Links’s Awakening on the Game Boy was the system’s finest moment. But that was back in 1993. Now Nintendo has gifted us all a most charming remake, so let’s wake up and play it.
Link’s Awakening (the remake)
Although Nintendo cleared the project, Japanese developer Grezzo is behind the production of the game (as overseen by the Japanese gaming behemoth).
First shown at E3 a while back, the hype machine kicked off immediately. It launched on 20th September 2019.
In Link’s Awakening, you star as the eponymous character. You wash up on a beach following a storm that’s destroyed your boat.
It’s Koholint Island. Locals Marin and her father save you, whereupon you soon learn from a wise owl you’ll need to collect stuff to get back to your world.
This “stuff” involves a set of instruments (music is always a big thing in Zelda, as Ocarina of Time confirms) you have to get and play next to the Wind Fish’s giant egg.
Right, so off you go into your adventure. The Game Boy classic was very much in the mould of the SNES’s A Link to the Past. Overhead action-adventure stuff with RPG elements.
Now, it is a loving recreation of the original game. The concise overhead of the original is removed for a more expansive look at what’s around you.
That helps with the flow of the experience, whereas the 1993 original was a bit jarring in how the screen would shift. A result of the technological limitations of the early 1990s.
So the first, most obvious change for the remake is the graphical style. And it looks amazing. It’s dreamy, very much in keeping with game’s themes.
There’s a lovely little blurring effect for stuff just off screen that complements the colourful sharpness of what’s in your immediate eyeline.
The soundtrack is fabulous. Nintendo’s take on the classic compositions is neat. At times a string quartet takes over, really thumping in the fuzzy, wuzzy, life-affirming charm.
Right… so, the gameplay. Well, the original is a classic. So it’s not much of a surprise this is excellent, huh?
It’s all very charming. We particularly love how new areas of the map open up as you (in hard-fought fashion) gain new items. The hookshot, for instance, and what that allows you to do. It’s adventuring at its finest.
So, yes, the Link’s Awakening experience is a triumph. Totally energising everything magical about the original and adding in a new sense of wonder.
Some of the limitations of a total remake mean the occasional 2D platforming elements from 1993 can frustrate. And some of the puzzles are rather cryptic.
But overall it’s games like this that make the Nintendo Switch such a wonderful games console. On the go in handheld mode or at home on your TV, this is proper belting.
Nintendo should have also included the original as an extra surprise, we think, but it’s only a minor issue. As they went above and beyond with the special edition Link’s Awakening set.
For an extra bit off moolah, you get a lovely assortment of memorabilia.
Within, it’s so lovingly compact. You can choose a game case of the original Game Boy or use the modern one.
Tucked away below the above is a lovingly crafted book crammed with all sorts of details about the old game, plus how this remake came about.
You get some fancy imagery, too, with little artistic flourishes depicting iconic imagery from Link’s Awakening.
That includes the original Game Boy map overview.
And that’s the world into which you can head off and explore. Revamped for the Switch version, with pointers, reminders, and various other hoohahs.
So whilst playing the remake we had the familiar sense of the 1993 classic, it’s also fresh. Modern gaming sensibilities and all. Very well done indeed.