Welcome to the first edition of Backlog Busters, a column dedicated to clearing our never-ending video game backlog. Today, we’ll be crossing off one of the latest additions to the Legend of Zelda franchise, Link’s Awakening!
Fans of the Legend of Zelda would know that Link’s Awakening is no ordinary game for the franchise. Originally published in 1993, the game was its fourth ever installment, the first ever game for a handheld console (the Game Boy), and one of the only games to not take place in Hyrule.
Here’s the low-down: Link, the hero of Hyrule, finds himself washed up on the shores of a mysterious island far away from home. It turns out to be Koholint Island, a strange place guarded by a sleeping whale-deity called the Wind Fish. Playing as Link, your goal is to find eight magical instruments to awaken the Wind Fish and escape the island.
Developed by: Grezzo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Length: 5 hours (7 hours for completionists)
Nostalgic for old players, charming for new ones
Link’s Awakening on the Switch is the perfect game for first-time Legend of Zelda players. Unlike most Zelda titles, it doesn’t include any of the franchise’s expansive and oftentimes daunting lore — with its plot being standalone to the other games — but still contains all the heart of a Zelda game in its iconic soundtrack, cheesy sense of humour, and top-down mechanics that defined the early years of the franchise.
While its plot and gameplay appear simple at first, Link’s Awakening carries a surprising amount of depth; not only in terms of its NPCs, who are each unique in personality and design, but also the amount of content that’s packed into its tiny package — from puzzles and enemies carefully laid out around every corner, to the game’s extensive list of optional achievements (for you completionists!)
Fans of any previous games will find themselves waxing nostalgic after experiencing the Switch version’s remastered soundtrack and 3D top-down graphics reminiscent of a fan favourite, A Link Between Worlds. Those who played the 1993 original can also delight in some quality-of-life updates in the remake, like improved gameplay controls, increased hidden items and, bless, fairy bottles are a thing now!
Challenging dungeons are the best part of the game
Like the best Zelda games, Link’s Awakening is deceivingly simple; when in fact, the game features plenty of variety in terms of puzzles and enemy battles. Its carefully laid out map requires players to unlock specific items or skills in order to access new areas, which can be found either in dungeons or by completing quests for NPCs.
While dungeons are often a hit-or-miss for this franchise, I find it’s one of the best part of this game. Each dungeon is themed differently based on the area of the map (e.g. water dungeon, lava dungeon), and each teach you how to use your new skills or items in an organic manner. That mainly means, less pop-ups to explain how to use the controls — which is great news to me.
But with most if not all of the gameplay being a direct replica of the 1933 original, players may need a walkthrough to get pass certain puzzles. This wasn’t a big deterrent from my enjoyment of the game, but it does go to show how “hand-holding” modern games have become. Other than that, most of the puzzles still hold up after all this time, giving Link’s Awakening 9 points out of 10 for timelessness.
Adorable, toy-like graphics that will make you go “aww”
Compared to the monochrome graphics of the 1993 original release, the Switch remake of Link’s Awakening has come leaps and bounds. The game reimagines Koholint Island with a three-dimensional, toy-like design and a blur around the edges of the screen that makes everything look smaller and cuter.
While some might compare it to A Link Between Worlds, this remake brings even more detail and refinement to the environment around Link; from the satisfying way grass flutters in the wind as you swing your sword, to the Link’s adorable walk cycle. Fans of other Nintendo franchises will also love the copious references to Mario and Kirby throughout the game, including an NPC that has a Chain Chomp as a pet. How cute!
Verdict: The perfect game for a breather
If you’re looking for something to tide you over until Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity or Breath of the Wild 2 comes out, you’ve come to the right place. Link’s Awakening is a solid Legend of Zelda title that’s plenty of fun for both casual and completionist players.
First-time players to the franchise can consider this a good stepping stone to the rest of the games. Although certain areas may need a walkthrough, the overall gameplay is a faithful remake that improves on the original game’s flaws. An easy 8/10 for me.
Did we add a game to your backlog – or do you have one to add to ours? Let us know in the comments below!