Clear back in 1993, when the Game Boy was still a hot commodity for gaming on the go, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was a battery killer. Back when I owned the original, I must have beat it about half a dozen times on the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Super Game Boy. Before we went into the N64 era of Zelda, there were only four games in the series, and this one was by far the most innovative and weirdest at the time. Think of the concept for a moment. A Zelda game with no Zelda. No Triforce. No Ganon. Link by himself on a strange island with new bosses and monsters mixed into some familiar faces. Even some entities from other Nintendo properties like Super Mario Bros. and Kirby’s Dream Land. All revolving around something called the Wind Fish. Like the heads of Nintendo dropped acid one night and wrote a new adventure. Now, 26 years later, we have a remake of the original. So how does it hold up? We beat the thing at nearly 100% for our review.
Now before we get into this, let me be clear about one thing: We’re not reviewing the main game. That’s been done a thousand times over across three decades on multiple websites and videos. While I have my own thoughts and opinions about this particular title, what am I adding to that conversation with a regular review in 2019? So we’re skipping that and getting to the remake part of this. And we’ll start with the look. This is a fully upgraded 3D looking version of the original, keeping (for the most part) the original incarnations of how all the levels worked and how the map flowed. The graphical improvements are obvious, this is a polished version with everyone looking like Hummel Figurine versions of the first game. It works well and gives some added depth and perspective to the presentation. I feel like I’m on Koholint Island and not just a drop-down map of the island.
Even the Mario Bros. elements of this look and feel better than the original, as you can see here, bringing these aspects of the world to life. One of the best choices Nintendo made for The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was to, for the most part, abandon the traditional transition of the map. The game used to be on a grid system, following much of the first Zelda game’s format, primarily due to what they could do on a Game Boy. That’s been thrown out the window as you have more of an explorative element to the world. You’re not just trapped in a frame, you can see what’s around you, even if you can’t get to it. The audio to the game is also amazing as they’ve given this soundtrack an orchestral overhaul. While the old-school synth tunes will remain in my memory, it was quite lovely having a stringed quartette guide me around certain areas of the world.
The game received a couple of interesting additions. First, some of the elements that were, shall we say, a pain in the backside are now gone. Originally you had to give up the shovel to get the boomerang, now you can buy the shovel back for 300 Rupees. Seashells and heart containers felt like near-impossible items to locate, now you can find them and figure out the puzzles keeping some of them quite easier. Also, there are more heart pieces in the game, so it’s possible to have 20 Hearts, which the original didn’t have. And then… there’s Dampé. Yes, your favorite gravedigger is back, but this time, he’s building dungeons. This section, as we talked about, came from the idea of trying to do a Mario Maker version of The Legend Of Zelda where you made dungeons as you would have in all the dropdown versions. It’s not as complete as a Zelda maker would probably be, as you can’t mess with enemies or item placement, but you can create a dungeon. Sorta.
Dampé forces you into situations where you have to create specific kinds of dungeons using parts you’ve found in all the other dungeons you’ve visited. You can make them as easy or challenging as you’d like, but ultimately, they have to have a beginning and an end. Meaning you will pull a Ray Stantz and choose the form of your destructor at the end of every map. I found this section to be the one major letdown of the game because of a couple reasons. First, you need cornerstones to get new sections you don’t find in dungeons, and aside from finding them, they cost 1,280 Rupees in the one shop in town! Meaning you have to grind, mine, slash shrubbery, and play the crane game for hours to buy every piece. Second, at least one full heart container, a fairy bottle, a seashell, and two heart pieces are in his possession. So if you want to complete the game at 100%, you have to play dungeon creator. I find that insulting to my intelligence as a player that in order to get everything I want, I’m forced to play something I don’t have much interest in.
The remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was an awesome game to play and beat all over again, and beyond the one issue of dealing with Dampé, I thought all the additions and upgrades were fine. This was a great way to go back and, to be plain, relive my childhood. This was a title that stuck with me for years in the mental library of games I adore. Nintendo could do very little to ruin it. They tried a bit with the dungeon aspect, but I’m fine not beating this 100%. And man, was it satisfying to see that animated ending. I’ve read people complain that the game is either too difficult because it doesn’t make things clear, or its too easy because it’s not as challenging as modern titles. Honestly, both criticisms are correct, but I think that makes it a great game. Challenging for some, a breeze for the experienced, and a new adventure for those who have never seen this lost classic. It’s a must-have for Zelda fans, and a game players who have never seen it before need to try at least once.