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John Weland | October 1, 2019

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Zelda’s not here. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

First and foremost, for you gamers of the younger persuasion who may not know: this Zelda game is a remake of an older Nintendo Game Boy title by the same name.

You could consider this a 3rd generation remake. The original was released on the Game Boy, while Link’s Awakening DX released on the Game Boy Color. DX had the addition of a “color dungeon” added to showcase the color aspect of the Game Boy Color. Now it’s a new remake on the Nintendo Switch.

A Zelda game without Zelda

The first thing you’ll notice as you play through the game is that Zelda is not present anywhere. That’s because this entry in the franchise was a re-imagining.

Rather than this entry consisting of Link teaming up with Princess Zelda to defeat Gannon, or some other offshoot of evil incarnate, this adventure has Link shipwrecked on the mysterious Koholint Island. Marin finds him on the beach and rescues him. The island is filled with familiar baddies from the Zelda universe, as well as enemies from another Nintendo IP staple, Mario.

Here on Koholint Island you’ll find Goombas, Chain Chomps, Shy Guys and the like. You’ll also run across Kirby and some other aspects from the Nintendo toolbox. I don’t want to ruin the story for any first-timers, so we’ll leave it here.

Mechanics

Functionally, the mechanics of this remake are the same. Rather than a 2D top-down adventure, it’s remade as a 3D fixed camera top-down. The color dungeon still exists, and the camera shop (for the Game Boy printer) has been replaced with Dampè’s Dungeon.

Dampe's Dungeon Editor in Zelda

In Dampè’s dungeon, you build your own dungeons out of rooms collected from other points in the game while trying to complete certain tasks. You can even share these dungeons you create, though sadly only through the use of Amiibo.

Gone are the small screen areas that scroll into one another in the over-world. Instead, the over-world is one large continuous area. This does cause occasional FPS issues, but these issues don’t carry over to the dungeons. These stay as single-screen rooms, each filled with some puzzle or challenge.

Conclusion

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening keeps everything we loved about the original while making plenty of quality of life improvements.

It’s more than just a pretty paint job. Nintendo has shown the industry how to do a remake by staying as true to the original as you can, without being a play-by-play copy of its predecessor. We hope others will take notes.

As I enter the final dungeon, I have to say this is certainly a “must-have.”

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