Jonah Schuhart, Contributing Writer
The Legend of Zelda franchise is a classic series for a reason. What it lacks in overall gameplay variety, it overwhelmingly makes up for in quality. The series takes basic elements of good game design and puts them at the forefront of the series, and the recent remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is no exception.
This time around, Link finds himself washed ashore on the strange Koholint Island after his boat is destroyed in a storm. There’s no Princess Zelda, Ganon or Master Sword. Link’s only objective is to leave the mysterious island as soon as possible. The story is short, sweet and to the point, with its purpose very clear from the beginning. When it comes to story and gameplay, this is a no-nonsense fantasy game packed with nostalgia.
Nintendo decided to double down on the nostalgia by hiring game developer Grezzo to remake this Gameboy classic. Thankfully, they succeeded at bringing an old game to life with modern technology, and the result is a game that has aged like a fine wine.
Luckily for Link, a strange talking owl tells him that the only way to leave Koholint is to wake up the magical Wind Fish, who is sleeping in a giant egg on the island’s highest mountain peak. A lot of character dialogue hints that waking the Wind Fish would be an end to Koholint, and it’s odd to play a Zelda game where the player might be ending the world instead of saving it. Regardless, it’s all wrapped up with a satisfying and slightly bitter ending.
“Overall, the years have only been kind to Link’s Awakening. The formula works too well, and it never goes out of style. It’s perfect for young kids but it retains a spirit and challenge that even adults can appreciate.” — Jonah Schuhart
The game is almost a copy-and-paste remake of the original, so it keeps the amazing level design and game mechanics. Even after 26 years, the game’s setting, Koholint Island, is still fun to explore. Collectibles and other secrets are hidden in the most unlikely nooks and crannies throughout the open world. Many of them are locked behind puzzles or other challenges, rewarding the player for having basic curiosity and problem-solving skills.
In classic Zelda style, many of these collectibles aren’t reachable unless the player returns to that area later in the game with new equipment. Each piece of equipment the player finds has a purpose, which motivates the player to retrace their steps. The only problem with the game’s focus on exploration and puzzles is that it can be easy to get frustratingly lost.
But there are worse games to stare at while stuck in an endless loop and looking for the way forward. It’s far from an ugly game — in fact, it’s downright beautiful. Grezzo dropped the original pixelated graphics for modern 3D animation with a fresh artstyle. The models look round and cute, like they’re made out of the shiny plastics of toddler’s toys. This is in stark contrast to the game’s plot which — while simple and straightforward — is oddly dark.
There are a few new things in this version of Link’s Awakening. None of them are super important, but they do add a bit more to the experience. The most obvious change is the addition of Chamber Rooms. Grezzo resurrected a veteran Zelda character, Dampe (Ocarina of Time), and stuck him on Koholint with a machine that lets the player create their own custom dungeons.
As the player progresses, they find new rooms with different challenges to create more unique dungeons. Dampe also challenges the player with dungeons of his own, which rewards the player with some generous goodies if they take the time to complete them.
Overall, the years have only been kind to Link’s Awakening. The formula works too well, and it never goes out of style. It’s perfect for young kids but it retains a spirit and challenge that even adults can appreciate. The graphics are beautiful, and the music — as always — meets the highest standards of gaming soundtracks. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remake is highly recommended.