BY DEAN MOSES
Game: The Legend of Zelda Link’s Awakening
Platform: Nintendo Switch Rating: E for Everyone
Some franchises are more than just intellectual properties to consumers. Like smelling a home-cooked meal for the first time since one’s youth, playing a retro video game can invoke childhood memories. Returning to the sights and sounds of a once familiar level can summon moments in time: thoughts, feelings, and even events originally experienced all those years ago. Like all pieces of art, video games are a powerful medium, filling our heads with stories and visuals like that of a dream. Following this dream motif, Nin-tendo has given us both a dose of nostalgia and a dreamlike state of wonder in the remake of The Legend of Zelda Link’s Awakening.
Remade like a Dream
This is a remake, not a remaster or a HD port of the original game that released on the Gameboy Color back in the 90’s. No, this Nintendo Switch edition has been completely recreated from the ground up. The narrative is simple enough. Our hero, Link, is sailing the sea when his ship is caught in a vicious storm causing—you guessed it—his vessel to be destroyed and the green-clad adventurer to become stranded on a mysterious island. Link awakens on a beach and soon discovers that he must embark on an epic journey if he is ever to escape this strange new world.
We control Link from a bird’s eye view, much like in the original game on the Nintendo Entertainment System. From this perspective, we traverse the island, speaking to its residents, vanquishing its monsters, and solving its many puzzles. While this famous series is known for both exciting action and its mind-boggling brainteasers, Link’s Awaking places an even greater emphasis on the latter. You see, the player must not only fight their way above ground, they will also need to venture beneath in the form of dungeons. These enemy-filled caverns will require gamers to use their mind slightly more than their brawn. Sometimes this is merely as simple as defeating all bad guys onscreen to open a locked door, other times it could be slightly more complicated like pushing blocks into a certain position, and then there are the truly flummoxing ones that will have people circling dungeons for what seems like hours, which is even more rewarding once completed. Finishing these think tanks earns Link new abilities, most of which help him get around the island while also aiding him with the next dungeon. At times the island feels like a garden maze, every corner a dead end until you gain the right equipment to proceed.
A Deep Sleep
This island is unlike any Zelda local we have ever explored. As previously mentioned, Link awakens on a beach, and as you may have guessed from the game’s title, this theme of sleep and dreams will play a big role in your gaming experience. Enemies are a mixture of the franchise’s classic who’s who of villains interspersed with—brace yourself—Super Mario baddies. That’s right, the mushroom headed Goombas, the gapping maws of the piranha plants, and the jumping fish Cheep Cheep all unexpectedly appear here. Even the Chain Chomp makes a cameo. To many this crossover may seem obscure. However, it actually works surprisingly well, adding to the mystic dream-like aura the game emits.
The Legend of Zelda Link’s Awakening is a stark contrast to the open world of Nintendo’s last Zelda outing. The fighting system is simple, and the game world feels almost claustrophobic in comparison. Does this sound negative? It shouldn’t. Link’s Awakening is still an artistic masterpiece in its own right. From the vivid and charming visuals to the mind-bending puzzles, this game will keep you glued to the screen. And if you were fortunate enough to have played the original, replaying this version will bring back memories you never even knew you had.