The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a remake of one of the best Game Boy titles of all time and fans shouldn't expect much more than that.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a remake of the Game Boy title of the same name from 1993 for the Nintendo Switch that has added numerous quality of life improvements, a revamped soundtrack and visuals, and new content in the form of a dungeon creator mode. The game is still a treat to play, even after all of these years, but returning fans expecting a wealth of new content may be disappointed, as it's essentially the same game as before.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening takes place after the events of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Link has defeated Ganon and saved Hyrule from disaster, so he departs on a ship to visit other lands. Link's ship is caught in a storm and he wakes up on the shore of the mysterious Koholint Island, home to a colossal egg perched upon a mountain. Link is unable to sail away from the island so he begins a quest to find eight magical instruments with the power to awaken the mighty Wind Fish from the egg.
It quickly becomes apparent that there is more to Koholint Island and its inhabitants than meets the eye. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a 2D adventure game that offers the same addictive gameplay of the other entries in the series, as Link must explore dungeons and acquire items in order to uncover the many secrets of Koholint Island. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening contains all of the content from the DX version of the original game, including the Color Dungeon that was meant to be played on the Game Boy Color. All of the crossover cameos with other Nintendo characters are also still present in the game.
The most striking aspect of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is its improved visuals. The entire game looks as if it was constructed from plasticine and it feels as if the player is controlling a character in a living cartoon world. The locations also include a lot more furnishings, with houses featuring decorations that weren't present in the original version of the game. The graphics are stunning, but they come at a cost, as The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening has recurring performance hitches, especially when traveling across the overworld map. In the original version of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, the overworld map was broken into individual screens but the remake has one huge overworld and the game frequently has framerate dips as a result. There is also a strange blurry filter at the edge of the screen which might be a way of hiding potential visual failings. These issues are not deal-breakers and they don't affect the gameplay in a significant way, but it's a noticeable visual quirk that happens throughout the entire game. The soundtrack of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening has also been revamped and the new orchestral score is fantastic, as it brings the catchy Game Boy tunes to life in a whole new way.
The Nintendo Switch version of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening includes numerous quality of life improvements over the original game. It's now possible for Link to move and use items in eight directions, which is helpful when navigating the pits that appear in many of the game's dungeons. Link's Awakening also has a new autosave feature that keeps track of the most recent location the player entered. The Fairy Bottle items that are present in other games in The Legend of Zelda series can now be found in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening too which allows Link to store the healing fairies found on his journey. It's now possible to leave notes on the map and important conversations can be listened to again in the Memories menu in case the player gets lost.
A major highlight of the remake though is to the item selection menu. The limited number of buttons on the original Game Boy meant that the player had to keep equipping/unequipping basic items over the course of the original game. The new version of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening allows Link to always have his sword and shield equipped, as well as tying the Pegasus Boots to the L button and always giving Link the effects of the Power Bracelet after he finds it without needing to switch it out all the time. The inventory management in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a lot smoother than its predecessor and it's one of the biggest improvements in the game.
The main new addition to The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a dungeon-builder mode that can be accessed after encountering Dampe and visiting him in his home. The dungeon builder is a disappointment and it adds nothing of value to the game. The dungeons are built using mostly the same rooms as the regular dungeons found in the story and some of the new additions are locked behind amiibos, such as using Shadow Link as an enemy. The limited resources available to the player means that they can only create basic dungeons with no unique gimmicks and they are given no real reason to play them. The fact that the player's dungeons can be only be shared with friends by saving them to an amiibo makes the mode even more of a pointless gimmick, as the ability to share stages online would have been a huge (and basic?) improvement. The dungeon-builder mode feels more like a proof of concept for a potential Zelda Maker title in the future than a legitimate part of the game.
The original version of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was crammed into a Game Boy cartridge and it offered a sizable chunk of gameplay for what was possible at the time. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening on Nintendo Switch brings roughly the same length of playtime, with the main story taking around 10-12 hours to complete. The short length of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening might be off-putting to some fans, especially as it's a full-price title. The game is also easy in terms of difficulty, though it's possible to crank up the challenge with the new Hero difficulty option, which causes Link to take twice as much damage and stops hearts from dropping. The boss battles are also an issue in this regard, as almost all of them are very easy and simplistic compared to the other bosses in the series and they don't pose much of a challenge. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening offers an entertaining adventure, but it's not a long one, due to the short length of the game and the ease of the combat encounters.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is practically the same game that was released in 1993 - for better or for worse. The original version of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is still a great game after all these years and the remake has the same great gameplay wrapped in a more pleasing package. The lack of compelling new content and the short length of the game are two disappointing aspects of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening and returning players shouldn't expect much outside of improvements to the base game, but it's still the same excellent title that it was back in 1993.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is available now for Nintendo Switch. Screen Rant was provided with a digital code for the purposes of this review.