the hours passed by and I unlocked more items and ventured across Koholint Island, the game slowly grew on me.
It got to a point where I realized I had sunk over 20 hours into the game on my first playthrough and was itching to start to explore everything I missed and 100 percent to complete the game. In short, while I didn’t like the original, the remaster is now something that I am incredibly fond of… even if it still does have its issues.
Link’s Awakening for Switch, just like the previous versions over the past two decades, puts you in the shoes of Link after his boat capsizing in a horrible storm. You awaken on an unknown island and are helped back to full health by the inhabitants of Mabe Village.
It is your job to help Link escape from this strange island by collecting the eight musical instruments hidden in all of the dungeons around the world. To help you complete your quest, you will have a colorful cast of characters that will aid you to fight the terrors within, and an ever-growing arsenal of weapons and tools to help you access new areas.
When Link brings all eight instruments together, he must use them to wake to Wind Fish, find his way home, and discover the secrets that the island is hiding from its inhabitants. Don’t worry, and I won’t be going into story details here, so feel free to read on spoiler-free.
First things first, let’s get obvious out of the way. The game looks stunning. The art style the team decided on and is by far one of the best decisions Nintendo could have made as the whole game looks beautiful and is one of the best looking games on the Nintendo Switch so far.
It is also a straightforward game to play, and the puzzles aren’t that difficult to grasp, making it the ideal entry-level Zelda game for kids and those unfamiliar with the series to get into. That is not to say that some of the puzzles and things you need to do aren’t hard, but just that the game is very beginner-friendly most of the time.
The whole soundtrack has also been given a makeover for those familiar with the original game. Rehearing all the songs you heard as a child in a new light could potentially bring a tear to your eye. Mabe Village’s updated theme, for example, is very soothing and works well with the direction of the game.
One of the things I remember vividly around Link’s Awakening that is present here is the amount of backtracking you need to do.
While there is a method to fast travel, it is not the most ideal and will force you to travel quite a fair bit still to get to any destination you might have your eyes set on. It is also incredibly confusing to know where to go to next but, granted; the game does offer a tip system in the form of a telephone scattered across the world that you can use to help you find out where you need to go next.
Another issue stems from your reliance on only a small portion of the items you collect. Roc’s Feather, which allows you to jump, is vital to everything you do so you will find yourself attaching it to a single button for your entire adventure and never taking it off. Other than that, items like the Bow and Bombs are used against most enemies and bosses, and you will rarely find yourself using any other item outside of their respective dungeon.
There is also a heavy emphasis on collecting rupees and an insane amount of them too. To get certain key items and collectibles, you will need to have hundreds of rupees on you at one time which can lead to some seriously terrible grinding to collect hundreds of rupees at one time.
You can call all of these issues nitpicks depending on what type of player you are, but I feel that they take away enjoyment from the experience and prolong the game longer than it needs to be.
In short, the Nintendo Switch version is probably the best version of Link’s Awakening ever. The game jumped from one of the worst Zelda games for me into one of the better ones, but it is still far from being one of the best.
It has its issues like with many games, but Link’s Awakening serves its purpose, being more of a casual Zelda game you can pick up and play with at any time. There are plenty of secrets to explore, things to do, and puzzles to complete that will keep you coming back from hours at an end.
It is another great game for the Nintendo Switch library and shouldn’t be missed. It’s the perfect tile to coincide with the launch of the Nintendo Switch Lite and is a perfect handheld experience. Just don’t expect to invest as much time into the title as Breath of the Wild, though.
So yes, go pick up Link’s Awakening. To me, it truly encapsulates the phrase “third time’s the charm.” Nintendo has struck gold with this Zelda gem.
Disclosure: Our Review copy of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on Nintendo Switch was provided courtesy of Nintendo UK.