The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Review

The original Link’s Awakening has a special place in the hearts of those who played it. Its surreal, Twin Peaks-inspired atmosphere and its character-driven story combined to create a unique Zelda experience that is still yet to be matched, even after a quarter of a century. After lying dormant for years, Nintendo has given a facelift to this beloved classic so a new generation can experience it first-hand. Even with a fresh coat of paint, does this game still hold up or should it have been left sleeping in the fond memories of nostalgic gamers?

Link with the Wind Fish's Egg


Lost at Sea


Link’s tale begins after being shipwrecked on the shores of Koholint Island, a mysterious place brimming with dangerous monsters and colorful inhabitants. A talkative owl issues Link his main objective: awaken the Wind Fish, a being that sleeps in a giant egg atop the island’s highest peak. Only then can Link hope to leave the island. Link’s Awakening’s story works as a stand-alone adventure since the narrative isn’t bogged down by any baggage that typically comes with other Zelda titles. Gone are any mentions of Hyrule or the Triforce. As a result, the story can be enjoyed purely on its own merits and the game’s poignant ending will resonate even with those who’ve never played a Zelda game.

Koholint Island may be small in scale, but it’s brimming with people to meet and secrets to uncover. The main quest will take you through eight dungeons, and they all still hold up rather well. Each one plays out like a miniature puzzle box. You’ll need to poke around every room to uncover puzzles that reward you with keys to open locked doors, before culminating in a tricky boss fight. It’s standard 2D Zelda fare, but even after all these years, this process still gives way to many ‘Ah-Ha’ moments to satisfy newcomers and certain riddles may even stump returning players. Outside of the occasional puzzle that’ll tax your brain, the game’s overall difficulty is on the lighter side. Those looking for a challenge can select ‘Hero Mode’ from the title screen, this doubles enemy damage and removes random heart dropsan option best suited for Koholint Island veterans.

Though it’s linear in nature, Link’s Awakening has a real, crafted feel to the pacing. Every dungeon rewards you with a new item that unlocks new paths for you to traverse in the overworld, the adventure sustains this steady and rewarding loop throughout, which makes exploring new environments a consistently enticing process. You’ll also spend a lot of time interacting with the quirky islanders and their personalities make a lasting impression that draws you deeper into the world.

Link fighting monsters in Links Awakening

This 2019 remake also comes with a wealth of quality of life improvements like more warp points for fast traveling and skippable dialogue boxes (finally!). Hands down, the best change is how some key items are now mapped to specific buttons. In the original game, you’d spend a lot of time navigating menus to assign items to certain buttons, now things like the heavy-duty lifting Power Bracelet and the speedy Pegasus Boots are permanently set to dedicated buttons once unlocked. There’s a lot less downtime in this remake and exploration no longer feels so cumbersome thanks to this small and very welcome change.

There is one brand new addition to the game in the form of Chamber Dungeon Maker and to be honest, it’s pretty underwhelming. Here you can arrange rooms of dungeons you’ve conquered in the main quest to create your own challenges which can be shared with friends locally via Amiibo transfers. Small prizes like Heart Containers and Fairy Bottles offer a tiny incentive to those willing to engage, but deja vu sets in quickly while building and replaying familiar dungeon rooms; thankfully this mode is entirely optional.


An Island Paradise


What struck me most in replaying Link’s Awakening is just how damn good the game’s music is. The original chip-tune soundtrack has been been rescored to sound more playful and ethereal. The captivating and melancholic “Ballad of the Wind Fish,” in particular, has never sounded better and a sense of space is conveyed expertly by the rest of the tracks. The sound design is also immaculate; those who play with headphones will be treated to the comforting sounds of birdsong while traversing the overworld and the echoing drips of water while spelunking damp caverns.

Link and Manbo the fish

The trailers don’t do the visuals justice, whether you play in portable mode or on your TV, Link’s Awakening will blow you away when you boot it up. The clockwork toy aesthetic is whimsical in motion and the ways characters move and emote is sure to put a smile on your face. At first glance, everything looks minimalistic, but if you take a closer look you’ll be staggered by the tiny details. Stone walls can look photorealistic at times and the way water sparkles in the sunlight is remarkable. Not only is this one of the best looking games on Switch, it faithfully recaptures the artstyle of the original game, which makes going around revisiting all the familiar villages, dungeons, and monsters feel like a brand new and wondrous experience.

As beautiful as the visuals are, it comes at the expense of stable performance. The game’s framerate typically targets 60 frames per second, but it’ll frequently drop to 30 even when nothing appears to be taxing the system. Switching between regions in the overworld is the number one thing that causes the framerate to tank, but sometimes even the simple act of killing an enemy can send engine into a funk. It’s frustrating because when it runs at 60fps its looks and feels stunning and that makes the frame drops hurt all the more. it’s a real pity the performance isn’t consistent because it distracts from an otherwise enchanting experience. With any luck, they’ll be a performance patch somewhere down the road, but there’s no official word yet from Nintendo if we’ll be getting one soon.

Link and marin on the beach

This is the kind of remake that fans dream about getting. Link’s Awakening is a truly faithful re-imagining of one of the best 2D Zelda games and it dazzles on Switch. Admittedly, the lack of new features makes it harder to recommend to those well-versed with the original game, but if you’re a newcomer or just haven’t played the game in years, this remake is the perfect way to rediscover Link’s most personal adventure.

  • 9/10
    The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening Review - 9/10


Charming and whimsical, Link’s Awakening endures as one of Link’s most unique outings and this reimagined version only enhances all the qualities that made this classic so well-revered.


1 Pings/Trackbacks for "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Review"
  1. […] whimsical remake of the most understated Zelda game, Link’s Awakening is classic adventure fare with some real heart. Quirky characters and hauntingly good music breathe […]

Leave a Reply


PlayStation’s State of Play 08.06.20 Round-Up

Sony recently presented yet another State of Play presentation, which was the longest episode yet at over 40 minutes. The presentation focused mainly on third-party and indie PS4 games, with…

August 7, 2020, 154
The Darkside Detective 2 Cover Art

The Darkside Detective 2 Now Published By Akupara Games

Akupara Games is adding The Darkside Detective 2 and its predecessor to their library of games according to a press release on Tuesday. Akupara Games is already known for publishing…

August 4, 2020, 115
Games and Online Harassment Hotline

New Games and Online Harassment Hotline Provides Emotional Support to the Gaming Industry

The gaming community now has a free, dedicated place to get emotional support thanks to the Games and Online Harassment Hotline. The hotline is a text message-based service that allows…

August 3, 2020, 211
The Last of Us Part II Review

The Last of Us Part II Review – Back With a Vengeance

It’s quite the task to discuss The Last of Us Part II without spoiling anything. This review will attempt to dissect Ellie’s journey as vaguely as possible. I hope to…

August 3, 2020, 247
Shakes on a Plane Cover Art

Shakes on a Plane Comes to PC, Switch November 12

Shakes on a Plane was announced on Thursday by Assemble Entertainment, the publisher behind Leisure Suit Larry – Wet Dreams Don’t Dry. Shakes on a Plane is developed by Huu…

July 30, 2020, 223

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Update Releasing on October 29

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has sold over five million copies ahead of its new update release on October 29. The new update will serve largely as a way for players…

July 29, 2020, 149
Promotional image of Destroy All Humans showing the player's UFO firing its Death Ray upon a forest

Destroy All Humans Review — Ancient Aliens

Whether it be due to a growing discontent with the trend-obsessive AAA industry or the fact that we are running out of unimpeachable masterpieces to reissue, the remaster-and-reboot initiative has…

July 27, 2020, 307
Ghost of Tsushima Artwork

Ghost of Tsushima Sells 2.4 Million Copies in First Three Days

Ghost of Tsushima is breaking PS4 sales records! PlayStation Tweeted Friday morning that Ghost of Tsushima is officially the fastest-selling first-party original IP. That’s a lot of qualifiers, but regardless,…

July 24, 2020, 204
Halo Infinite

Xbox Games Showcase 2020 Roundup: Halo Infinite Gameplay and More Xbox Series X Exclusives

In Thursday’s Xbox Games Showcase, we finally got a comprehensive look at what people can look forward to with Xbox Series X, such as gameplay for Halo Infinite and an…

July 23, 2020, 242
Ubisoft Logo Video Games

Ubisoft Games Will Cost $60 on PS5 and Xbox Series X

In an earnings call on Wednesday, Ubisoft stated that their games for PS5 and Xbox Series X would cost $60 USD, the same as current-gen games, as reported by Jason…

July 22, 2020, 202