The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening was originally released way back in 1993 for the good old Gameboy, then a few years later (1998) we got The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening DX a coloured update for the Gameboy colour. But how did it all start and why is the game so different from other Zelda Games?
Time machine activated, let go back in time…
The story starts in a room, with a Gameboy development kit and a programmer called Kazuaki Morita messing around with an idea. Takashi Tezuka was also interested in making a new style of game and at some point saw what Kazuaki Morita was up to. He liked the idea and decided to join in on the creation of the game. As time went on more and more Nintendo staff joined in, and what was once one man’s dream became an after-work project for many, as the game was not yet an officially endorsed project by the big N. This was all set to change when Takashi Tezuka pitched the game to top management and from that point onward the game became an officially developed Nintendo product.
Through freedom of development Links Awakening became a product that did not follow the normal routes which we have come to expect from any Zelda game. It was a game that would not have a Tri-Force, it would be missing the main bad guy ‘Ganondorf’. Even Princess Zelda was not here… What is this mockery they were about to pull off?
Well, Links Awakening would follow on from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past seeing Link washed ashore a mysterious island. He is given one simple task, waking the Wind Fish out of a giant egg atop of a mountain (Yoshi’s Egg). Link will do this by finding a number of musical instruments but there is always a twist which I am not going to spoil for you here.
The game is so different, that the game developers over at big N added some of their favourite Nintendo characters. They added a lot, like Chain Chomps, Goombas, Luigi, Princess Peach and even Kirby. I’ll let you find the rest for yourself when you play the game so as to not spoil some surprises. What makes this game even better for me was towards the end of game development cycle, Shigeru Miyamoto, a person that I look up to, joined the team and helped the development team of the game out as a games tester. The final outcome was a game, which shined love, passion and pride. A game that brought whole new life to the Zelda Franchise and pushed past what gamers expected from the series.
…Now back to the future
September 20th 2019, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening gets an update and a release on the Nintendo Switch, but is it everything we hope for? Brimming with nostalgia does it capture the inner child in us all? Mmm, shall we find out?
Well, let’s have some history again. Did you know Shigeru Miyamoto described how he came up with the idea behind the Zelda franchise? It was from his childhood when he used to have adventures in the woods, through childhood imagination. I can imagine it too. All dressed up as a rogue or knight, ready to take on the evil creatures that dwell deep in the undergrowth. Creatures that all follow the evil forest king of old, who was draining the life from a once beautiful, bountiful forest, a home to many mythical creatures.
That’s enough of me talking about the past about how things came to be. Games like this allowed my inner child to come through even though I might still actually cosplay and bring to life the idea of adventures like Shigeru Miyamato did. So anyway, back onto the game and I want to get the glaring issues out of the way first since there are a few. None of them are game-breaking but they are there.
First off edge blur. This might have been a way to improve the game’s performance, but it could also be a camera trick. The closer an object is to a camera the blurrier it gets. It is like using our own eyes for example. I recently watched the new Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a dark coming-of-age story which is a reimagined origin story, of Sabrina Spellman (The Teenage Witch) a once classic TV series back in 1996 and this reminded me of camera tricks of old. Link’s Awakening makes use of some of these which makes sense considering it is an old game, reimagined for a modern audience.
The other issue is the framerate. Sometimes it drops to a point where it is clear as day. This is odd to see coming from Nintendo, as they always do an amazing job clearing up these sorts of issues. And finally a personal one, an out of date inventory system. They could have updated it for this launch? But I guess keeping to the game’s core ideas was what the game developers wanted to do here.
Let’s get into some gameplay now and start with a video of how our lead character Link arrives on the mysterious tropical island of Koholint taken from the Nintendo Switch Version
And for nostalgia reasons the Gameboy colour The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening DX
As you can see from them both, the Nintendo Switch version has truly improved on the intro and it is literally identical, apart from the fact it’s years apart. Thanks to technology and game development, the original game has gone under the knife and been given special treatment. This is no lazy remaster. The visuals of old have all been remodelled in stunning 3D, from characters to the world itself, everything has been lovingly reworked, remodelled and is brimming with nostalgia. It is almost like the original game developers stepped in and helped out as you can really feel the love in this remake. The best thing, which makes me smile, is the Zelda theme tune. It is still here, even though this is not your typical Zelda game.
When looking at the remodelling it is almost as though you are looking at highly polished plastic toys, set up on a massive stage with a top-down camera to record everything. A bit like Toy Story from Disney, and yes everything comes to life. The action in the game is fun and intuitive with your primary weapons being a Sword and Shield, which you can augment along with a number of other items, including a bow. Something new to the Zelda Franchise in the original Links Awakening was the ability to jump which is done by acquiring the Roc’s Feather. You can assign the feather to either X or Y and trust me when I say, you will be using jump a lot in the game.
The fun Pegasus Boots are back and allow Link to dash at high-speed, jump further (with Roc’s Feather) and if you are using the sword, Link can dash attack to damage enemies. You can also slice grass, and clear crystal rocks. If you’re going to look for the boots, a small hint is to search a cavern with a key to an eye.
Link has a Hookshot that allows you to defeat a specific boss and navigate dungeons and you can also get access to flippers, which allow you to swim. There is one truly powerful item in the game known as the Magic Rod and you can use this as a weapon, light torches and take down a hot-headed enemy. As with every weapon, the Magic Rod has its Achilles heel. This being pesky crows and a few other enemies. One thing I almost missed in the game is the Magnifying Glass that allows you to see hidden items in the game, new weapons even the hidden Secret Seashells.
With weapons attached Link traverses the world across a number of areas. Grassy, desert, mountain and glorious beach just to name a few. To make things a little easier getting around the map, you have warp points. You can find hidden rooms, collect hearts to gain more health and collect Secret Seashells. Speaking of seashells, once you have enough Secret Seashells you can gain access to the Level 2 sword from the Seashell Mansion. To make it a little easier to find these Secret Seashells players can take along BowWow (Chain Chomp) and he will sniff them out for you.
Playing the game is just fun. Truly fun, adventuring, exploring, fighting, and puzzle-solving. Everything just works and nothing has changed to an extent that makes the original stand out. Yes, I would say go back to the original and have a bash, as it is well worth it if you have a Gameboy of course but the Switch version is great. Everything about the game feels just about right. Exploring just feels worth it, as there is always something to be found which is really rewarding. The game also offers a mix of playstyles by chucking on 2D areas or even fishing to trading items. If do get a little stuck, use a phone booth, yes you heard that right a phone booth, as it’s the in-game hint system. The phone booth allows you to call Mabe Village and get a hint on where to go next. Personally, I never used them however, my partner did on her play through. The game’s length is neither too short nor too long, bagging in around 20hrs of game time.
Something new has come to the Switch version of the game in the form of Dungeon Maker. Its nowhere near as good as Mario Maker so do not expect all the bells and whistles here, but it is fun to create and share your dungeon ideas with others. The further your progress in the game the more variety comes to the maker. I did spend some time in the maker, but the main game is where most of my time was spent, as it is just so cute (My partner used the word ‘cute’. I would personally have used adorable
Music for Link’s Awakening is limited to the number of instruments found in the game to awaken the Wind Fish, so you might find it a bit lacking. Personally, I did not mind it at all. It made the game very reminiscent of days of old. Being a huge fan of the Zelda franchise I am happy to say all that all the sound effects that we have come to expect are all here in all-new HD.
The Legend of Zelda Links Awakening will never be my No1 Zelda game as that goes to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64, the first game in the Zelda Franchise to go 3D and that just made the child in me so happy. Link’s Awakening is a game that I feel is around that sweet spot though, as it is pure nostalgia, and a game that deserves just as much love from us gamers as it got from the game developers themselves.
With two games modes, Normal Mode for people that just want to experience the game and Hero mode that provides a seriously good challenge for experienced players. This is not a typical Zelda game, this is a game that an RPG lover might want to venture into. A fan of Nintendo, in general, might enjoy it too and it’s a game that is built with love.
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