There can be many valid reasons to choose to make a video game remake, but in my opinion there are two fundamental reasons. The first is that the title in question offers a sufficient quality to be deserving of such a gesture, which I would dare to define as love, or to be reworked with care to recur to the public. The second is that it can actually benefit from a "rejuvenation", as it is relevant to make it more accessible to today's players. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening embodies exactly the ideal game to give a second life to, so it is with great joy that I approached replaying it in the 2019, aware that its existence is a real gift to us fans.
Link's Awakening continues the story of its predecessor, A Link to the Past, and opens the curtain on Wrecked link on the mysterious island of Koholint. It is not my habit to reveal much of the plot of a title in the reviews, and I will make no exception even in this case, even considering that the history of Koholint is now known by more than 25 years. This does not change the fact that many new players can get closer to the title, and that they have every right to be upset by the story it tells: because yes, it is shocking. I find that this game offers a high level story and above all that it is able to make those who listen to it shudder, perhaps even more than Majora's Mask and other openly disturbing titles. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening brings a good part of our adventure to life more than from villains to heroes: there is always an evil shadow behind us, which is the creeping feeling of not combining anything good. Unclear signs and cryptic messages accompany us as we go, and they make us understand that life on Koholint is not as idyllic as it may seem at first sight. All immersed in an atmosphere of jovial and playful adventure.
The title, as it typically happens in the TLOZ saga, bases its gameplay on three fundamental elements: map exploration, dungeon resolution and fighting. Link's Awakening was particularly known for the difficulty of finding your way around the island, which sometimes bordered on madness: it was not at all obvious where to go, considering that many areas were accessible from the beginning, but full of lethal traps. Koholint presents various settings, including a classic desert, an area with ruined temples, mountains, prairie and the beach. In each of these regions it is possible to find hidden labyrinths, but above all it is possible to find one of the many scattered secrets. Virtually every scenario offers something to do, and to wander carefully is almost vital, since many elements are mandatory to continue with the story, or at least very useful. Relevant from this point of view is the famous barter chain: since the dawn of history we can find objects and start exchanging them with other NPCs, until we get a final tool that we need to finish the game. And it is not at all easy, since we have hardly any signs of where to find them. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening on Nintendo Switch does almost nothing to make our life easier: there are no extra hints, although additional teleporters have been added to move more quickly on the island. Although the gameplay has remained the same, there has been a change that makes the exploration more agile, and it is the absence of the division into screens: before Link moved from scene to scene moving from one screen to another, with the image that moved in that direction and reloaded. In today's title, the map is a whole almost open-world, and this makes it easier to find your way around and even more enjoyable to enjoy walks at Koholint.
The Link's Awakening dungeons offer an increasing and very well calibrated difficulty. The first that the player is facing is quite short and linear, but going forward complex mechanics are introduced, and an imposing backtracking is required in the maze map. None of the dungeons reach the complexity of the TLOZs designed for fixed consoles, as it should be, but I challenge anyone to say that they crossed the Turtle Rock without thoughts and without throwing horrible and sullen curses at the consul. To make way for us it is important to use the various tools we have available, which are really many, from the classic grapple to the magic powder. The original Link's Awakening did its best to allow the player to juggle the various objects, but the GameBoy only had two buttons: this forced continuous inventory changes to change equipment, infinitely frustrating. Fortunately, Nintendo Switch is much better equipped, and this means that on balance it is necessary to remap only one button during the game (in my case the X), assigning from time to time any necessary secondary instrument. This change seems minimal, but actually makes the game extremely enjoyable, almost a brand new title.
The complexity of battles in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is not too high: bosses generally only have one phase and it's never hard to figure out how to hit them. It is also a legacy of the portable nature of this TLOZ, which was not meant for epic half-hour fights. The challenge was further facilitated by the presence in this version of more heart boxes, that make Link a sort of tank / bouncer / bodyguard. Empty bottles have also been added, which - as the fans of the series know well - means "pocket healing fairies". The most difficult enemies are those we meet at the beginning, when we are still tender chicks wet from the shipwreck, while at the end of the game, between extra life and upgraded equipment, we feel able to challenge even the whole world. There is no need to fear though: if you want tears and blood, you can dedicate yourself to the heroic mode, where every stroke immediately makes the double more evil. And healing is a real undertaking.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a very faithful remake to the original title, and the differences must be searched with the magnifying glass. There are more hidden objects around the map, such as heart boxes and shells, and some weapons like the boomerang have been made less powerful, but the list ends here. The only real substantial change was to insert Danpei's Hut, where the rough miner offers us to create dungeons, thanks to various cards that we collect around in the game. His house stands where the photographer's shop was in Link's Awakening DX, so the Photo minigame has been removed and completely forgotten, to my great regret. The activity of creating mazes has quite disappointed me. There are some criteria to be respected from time to time, and it is then necessary to overcome the map ourselves to get rewards, but it is not particularly fun. The basic idea is to challenge ourselves to overcome our creations, but knowing beforehand which cards, and therefore obstacles, we will find, the surprise effect of the dungeon goes to hell. Definitely more fun must be proposing the challenge to unsuspecting friends, or adding to the recipe Link Shadow that chases us, which can be unlocked with the amiibo of the game soon on sale.
Speaking of technical realization, the developers should be sincerely applauded for their style. Yes, many players have hated the lovely and plastic aspect of Koholint, but I find them heartless: the game is simply beautiful. Every detail, be it an enemy, a tree or an animal, is pleasing to the eye and makes you want to stick your hand in the console to pull it out and keep it in the bedroom. The brilliant colors, which are extinguished only in the cemetery area, accompany us pleasantly and keep the player's mood high, even in the face of sudden threats. Splendid also the orchestrated music and the various songs sung: to pass from the music of the city to that of the heroic exploration of the prairie has been very exciting.
The only real off-key element is the frequent drop in frame rates, up to 30 FPS, which takes place by moving to new areas of the map, especially if crowded with enemies. It often happens that there are several elements on the screen, and the fluidity is affected. In the sections in which we carry with us the Categnaccio the problem is particularly annoying, but to be honest this defect did not prevent me from enjoying the experience. The frame rate remains strangely stable in dungeons, which are often rich in monsters and other objects, so I imagine the problem is mainly the vast map on the island.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a dive into an ocean of adventures, as well as the ideal vacation we should all take, especially now that summer is over. It offers a map full of secrets to explore, a good number of varied dungeons and a story that can give you the creeps, even when you don't expect it. The adorable design chosen softens it a little, but its wild beauty remains completely intact.