When Nintendo released Breath of The Wild, it was a reinvigoration for the series and a massive departure from the Zelda games of yesteryear. In many ways, it pushed the series forward, but in doing so, left behind several aspects from the series that made it so special in the past. Dungeons were cut back significantly, and the superb in-depth puzzles were mostly missing. While Link's Awakening[i] may not have the best dungeons in a [i]Zelda game, they're a far-sight more entertaining than those found in [iBOTW(for the most part anyway).
Our adventure starts with Link washing up on the mysterious shores of Koholint Island. After being greeted by a big talking owl, it's up to you to traverse the island and uncover its secrets. As Link, your main objective is to escape the island, but to do so you'll need to collect eight special instruments to open a giant egg perched on the top of the islands mountain. It's not the most interesting premise by any means, but the sheer joy of making your way through the island and its many hazards is worth the price of admission alone.
After a brief cutscene, you're dropped in Koholint Island and have to work things out for yourself. Lots of areas will be blocked off at the start, but open up as you unlock more items; thus allowing you to access these previously closed off areas. The set up will be immediately familiar to anyone that has played a 'Metroidvania' style game during the last twenty years. Those hoping Nintendo would mix up the placement of certain items or dungeons will be slightly disappointing ad this is an exact remake of the first game. Every tree, house and villager is in the same spot we first encountered them at all those years back. This can make a new playthrough a rather brief affair if, like me, you played the original too many times to count and can remember nearly every solution. It's still absolutely fantastic to make the return trip to Koholint Island; just don't be surprised if you get through the game in five to ten hours.
Much like Capcom's masterful Resident Evil 2 remake, The Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening has been rebuilt from the ground up, and it shows. The game is absolutely gorgeous in both handheld and docked modes and has this sort of toys-to-life look about it. As if reminiscing on older Zelda games wasn't enough, it had me thinking of an old favourite movie of mine, The Indian in the Cupboard. All of Koholint Island's inhabitants look like amiibos placed into that magical cupboard that inhabited many of my childhood dreams. There's a plastic sheen to all of the character models and this sort of tilt-shift style blur to the screen border that makes everything feel like its actually taking place inside a mini world in the Nintendo Switch console.
The game plays beautifully thanks to extra buttons on Switch. You no longer have to continually equip things like the power bracelet to lift heavy objects or to jump across gaps. You do still need to do some item swapping in areas that require the use of more of Link's items which can get a little irritating, but it's nothing compared to how frequently you had to do it in the original.
Gone are the simple sounds of old. While the game does have a few chiptune tracks, the perfect orchestral covers of tunes from the original by Minako Hamano and Kozue Ishikawa are just excellent and further fueled the nostalgia overload.
Strangely enough, there are occasional frame rate stutters in highly populated areas but nothing too major or distracting. It's a little unusual that the Switch struggles in areas considering the very simple and minimal art style.
I was excited to try this the newly added custom dungeon maker, but due to only being able to use pre-set tiles from other dungeons, there isn't much room for originality and creativity. Levels just end up feeling like a frankensteined mish-mash of tiles with opposing themes and styles. I only ended up making two custom dungeons and then never touched the mode again. It's a real shame that there isn't more in the way of options and theme settings to make a unique dungeon based on your own ideas.
It may be a bit more of a hard sell to seasoned fans. If you still remember how to solve the originals dungeons, you'll blast through the remake, as nothing but the coat of paint has really changed.
It would have been great to see a few new inclusions or changes to the original formula, but considering the last time I played the original I was six years old, I got slightly stuck a few times, not quite knowing where to go next. Getting stuck can be a bit frustrating when you walk back and forth from one end of the island to the other. Thankfully you can go and visit a handy little phone building where you'll get hints at where you need to go next.
There's just so much done right in Link's Awakening that it's hard to come up with any genuine faults. Performance could use a bit of optimizing, but when the world looks this great, it's easy to look past. Those making the return trip for the umpteenth time may find the journey a bit too easy to remember and solve, but for everyone else, there's now another incredible Zelda game to tide us over until BOTW 2 or whatever remake comes next.
+ Gorgeous art style gives and tilt-shift camera gives everything a fresh out of the toy box feel.
+ Wonderful soundtrack.
+ Controls very well.
+ Kholonit Island is a joy to traverse.
+ Puzzles are more fun than those in BOTW.
- Some frame-rate stutters.
- May be too vague for first time younger players.