On September 20, Nintendo released a remake of the legendary The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, a game your granddad probably played back in the day. And now that every child who played it is now a granddad themselves, Nintendo has released it for a more modern and technically-demanding audience.
And surprise surprise, it's really good. In fact, some may argue that it's even better than the original, but that's like saying putting butter on steak makes it taste better. Maybe it does, but you can only improve on perfection so much.
These are five things we loved about the remake, and five things we didn't.
OK, let's get the obvious out of the way early. Yes, the graphics are awesome, but then again, that's to be expected. Developer Grezzo did an absolutely fantastic job visually upgrading this game for the new generation, as the graphics are spectacular, the visuals are crisp and modern, and it has a unique art style that helps distinguish it from other Zelda games. But along with that, they also retained the tilt-shift visuals and top-down perspective, beautifully blending the old with the new. We truly are living in the Golden Age of video game remakes...if you want to make that a thing.
We can overlook the game's technical problems (because it's just so darned good), but no can deny that they're there. Imagine sitting on your couch and enjoying a game, but every twenty minutes someone comes over and kicks you in the shin.
Yeah, it's annoying, and it can get really old after awhile, but it doesn't really detract from your enjoyment of the game itself. That's what it's like playing Link's Awakening, as the game suffers from more than its fair share of lag and frame rate drops. It's nothing game breaking, but you can't help but wince in anticipation of the next shin kick.
Grezzo could have simply made this Link's Awakening as a 1:1 remake, and to be honest, we probably still would have loved it. But we're very glad that they decided to spice it up with some extra new content.
For example, it included the Color Dungeon from Link's Awakening DX, but it also contained a ton of new stuff like a permanently equipped sword and shield, a fairy bottle, upgraded mini-games and physics engines, and Amiibo compatibility. We love when developers take risks with remakes and add something fresh, and Grezzo did an impeccable job of updating the gameplay with some modern tweaks.
Perhaps the biggest addition to the game are the Chamber Dungeons, which allows players to create their own dungeons. Unfortunately, this mechanic has not gone over very well with the Zelda community. Some see it as tedious and frustrating. Others see it as simply boring. And others think it was unnecessary addition at best, borderline distraction at worst. Luckily, you can completely ignore this mechanic, which is what every single player will end up doing. But, like Navi, it's always going to be there, beckoning and generally annoying us with its presence. It's best to just get rid of it entirely and forget that it ever existed. Or at least make it significantly more interesting.
One of the coolest surprises of the newest Link's Awakening were the traditionally animated cutscenes. There's no beating around the bush - these cutscenes are gorgeous, and they beautifully compliment an already beautiful game. It also helps modernize the game for a new generation, as both the original Link's Awakening and Link's Awakening DX utilized sprite graphics in the cutscenes, and that's just not gonna fly in today's day and age. We mean, they could, but it would be kinda jarring to go from nicely updated graphics to sprite graphic cutscenes, no?
The problem with remaking an old video game is that feels like you're playing an old video game. Unfortunately, that is also the case with Link's Awakening. As we've said, this game is nearly thirty years old, and while Grezzo did a nice job with the modern tweaks and flourishes, it can only hide the archaic gameplay so much.
It's like seeing a 60 year old pretending to be 30 - we all know how old you really are! Of course, this isn't too much of a problem if you loved, or continue to love, Link's Awakening. But new players may find breaking into the old school gameplay a bit of a hurdle. We don't exactly know how they would go about patching this, but a few quality-of-life changes certainly couldn't hurt.
Despite the game's relatively short length, Grezzo did include a few fancy gameplay mechanics that helpfully increased replayability for all the die-hards who can't get enough Zelda. So, all Zelda fans. For example, players can run through previously completed dungeons in a time attack mode, and depending on performance, are gifted various items and upgrades for their effort. It's nothing revolutionary, because really, how many times can you complete the same dungeon? Not to mention, time attack modes are like candy - they're fun at first, but you can only have so much before you start to get sick. Still, it's nice of Grezzo to have given us this delicious candy!
This is similar to the other point about archaic gameplay, but we think it's unique enough to deserve its own spot. Like we mentioned, Link's Awakening, despite its modern flourishes, still plays like a thirty year old game. And unfortunately, that includes the obtuse and frustrating level design that often accompanied these types of games back in the 80s and 90s. It will obviously not be a problem for returning veterans, or even those looking for a challenge, but new or casual players used to the more slick and modern level designs of today's gaming landscape may find themselves a little frustrated. Again, just a few quality-of-life patches could go a long way in making this game more accessible to younger, modern players.