The new addition to the Zelda fam, Link’s Awakening for the Nintendo Switch, checks aaaalllll the boxes to be a great game. Incredible graphics? Check. Triumphant return to the top-down view? Check yeah! Memorable characters? Check. Great controls and gameplay? Check-a-roonie. Engaging storyilne? Of course. But… that’s kind of where my problem with Link’s Awakening arises.
See, I’m old school. I got the original Link’s Awakening shortly after I got my big-brick Game Boy under the Christmas tree. I remember playing it in the demo kiosk at Walmart and thinking, I need to know what happens next! Link’s Awakening blew me away with the actual work that was put into it.
See, I’m old-school.
Back then, most Game Boy games were just stripped-down ports of games from NES or SNES. Games like Castlevania: The Adventure, Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge, and TMNT: Fall of the Foot Clan turned out pretty well. But I don’t think any kid back then would have preferred the Game Boy version to their big-screen counterparts. Once games like Mortal Kombat started attempting to port digitized graphics to the small screen, the results were even less spectacular.
But Link’s Awakening was truly special. As I said, the amount of work that went into it made it stand out spectacularly from its Game Boy brethren. For the first time since Mario Land, there was a Game Boy game that actually made me want to spend time with it, even though my SNES was sitting right over there, gathering dust.
So yes. I am an OG fan of Link’s Awakening. I’ve replayed it many times over the years, and was particularly impressed with the DX version. I just replayed a few months before the Switch remake was announced. So as I play Link’s Awakening, I’m thinking, “This is great. But wasn’t I just here?”
Maybe I was hoping for more than just a re-skin of the classic. Maybe I was hoping too much. Probably I was. Dampe’s dungeon builder is a really nice touch, and some of the other frills are welcome. Of course.
I can’t help but wonder what might have been, if the masterminds at Nintendo had instead used their energy and resources to create an original experience. Maybe they felt it would be a quick job just to do a face transplant for a classic Zelda title. Sort of a bonus game between Breath of the Wild 1 and 2. Just to keep fans at bay. I could dig that.
But at the same time, I find myself really wishing hard that this was a Link’s Awakening II, or even a reimagining along the lines of what Metroid: Samus Returns got for the 3DS. They could have stuck to the same story, but expanded the map and added new details and events to delight old-school players, and new-school players would still want to go try the original to see what was different.
Hell, they might even consider including the original Link’s Awakening on the cartridge. Or hidden it somewhere as an Easter egg. See, Nintendo? I’m full of great ideas. Hit me up!
Link’s Awakening for the Nintendo Switch IS a great game. Leave it to the Zelda franchise to live up to the overwhelming hype. Somehow. And I do love the game. But I can’t help thinking there might be a missed opportunity here.
Or maybe this is the start of a pattern, and we’ll see a remake for Zelda II soon? I’ve got my fingers crossed.
Anyway, Link’s Awakening is Ghetto Approved.–GG