I don't know how it happened, but The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is 26 years old. Okay, I know how it happened, but I'm just surprised that it's been so long. I know it's cliché, but it seems like just yesterday I was walking out of Toys R' Us with my Mom, who had just bought me a copy of Link's Awakening on the Game Boy. Now here we are 26 years later, and I'm diving back into one of my favorite Legend of Zelda games, this time with a fresh coat of paint.
Link's Awakening was always a special game for me. At the time, it certainly checked all the boxes for what made a great Legend of Zelda game to me, but there was more to it than that. The entire experience had a certain vibe to it. An element of mystery and surrealism surrounding the adventure. The rock-solid Zelda gameplay base married with that intangible special something made Link's Awakening remain a vivid memory in my mind all these years later.
The one thing that's come through loud and clear in Link's Awakening for Switch is that Nintendo also felt that spirit running all throughout the game. They recognize that it's more than just a time capsule for the Zelda franchise. Whatever came together to create the unique atmosphere has remained intact for this revamp, which is absolutely crucial to its enjoyment. This is a Legend of Zelda game that feels different, and that aspect is what makes the whole journey such an outstanding one.
For those who have played The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening before, you should feel right at home with the Switch remake. It may have an absolutely gorgeous new look and high-fidelity audio, but the story beats and gameplay quirks remain the same. If you loved the game the first time you played it, you're very likely to fall in love all over again on Switch.
If you've never played Link's Awakening, I honestly can't even imagine what you'll think of the adventure. It depends on so many different aspects of your Zelda history. For example, if you've focused on 3D Zelda titles (Ocarina of Time and onward), you might feel quite restricted in the gameplay of Link's Awakening. I mean, it is a game from a bygone era, after all! It's still just as engaging as it ever was, but I can only see it from a place of having lived through the entire Zelda franchise as it released. Going from a familiarity with 3D Zelda titles only to a classic experience like Link's Awakening might be a hard sell.
With that said, I hope both older Zelda players and more recent fans alike hop in on Link's Awakening. Again, it certainly feels quaint when compared to today's Zelda's standards, but there's something to be said about that. Instead of having to hunt down a Game Boy or fire up a Virtual Console version of Link's Awakening, you can now get the heart of the experience on Switch, albeit with much prettier audio and visuals. I truly hope those updated sound and graphical elements help bridge the gap for players who might otherwise never go back to play Link's Awakening. It's a title that I believe even the slightest Legend of Zelda fan should experience.
The real star of Link's Awakening is the location and its characters. Wandering around the island of Koholint will introduce you a cast unlike any other Zelda game. There are some straight-up weirdos to deal with along the way, and I mean that as a compliment. A talking crocodile, a lady who loves Chain Chomps, an old man who's so shy he only speaks by phone, and so many other zany characters will come across your path. Almost everyone feels slightly...off in a truly endearing way. It's the strange overtones to these characters that deepens the intoxicating nature of the experience.
On the traditional side of things, gameplay mechanics retain the classic approach of overworld exploration, dungeon, repeat. It may seem antiquated to some, but I find it to be as entertaining and addictive as it ever was. What's surprising is that 26 years later, the dungeon design still feels great. Dungeon layouts remain engaging, puzzling, and overall smartly-designed. It's honestly surprising to see just how well the dungeons hold up. This ties into a really great sense of dungeon progression, with the first being extremely straightforward, and subsequent dungeons expanding in some interesting ways.
My time with Link's Awakening on Switch has been a nostalgia-fueled love affair so far, and I'm sure that feeling will continue on. I have a good amount left to do and see, and I honestly can't wait to tackle it. Up to this point, Nintendo has once again shown that they really know how handle a remake. It seems to be the perfect blend of reworked elements that still respect the source material. That's a very thin line to walk, and Nintendo is doing it with nary a misstep.
We'll be back next week with our full review for The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Hopefully our preview has whet your appetite for what's to come! If you need a little bit more to hold you over, you can check out our video coverage below! It includes nearly 10 minutes of brand-new gameplay, as well as more of my thoughts on this remake, and Link's Awakening in general.