We're living in an era of reboots, remakes, and rehashes. Our media lives are constantly being rebirthed, and we are drinking up that nostalgia like it's going to dry up tomorrow. From movies to televisions shows, the past has found a way to circle back, and video games are no exception to this rule. Players are frothing at the mouth for remakes of legendary gems, but there's a fine line that developers must walk so as not to anger the beast that is the fanbase.
Many companies play it safe when re-releasing a game. They touch up the graphics, fix up the score, and then send it off into the world to make money. Other developers can get so caught up in remaking a game to perfection that it takes years to hit the shelf. Either way, the goal is to please the die-hard fans while making it accessible to a whole new generation. When it comes to Link's Awakening, this isn't Nintendo's first rodeo.
The original release has already seen a remake once, and it was a masterpiece, just like the original. As Nintendo's first hand-held Zelda game, and one of my personal favorites, this is one rerelease I'm both excited and nervous about. As the 2D pixel adventure is reborn in glorious HD and gets the 3D treatment, my expectations are high. My hope for the upcoming Switch version is that it takes a page from its predecessor and balances all the good things that make a great remake: graphic updates, same great story and puzzles, and just enough new content to make it seem fresh. It's been 26 years since the original release; it's time this hand-held classic was given new life.
An instant classic
When Link's Awakening was released on the Game Boy way back in 1993, Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series already had three well-received entries under its belt. With the new hand-held console taking the world by storm, it's no surprise that the company would want to use one of its established franchises to boost sales.
But Link's Awakening was more than just a good business decision. It laid the groundwork for many established Legend of Zelda tropes we love today. Never afraid to take chances, the story offers a refreshing twist on the series. It's the first to be set outside of the land of Hyrule and has no mention of Zelda or the Triforce.
We join a ship-wrecked Link as he washes up on the strange Koholint Island. Two locals, Maron and Taron find him, but immediately things are not as they seem. As a mysterious owl greets our hero with a plea to awaken the Windfish, a magical creature asleep on the island, Link must collect magical instruments to save the Windfish and return to Hyrule. Link is swept up in an adventure that has him dungeon crawling, encountering strange and enchanting characters, and exploring all of Koholint to uncover its dark secrets.
Beyond the story, the original Link's Awakening was a fantastic game. It had all the action and adventure you would expect out of a "Zelda" game, and so much more. It featured dungeons, clever mini-games, exploration, and a compelling narrative. It was the first game in the franchise to feature the trading sequence. It also paired overworld exploration with side-scrolling sequences and featured tons of new items players needed to solve tricky puzzles. Plus, it had a bunch of other Nintendo-based cameos like the Goombas from Mario and the loveable Kirby.
On top of all the exciting game elements, the soundtrack was incredibly unique. Apart from the exciting overworld theme, each dungeon had its own track. Another great addition to Link's Awakening was the mini-quests and puzzles that took place between dungeons. Limited only by the number of Game Boy buttons and its hardware, Link's Awakening was a pretty awesome game.
In 1998, after the release of the Game Boy Color, long-time fans were treated to a "Wizard of Oz" moment when Link's Awakening DX hit the shelves; the game came out in color. This first remake took care of a few bugs, added a few new compatible features like the Game Boy camera and printer, and arrived with a brand new colorful look.
Like a shiny new penny with a brand new hidden dungeon, Link's Awakening DX was everything fans wanted it to be. It fixed the issues, added a few new details, and kept everything that players loved about the original. It was perfect. Now, the game is getting the treatment again, and I couldn't be more excited.
The date is rapidly approaching, and as my excitement increases, so do my nerves. Like with any remake, developers need to be careful with how they handle the source material. The wrong tweaks can quickly destroy a masterpiece. Nostalgia is a powerful tool, and it could easily alienate die-hard fans.
But, as I stated before, Link's Awakening has been through this process before. I have faith that Nintendo will do this remaster right, though they are doing a lot more this time around. This new version is going to be a lot more than adding a dash of color. From the gameplay sneak-peaks to the fun trailers, the game looks stunning. With smoothly rendered HD graphics to a delightful reimagining of the captivating score, it's a new look for a game I loved and still love to this day. This time, however, it comes with a few more tweaks to make it play even better.
From the looks of it, the Link's Awakening remake is exactly what old-time fans would want. It's a beautiful upgrade with a few distinctive gameplay tweaks that can potentially make the older game feel fresh and familiar at the same time. However, the biggest change is that the entire game has shifted from a 2D experience to 3D. This will have a massive effect on how the game is played. In the older versions of Link's Awakening, Link would move about the screen, and the background would stay put. This was a bit awkward for screen transitions. However, the surroundings are now alive, and the different camera angles promise to make the screen transitions much easier.
Something I'm incredibly excited about is the inventory upgrade. With the Switch's capabilities, we are no longer limited to two buttons when using items. Some may argue this takes some of the challenges away from the game, but I'm less pessimistic. While inventory management might get more manageable, I'm sure there will be new ways to give the puzzles the right amount of challenge.
Also, the addition of "memories" to recall essential conversations in the game may be super helpful, especially if it means we don't have to look at unskippable warning messages.
Link's Awakening DX was a successful remake with a few new things added to the old formula for a unique gaming experience. While some of the additions like the camera and printer option were fun, they weren't exactly necessary. But it was something a little different to mix up the original.
Link's Awakening for the Switch has a similar add-on that could bring an extra element of fun. The new Dungeon Maker experience allows players to build their own dungeons. As you play through the main quest, players can unlock rooms for Dungeon Maker, and after speaking with Dampé the Grave Digger, you can construct your own dungeon.
The idea sounds great, and who wouldn't want a Zelda Dungeon Maker like Super Mario Maker? However, from what we've seen in-game demos, the Chamber Dungeons are pre-designed. Essentially, you are creating a dungeon using rooms you've already beaten within the game. Though the chambers are familiar, you can rearrange them in any way you want so long as you meet the requirements, such as putting in a room with a lock and a corresponding key.
I'm a little skeptical of the Dungeon Maker, since I'm not really sure if will offer much in replayability. While you can customize your dungeon, your customizations are limited. You could add to your dungeon using Legend of Zelda amiibo, including the special Link's Awakening amiibo releasing on September 20th, but these are not required elements.
Charming graphics, catchy tunes, and nostalgia to boot
Graphic updates, a remastered soundtrack, and a few new additions: Link's Awakening for Switch has a good chance at being a remaster done right. With so many remakes on the horizon, I'm hoping this classic gem done over will be one that separates from the pack and really shines. If the demos mean anything, this new design will not only bring in new fans for the series, but it will have long-time fans like me pre-ordering like it's my job. Let's be real; I already have it preordered. Link's Awakening (and Link's Awakening DX) is one of my favorite games of all time. I'm more than a little excited that it's getting the remake it truly deserves. I hope that it will live up to my expectations.
Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch comes out on Sept. 20, 2019.
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