Monday, November 4, 2019

Link's Awakening – Chamber Dungeon Review

Link standing inside Dampe's Shack, wearing the Red Mail

When it comes to updating, remastering or remaking Zelda games there is usually the question of additional contents, mainly in the form of new dungeons. The Palace of the Four Sword, the Hero's Trial, the Cave of Shadows – they are all examples of added content to an existing Zelda game, for better or worse. And the first Zelda game to ever receive a new dungeon was Link's Awakening DX on the GameBoy Color with its Color Dungeon.

However, these additions might not always be on par with the rest of the game, where the Color Dungeon is already a good example. Link's Awakening has some of the best 2D dungeons in the series, where the addition in the DX version couldn't really live up to the rest, because it felt rather simplistic in comparison.

And so far GREZZO hasn't been known for great level design, where they were mostly making linear levels for the Four Swords Anniversary Edition and Tri Force Heroes. So, it was probably a good decision to go with a "do it yourself" solution here and let the players make their own new dungeons instead...

The Chamber Dungeon is the big, new addition in the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch, where according to Eiji Aonuma it was even a key motivator behind the project.

screenshot of Dampé's Shack in the Tal Tal Heights

You can find it where the Camera Shop used to be in Link's Awakening DX, to the north of the Tabahl Wasteland and the graveyard. That's a rather fitting spot, because the whole feature is hosted by Dampé, the weird gravedigger, who first appeared in Ocarina of Time and by now has starred in a total of six Zelda games.

You can first play the Chamber Dungeon after beating the second dungeon (even though it would have been possible after the first) and after every dungeon you beat you'll be getting new chambers and challenges. So, like the new Trendy Game this is something, where you might want to return to regularly.

Arranging Dungeons

Dampé lets you build dungeons based on pre-defined chambers in the form of stone tablets that you can collect and place on a grid. This is very reminiscent of the dungeons in the first NES Zelda game, where everything was based on square rooms with centered doorways. Luckily, the dungeons in Link's Awakening were still partly designed like that – the Color Dungeon, which pays homage to the dungeons from the first Zelda game, even in its entirety. So, a lot of it did get transformed into chambers, which automatically unlock after each dungeon.

Each Chamber Dungeon starts with an entrance and ends with a Nightmare's Lair, where both were taken from the nine dungeons in the game. The other chambers all have pre-defined exits, locks, chests and stairways, where the latter connect automatically based on a nearest neighbor principle. For every locked door there needs to be a chest and the last chest that you open will give you the Nightmare Key, which is required to finish the dungeon. That's it. This is how the whole system works, which overall doesn't allow for much customization.

An arrangement in the Chamber Dungeon trying to recreate the Tail Cave

For a dungeon to become playable you need to make sure that everything fits together. So, every door on every chamber needs to lead to another chamber. There need to be enough chests for all the locked doors. There needs to be an even number of stair cases. And of course there need to be the entrance and the Nightmare's Lair, the start and finish point of the dungeon.

The builder menu does a good job at telling you whatever might be missing, so putting together a functional dungeon is a very simple task. The chambers are sorted by the number of exits they provide and the dungeons they are from, where you can quickly navigate the different tabs with the shoulder buttons. Sadly, there are no touch controls available for handheld mode, but arranging a dungeon works good enough with button inputs.


However, this isn't just for your own amusement, but instead this is all about solving Dampé's challenges, where you have to place your chambers in a way that fits certain criteria. Often there are fixed chambers in place or sometimes there are tiles where you have to place a locked door, a chest or stairs. Other tiles might be blocked, preventing you from building on them. And for other challenges you have to fill out a certain shape, which is also reminiscent of classic Zelda dungeons, where the maps often were little pixel arts.

a solution to the Nothing but Stairs challenge

Once you're done, you also have to play through the dungeon, where afterwards you get certain rewards from Dampé, including Pieces of Heart, additional chambers and one of the new Fairy Bottles. There are twelve basic challenges in total, which get unlocked over the course of the game. And when you're done with them all you will get twelve advanced challenges, though the latter will only reward you with lots of Rupees.

Some challenges also put restrictions on you when you play them – you either have no sword, only few hearts or a time limit, where you have to carefully consider which chambers you want to use.

But most of it is really trivial, where there are only very few challenges that might actually be "challenging" to overcome. The challenges are rarely ever stopping you from using simple chambers with only easy enemies or no enemies at all. And there are plenty of simple chambers to choose from, which even allows you to trick in many of the challenges one way or the other.

Free Mode

An addition to the challenges you can also freely create your own dungeons on eight open slots. This sounds exciting at first, but you might not get much out of this, except for building your own boss rush or something that helps you farm Rupees. You will already make good use of most of the chambers when you're solving all the challenges, so you might not feel the urge to build even more dungeons afterwards...

A Chamber Dungeon shaped like a Rupee and which can be used for Rupee farming.

And the whole thing only works the way it does, because Link's Awakening has some excellent dungeons in the first place, which are fun to (re)play. So, letting you re-arrange its dungeon rooms in any way you want can certainly be fun and interesting. But the individual rooms lack the big picture of the original dungeons and playing the same puzzles and bosses again and again can get boring quickly...

So, in order for this to be more appealing it needs two things. The first would be online sharing, because right now you can only share your creations by saving them onto an amiibo, which feels like an awkward limitation in the times of the paid Nintendo Switch Online service. If you don't have any friends nearby who also play the game, you probably won't ever get to play the dungeons created by others.

But the way the dungeon building works right now this is even understandable, because all the dungeons out there would end up feeling quite similar. There simply aren't enough customization options to make your dungeons more unique. It should already start with giving them a name or choosing the music track. And ideally you should also be able to set locked doors, to connect stairs any way you want and to select restrictions, like a time limit.

Of course some of this would break the existing challenges, so these additional options and tools should only be available in the free mode. And with more customization in the free mode available, sharing your dungeons online and playing the dungeons of Zelda fans worldwide would automatically become more interesting. But the way it is right now, it's just a lot of missed potential.

The Chambers

There is currently a total of 193 chambers in the game, which includes 22 unlockable chambers, five amiibo-exclusive chambers and six "plus effects". So, that's 160 chambers that are coming straight from the dungeons, where for the most part the only difference are the stone doorways, which are always a visual indicator that you're inside the Chamber Dungeon.

Some of the chambers have been modified to make them work on their own or when entering them from all sides. But rarely anything was really modified heavily, so it's for the most part the rooms that you already know from the existing dungeons.

Dodongo Snake chamber from Turtle Rock with an elevated area
One of the more unique chambers.

In addition there are altered chambers, which all have to be unlocked. But for the most part this just offers new versions of existing chambers with a different number of exits, which is a little bit boring. However, this also includes variants of all boss chambers, which now can be placed anywhere in your dungeon, allowing you to build your own boss rush.

Speaking of, it's kind of a shame that none of the challenges actually force you to go through all bosses. Some of them make use of fixed boss rooms, but if you want a complete boss rush, you'll need to build your own. But at least you can, where almost all bosses and mini-bosses are available in some form.

Still, there are some rooms in the existing dungeons that could have been transformed into a chamber, but weren't. The most notable exceptions are the Dodongo Snakes room from Level 3 and anything from the game's finale. The latter is especially disappointing, since there is even a postgame available, where this could have been unlocked.

Also, it feels like a missed opportunity that there aren't many rooms that are exclusive to the Chamber Dungeon. They could have done all sorts of things here, even chambers with completely new enemies and bosses, but except for the few "special chambers", which are exclusive to amiibo, there isn't much to see here. Another missed opportunity.

Plus Effects

The plus effects are the only real way of modifying a chamber, where you can place the effect on top of it. Only one plus effect can be used per chamber and not every plus effect can be used everywhere. They are all optional and can make your life easier or harder, depending on the effect.

The "+Hearts" and "+Rupees" effects are of the helpful kind and let hearts and Rupees rain from the ceiling, respectively. You can only use them once per dungeon, however. The "+Bombs" effect, which lets exploding bombs drop from the ceiling, on the other hand can be used almost everywhere and it can both screw or help you, where it's quite useful against certain bosses and devilish in rooms with cracked floors.

the northeast room of the Bottle Grotto, but with four Pols Voice

The most interesting effect is probably "+Monsters". It doubles the existing number of normal foes in a chamber, which makes for a far more action-packed experience. This effect is so much fun, it's a shame that you actually can't get it before finishing the entire game. And it should have been the default for this game's Hero Mode.

There is also the "+Wallmaster" effect, where once you've entered a room with this effect, a Wallmaster keeps chasing you around the entire dungeon, except for boss chambers. This is interesting, because it triggers a dungeon-wide effect and also features an enemy, which originally didn't appear in Link's Awakening.

Sadly, that's already it, not counting the amiibo-exclusive "+Shadow Link" effect. There probably would have been a lot more potential for similar ideas, but GREZZO stopped with these few effects.

Chamber Stones

If the many Secret Seashells and Pieces of Heart in the remake still aren't enough for you, there are also 14 Chamber Stones to collect. But unlike the other collectibles you won't find these hidden somewhere in chests or the environment, where instead they are treated like the most valuable rewards for Koholint's different attractions, like the mini-games. Half of the Chamber Stones are simply purchased from the shop for 1280 Rupees each, so there's a lot to do with your cash in the remake.

Link holding a Chamber Stone inside the Town Tool Shop

Two of them unlock new plus effects, the best ones even, which is awesome, but all the others only give you modified chambers. And here's the problem: the Chamber Stones don't really feel all that rewarding, especially if you're not invested in the Chamber Dungeon.

If a player achieves a highscore in a mini-game and then only gets one of these stones, it must feel really underwhelming. That this might turn out to be an already existing mini-boss chamber with a different number of doors doesn't help either, where the Chamber Stones just don't cut it as the "ultimate reward".

Here it probably would have been better to put some of them inside dungeon chests instead, replacing some of the Rupees and maybe even those annoying Secret Medicines. This would have been thematically more fitting as well and make getting some of the dungeon chests more worthwhile.


The Chamber Dungeon also serves as a hook for amiibo and with a total of 24 different amiibo of The Legend of Zelda characters "available" it's only natural that Nintendo might want to make use of them somehow. Compared to Breath of the Wild you won't be scanning them on a daily basis, however... In fact you will only need five of them to unlock everything, including the new Link's Awakening Link amiibo that was released together with the remake.

Link receiving the Armos' Knight Chamber from Dampé

What they do is unlocking so called special chambers in a random order. You can use any five of the different Zelda amiibo for this, but you can't use the same one twice. And that's really it. You unlock them once and then you can put your amiibo back on your shelf. It's the simplest form of amiibo rewards there is and not really inspired, because with one exception there isn't anything that ties to the individual amiibo.

What's also a shame is that this is the only way of obtaining chambers with contents that aren't present in the game's dungeons, like some of other mini-boss encounters. This includes the Moblin Chief, the Armos Knight and the Ball and Chain Trooper.

Ball and Chain Soldier chamber

However, there is so much more that could have been done with these special chambers. For example the Lanmola mini-boss is completely absent from the Chamber Dungeon and the official website speaks of a "Cracked Floor Chamber", which has been replaced with the "Winged Item Chamber"...

The only amiibo that gives you a unique reward is the new Link's Awakening Link amiibo, which unlocks the Shadow Link plus effect. This spawns a Shadow Link inside the chamber (once per dungeon), who then will keep re-appearing until you defeat him for some Rupees. This sounds pretty cool at first, but the fights feel really underwhelming when compared to the Shadow Links in A Link Between Worlds and Tri Force Heroes.

The main difference from the Nintendo 3DS games is that the Shadow Link doesn't use any items any longer and you can't use any of your items on him. So, it's just about blocking his sword attacks with your shield and striking when the time is right. And this makes these fights rather dull and not really worth the trouble.

Probably the best thing about amiibo right now is that it lets you store your dungeons onto them. The saving feature of the amiibo gets utilized rarely anyway (only the Wolf Link amiibo did this with the Cave of Shadows in Twilight Princess HD and of course the figure players in Super Smash Bros.), where currently this is your only way of sharing your Chamber Dungeon creations and transporting them to other save files.

This isn't a real replacement for online sharing, but certainly better than nothing. And even with online sharing in place you still might want to make use of them, e.g. to store your Rupee farming dungeon.

It also saves your current time record onto the amiibo, where others now can try to surpass it. But don't worry, there aren't any rewards locked behind beating records, so this is only for your own entertainment and completely optional.


With its fixed chambers, the challenges and its overall simplicity the Chamber Dungeon doesn't really strive at being a dungeon maker, but more of a dungeon puzzler. And this is where this feature fails at being either one, because most of the challenges aren't really that challenging and for the Chamber Dungeon to have any lasting appeal it lacks the necessary level of customization, as well as a way of sharing your creations online...

It is a fun way or re-arranging and re-experiencing the contents from the existing dungeons in Link's Awakening, but it also barely offers anything new and overall feels like a pond of missed opportunities. Let's hope that Nintendo and GREZZO might consider delivering a Chamber Dungeon Update for the game, fixing some of its shortcomings and adding new contents.

The Good:
  • Fun dungeon play for in-between
  • Re-arrange the game's dungeons as you please
  • Keeps expanding after every conquered dungeon
  • Nice way of replaying almost all bosses
  • Simple to use interface
  • You can save dungeons to your amiibo

The Bad:
  • Lack of customization in the Chamber Dungeon's free mode
  • No online sharing for your Chamber Dungeons
  • Challenges are often too easy
  • Uninspired use of amiibo unlockables
  • Chamber Stones don't feel very rewarding
  • Only few chambers with new contents
  • No touch controls supported

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