The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is great for new and returning players alike

Benjamin Levin, CNN Underscored
Mon September 30, 2019

Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is being reimagined for 2019. Nintendo has come out with a full remake of the 1993 game, complete with revamped music, graphics, mechanics and cutscenes. Despite all this, the game still maintains the classic vibe and challenge, with a little added humor in the mix.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is available for $59.99 for Nintendo Switch ($299) or Switch Lite ($199.96). This game harks back to a day when games were somewhat more linear, but that doesn't mean there isn't a ton of fun to be had. Keep reading to see our full thoughts.

A bit about your adventure

Link's Awakening is a classic adventure, featuring the quests, action, dialogue and puzzle-solving we all love in a Zelda game. You'll be taken through forests, caves, swamps, castles and more in search of a way off Koholint Island, a mystical place where an ancient creature sleeps. You begin the story shipwrecked with no equipment. Happily, your shield is returned to you by a girl who rescues you on the beach, and soon you obtain Link's signature sword as well.

Throughout your adventure you gain new power and abilities, using them to overcome obstacles you could not before -- one of the most satisfying things about this game and others like it. The next leg of your adventure is teased behind these obstacles, out of reach and impassable at first. Once you can finally overcome it, or smash right through it, it's all the more satisfying.

It's a challenging title, but not to a point where it becomes a grind. Like the original, there is a variety of enemies and bosses to defeat, each with specific deadly abilities. Though there are many ways to revitalize your resources, things can get hairy if you are, for example, in a cave with barely any health left. As you become stronger, so do your enemies, but each new ability you attain gives you an edge in combat and exploration. Link's Awakening is a game at a great skill level where players of all ages will enjoy it. There are times where you'll be on the edge of your seat, like fighting huge bosses with environmental hazards. On the flipside, there are times when you can walk unharried through a beautiful village and enjoy conversations with townsfolk.

Mixing modern and retro

It was interesting to experience the modern game mechanics in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. As a remaster, the game's layout is the same as the original, but more freedom of movement and animation have been added, at least in terms of mechanics. Link can not only move up, down, left and right like in the original, but everywhere in between. This addition only enhances the game.

Combat has a great modern feel, and the remaster allows for monsters to have more complicated behavior without deviating too far from their original design. For example, Moblins, pig creatures with martial weapons, can throw spears at you or attack with swords diagonally and follow the character around. On the other hand, enemies like the Octorok (an octopus that fires rocks at you) can still only shoot in a straight line. It's a ton of fun to block an enemy attack or projectile and strike back with your own attack. This mix of modern movement and classic layout was a great juxtaposition, and it's clear that somebody at Nintendo had a lot of fun designing it.

Nintendo went with a cute, cartoonish style for Link's Awakening. Though some may find that unappealing, I found it to be very charming, and in a sense, it matched well with the original game. The original 1993 release of this title presented a colorful game with delightful sprites and animations. The world looked cute and welcoming, but it was still clear that it held sinister monsters and mysteries. The style Nintendo has chosen for the remaster evokes very similar feelings, which I consider an absolute strength.

The look and sound of it

Comparisons to the original game aside, this game stands on its own very well in terms of aesthetics. Villages are full of quirky houses and awesome architecture. Forests are lush with trees and flowers. Areas like swamps and spooky groves are eerie, some giving off mist and darkening your screen. Castles and caves are filled with artifacts and flickering torches. Effects such as these improve your immersion and make your adventure as Link feel more genuine. That being said, the cartoonish elements remind you that Koholint Island is still part of a magical and silly universe. For example, when monsters are slain they go up in a puff of smoke, and bosses frequently explode in some spectacular fashion.

If there is one property of Nintendo games you could compliment every time, it would be music and sound effects, and no detail was spared for The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening remaster. Each tune is enchanting and really conveys the mood of the area you're in. Dungeons have dark and spooky tones, while the outer world has adventurous and triumphant music. The sound effects in this game are spot on as well. Each time you deflect (or reflect, in some cases) a projectile with your shield, it is satisfying not only because you prevented damage to yourself, but because you get to hear the sound your metal shield makes. The same goes for the sounds made by enemies and Link himself.

Design Your Own Dungeons

Last but not least, this game brings a brilliant new feature to the table: designing your own dungeon. At some point in the story, you meet a character who lets you arrange your own dungeon based on the ones you've explored. Later on, you can even create your own rooms, traps and puzzles from scratch. When you want to test it out, you can hop right in as long as all the rooms and passages are connected. Defeating a dungeon lets you keep the rupees (the currency in the game) that you collect within. You can also try out other people's dungeons and put your skills to the test. I had a ton of fun creating and shuffling rooms of my dungeon, and you will probably get a kick out of this feature as well.

The bottom line

Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a faithful remake. The game features all the action and puzzle-solving of its predecessor, with the excitement and modern control of a 2019 game and a helping of nostalgia for the original. You'll have a lot of fun adventuring throughout Koholint Island, facing a plethora of interesting enemies and bosses, and using a full repertoire of awesome abilities. I highly recommend you venture out to sea and help Link conquer this revisit of one of his greatest adventures!

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.