Sunday, June 6, 2021

Replaying Link's Awakening on Nintendo Switch

Link at the weather vane in Mabe Village

As a 35th Anniversary present to myself, I decided play through the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening another time. It was actually the first time on my own Nintendo Switch, where this has been on my list from the start and now felt like the perfect time to get back into this gem. And I finished it yesterday, just in time for the original game's own anniversary in Japan today (released on June 6th, 1993).

This is such an amazing "feel good" title from start to finish, where there is simply no dull moment. It looks great, it sounds great and it plays great. And there is always a great variety of things to collect and to do, especially around the first two thirds of the game. Given, this is mainly due to its more linear nature and how it uses items to gradually open up the overworld step by step.

I'm normally an advocate of the less linear Zelda games, because having more freedom usually offers more fun, where I was mostly happy with what A Link Between Worlds and Breath of the Wild have been doing. But Link's Awakening is pretty good at offering just the right amount of freedom at every step that I never feel like I'm getting guided or gated. Plus, it has that satisfying use of backtracking, where all the early dungeon items open up paths and secrets in a multitude of locations.

Link and Marin performing together with the ghost at the Animal Village

The remake also gives you a lot more to do between the dungeons with its additional Heart Pieces, Secret Seashells, the Chamber Dungeon, and the mini-games, especially the Trendy Game. Both it and the Chamber Dungeon offer something new after each dungeon, where I personally enjoy these stops quite a lot.

The Chamber Dungeon is also more fun and interesting if you do it step-by-step. You can even do some self-imposed challenges here, like using all the (new) chambers from a specific dungeon. This way things turn more into a puzzle and you can't just rely on the easiest chambers. I had already completed all the challenges twice so far and the solutions, while sometimes similar, turn out different every time. In some cases even quite drastically.

With the Chamber Dungeon you also get quite the big extension in the post-game or just before the final boss with Damp├ęs special challenges. Those can take a while, where I'm actually still in the middle of those, but I enjoy the process of dungeon-crafting and then shopping for new Chamber Stones in the Mabe Village shop. It's padding and busywork, but fully optional, unless you want to truly 100% the game, and if you like the Chamber Dungeon it's really where you make the most out of it.

Of course nothing is ever perfect and there a couple of gripes that I have with the remake, despite all its improvements, which I have already explained in my review and during my original playthrough. But the following issues / nitpicks are the ones that still annoyed me quite a bit while replaying the remake:

  • It activates the "get item" message every time you pick up a Guardian Acorn or a Piece of Power, which happens quite often. These messages also have a small delay to them, so you can't skip them right away, which makes this even more annoying. Ideally, it would only show these the first time you find them, similar to the apples.
  • There is no teleporter at the exit of the long cave going into the Tal Tal Mountain Range, even though you have to go up there a couple of times...
  • There are chests with Secret Medicines in the last three dungeons, where you will have to put it back if you already own one. This was better in the DX version and ideally those chests would contain some of the Chamber Stones instead.

Sadly, the game never got a real update, only one to fix a glitch with Marin, despite there being so much potential. The Chamber Dungeon alone would have been an amazing hook for some new content. So, there are some regrets here, but overall it doesn't diminish the lovely experience that this remake offers.

It's so good that I probably won't wait all that long until playing through the remake again, next time in Hero Mode.

PS: ← ← ← ↑ → → → ↑

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