The Charm, Nostalgia, and Limitations of Link’s Awakening on Switch

The Charm, Nostalgia, and Limitations of Link’s Awakening on Switch

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening released way back in 1993, with an enhanced port featuring colored visuals and an extra dungeon releasing a few years later in 1998. Praised upon its release, Link’s Awakening was somewhat of a forgotten gem in the series. Fans would bring it up as an excellent addition to the franchise, but with only a re-release on the 3DS’ virtual console in 2011, Link’s Awakening was largely forgotten…

… Which makes the Nintendo Switch remake of the game so much more exciting! Completely redone visuals, tweaks to the gameplay, a fully exploreable overworld, and a wonderful soundtrack lend themselves to Link’s Awakening on Switch. This version of the game feels similar to the original to illicit nostalgic moments, like freeing BowWow from the Moblin cave, but the changes and additions make the game feel fresh for a modern audience.

The original game only supported two buttons to use, since it was released on the Game Boy. The Switch clearly has more buttons than the Game Boy. Nintendo and developers Grezzo made many smart choices when updating the game to the Switch, with the biggest and best change being inventory usage. You no longer have to manually equip a sword and shield: Once you obtain them, you’ll always have them equipped. Items that were originally equipped like the Power Glove and Pegasus Boots are now automatically bound to the shoulder buttons. Other items like bombs and arrows can be assigned to the X or Y buttons freely, which still allows for your sword to be used in conjunction with these other items. These changes are excellent, and truly make the game feel much better than the admittedly clunky original.

It’s hard to not be impressed by the amount of detail, color, and overall charm dripping from this game. The overworld is lush and inviting. The houses of Koholint Island’s citizens are fully furnished and jammed with stuff. While exploring there’s this sort of haze around the edges of the screen, and it makes the overall visual presentation standout that much more. The Zelda franchise has always played around with visual styling to standout from not only other games out in the market, but other titles in the same series. Link’s Awakening on Switch is absolutely no exception, and has a true visual identity all its own.

As you explore the mysteries of Koholint Island you’ll find yourself battling Octoroks on the beach, Moblins in the woods, Tektites on the mountain, and crows in the cemetery. You’ll also notice how you seamlessly move from one section to the other, something not present in the original Game Boy version. While you previously moved from one screen to another, with the next section of the overworld sliding in from the side (just like the rooms you explore in the game’s dungeons) on the Game Boy, this remake has an entirely loaded, completely open world. It’s a really nice touch, however it makes me realize how small Koholint Island really is. Since you can freely move between sections, you’re traversing the world that much faster. Link’s Awakening is a much smaller adventure than other games in the series.

I have been enjoying the game for hours and hours so far, and am very close to the end of the game. However, I’ve been wondering to myself if I would be enjoying the game if I didn’t already play and have fond memories of the original Link’s Awakening. Having played the game before, I found myself looking past some of the archaic nuances the Switch remake carried over. The relatively simple dungeon designs and boss battles are a big one. The game is just too simple. It’s still enjoyable, but it’s not going to challenge you beyond the most basic of Zelda principles.

There are also some minor issues I have with the game. While exploring the open world the game tends to slow down every slightly when a lot of assets are on screen, namely grass. Not game breaking in any sense, it’s just an inconvenience. The prospect of the Dungeon Creator was such a cool idea beforehand, but in execution it is a bit of a letdown. This feature can be greatly improved, however, with some DLC and maybe the addition of dungeon tiles from other Zelda games!

Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy was a wonderful, portable entry in the Zelda franchise that found a lot of success and stayed with countless gamers over the years. The Nintendo Switch remake is a fantastic example of how to bring back an old entry in a renowned franchise. A handful of well implemented changes and additions to the game help bring it up to modern video game standards. Though some aspects of the game will leave you wanting more, if you’re a fan of the series or have played the original game the remake is based on, you’ll find more than enough to love here.


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I've been writing about video games for years and playing them even longer. You'll find me playing all types of games, old and new. Mega Man III is greater than Mega Man II.

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