26 years after Link’s Awakening released, the Gameboy classic has been given a HD makeover and is out on the Nintendo Switch.
I never played the original and for many of my Zelda loving friends it’s a Must Play.
However, without any nostalgia for Koholint island or its inhabitants, I’ve walked away with all the frustrations of a game made in the 90’s.
True to the original, Link’s Awakening’s world is set on a grid; trees, grass, water, everything is square, colourful and inviting.
Koholint island is incredibly dense but is easily the smallest of Zelda’s overworlds and you can run from one end to the next in minutes.
For that reason, regular framerate stutters – particularly when you head outside from a dungeon or sprint for some time – are unacceptable. For a first party Nintendo title it’s almost unheard of when we have come to expect a level of polish from the big N’s heavy hitters. Yet, it happens all too often on a system that can handle the much more expansive Breath of the Wild.
Unlike its contemporary, Link’s Awakening is standard Zelda fair. Eight dungeons, eight bosses and a whole heap of item barriers keeping things linear.
None of that’s a problem, but it becomes one when there’s only one way forward hidden within obscure trading quests.
Hats off to anyone who didn’t need a guide to work out that swapping a bow for dog food then bananas to bribe a monkey is how you get into the castle. That is some top tier 90’s game design bullshit.
Inside the dungeons, things get MUCH better. Hands-down, they contain some of the most thought-provoking puzzle design in the entire series.
All up it took me 12 hours on the tougher Hero mode to wake the Wind Fish, with a little walkthrough help.
It was never going to be easy as the first Zelda release to follow Breath of the Wild.
Sure Link’s Awakening has added a dungeon-builder and – if I felt six item buttons on the Switch weren’t enough – I can’t imagine how infuriating having two on the Gameboy must have been.
But even with a new lick of paint, if you don’t approach it with rose-tinted glasses, Link’s Awakening feels like a game from a by-gone era.