The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has always had a special place in my heart. In addition to it being the first Zelda game I ever played, it’s among the better ones in the franchise. Sure, it wasn’t the experience changing adventure of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or as expansive as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, yet it had so much charm. Given we saw a number of classics remastered for the 3DS and other consoles, it’s not surprising Nintendo decided to bring The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening back. With a fresh coat of paint and some modernization, is it still among the best Zelda games or did players forget how bad it actually was? Here’s our The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Review.
In terms of the franchise, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was a bit of an oddball. Following the events of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Link crashes on the mysterious island of Koholint. You quickly learn you need to wake the Wind Fish if you want to go home and it starts your quest to obtain the instruments required to do so. It’s a dangerous quest that has an interesting payout that might not be the most exciting finish, but certainly different in its own way.
Part of what made the adventure so much fun and frustrating is how little is explained. There is a very roundabout way to progression, something that makes sense in the long term, it just doesn’t always make sense at the time, giving it a rather unique feel. Most of the progression is through unlocking powers and abilities that open up a new path that you can explore. Sometimes it can take a while to figure out where exactly you need to be or what is being asked of you, though that is also part of the charm.
Being that this is a classic The Legend of Zelda adventure, it plays similar to the iconic NES games. Link wonders around with his sword and shield and fights a variety of foes in a 2D setting. And, like most things, there are tricks to coming out ahead. Some of them are obvious, like shielded enemies usually have a way to make them vulnerable, where as other foes can only be tackled sometime later. Sometimes it requires a bomb, other times your shield but there is always something that can be used to your advantage.
What really stands out about The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening isn’t the combat as much as the improved art style. This isn’t the first time Nintendo has reimagined this gameplay style, that honor goes to The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, yet they tackle this in entirely different ways. Where The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds attempts a more realistic look, which plays into the direction of other Zelda games on the time, Nintendo went with a far more stylized approach to The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.
Not only does this new look better match the original tone, it had a lot more charm. Link and other characters are simply adorable to the point that I smiled when I saw a fox. Enemies go from seeming rough without losing the style. It’s hard to fully explain how well Nintendo captured the experience but it’s something where the art style alone is enough to justify a return visit.
With that being said, regardless of how nice it looks, there were some weird and unfortunate choices. Blurring the edges gives players an odd focal point and oddly caused me to notice that more than what was going on in the center of the screen. Not only that, there are some noticeable performance dips. For a game as seemingly simple as The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, it’s unfortunate you can’t play in handheld mode without seeing frames being dropped or slight lag from time to time. It in no way ruins the experience, just something that stands out.
It’s honestly hard to hate The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Sure, it can be hard to progress at first and not a whole lot is different besides graphics but it’s still among the best Zelda games. Add to it the charming visuals and simply fun gameplay and you’ll quickly look past the flaws. Maybe not to the point where absolutely everyone needs to try it, though I would strongly suggest it if you like the look or never played the original.
[Editor’s Note: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was reviewed on Switch platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]