Link's Awakening Preview
We got our hands on Link’s Awakening and fell in love. Read on for our full preview, and be sure to check out all our coverage from Gamescom 2019.
Whilst most of the recent Zelda hype has been around the Breath of the Wild sequel, we’ve still got the adorable remake of Link’s Awakening to tide us over before we return to Hyrule. Koholint Island has been re-created in a unique new way, but beneath the fresh coat of paint, the game feels satisfyingly familiar.
The beauty of the thing is what hits you first. Even the opening sequence has been redone, and the artwork that plays out as Link finds himself shipwrecked frankly makes me want an entirely new Zelda animated series in that style.
Once the dust settles and you enter the game proper, it becomes one of the most charming games I think I’ve ever played. The little chibi characters of Koholint Island are jam-packed with personality, you can’t help but fall in love with every single one of them.
Moving around town was actually a little weird at first. Everything looks so new, and yet if you’re familiar with the original on GameBoy, it’s all eerily familiar. Once you get past the initial surprise, the nostalgia kicks in and your face gets plastered with an immovable grin.
Everything you remember from 1993 is here. There’s no ‘re-imagining’ going on, buildings are in the same places, with the same layouts. Trees are exactly where you left them. Long grass, having not learnt its lesson, has returned to exact same spots to be chopped down again. Link’s Awakening had such a unique personality amongst Zelda games, so it’s pleasing to see that the attention to detail here has kept all of that in tact.
Not that this is only a game for long-time fans. This is a Zelda game after-all, and therefore is a ton of fun to play whether you’re familiar with the Windfish or not. If anything I found it a little easier than the original incarnation. I always remember struggling with how to use the shield back in my youth, yet parrying blows from enemies and striking in the resulting opening made me spend far too long just wandering around looking for yet another satisfying fight.
Away from the heat of battle, and all the puzzles are present and correct. From shifting boulders around in the forest, to hooking a Yoshi doll in the crane game, the excitement of puzzling out the right solution never gets old. Link’s own excitement when you grab a new item, etched onto his claymation-like face, is enough to make you forge onward itself.
A Little Extra Polish
Whilst the presentation is undoubtedly charming, with a tilt-shifted effect to keep you focused on the action, there were a couple of performance issues that raised an eyebrow this close to release.
There was undoubtedly some slowdown in one or two places, and although the game looks relatively clean, there were one or two noticeable jagged edges too. Given that that’s not something I often pay much attention to, it was a slight cause for concern.
That said, this was the same demo that was showcased back at E3, so it’s entirely possible that these issues will have been ironed flat by the time Link’s Awakening drops at the end of September.
The only other thing that may be a little divisive is the way Link moves around. I hadn’t noticed from the trailers, but the little hero moves on the same 8 point axis he did 25 years ago. It certainly adds to the familiarity, and I found it charming in it’s own way, but it did feel slightly at odds with the fresh visuals.
What’s Old Is New Again
Series producer Eiji Aonuma actually teased this remake back in 2016, and it’s evident that a lot of time and effort has gone into faithfully reproducing this fan-favourite adventure. If the adorable art style doesn’t pull you in, the attention paid to carefully recreating the Gameboy classic will make you feel all warm and fuzzy.
Some of the rougher edges do make you wonder if it originally started life as a project for the 3DS, but with every aspect of this quirky quest present and correct, it will make a fine addition to the Switch’s library.
Link’s Awakening may need a little extra polish before launch, but this remake is shaping up to be the perfect stop gap to the Breath of the Wild sequel.
Phil is the co-founder and editor of Nintendo Village, and also writes, hosts and produces P Myth Gaming. He has been a Nintendo fanboy for as long as he can remember and owns every home console bar the Virtual Boy (one day... one day...). His favourite game is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.