To certain discerning Zelda fans you can keep your Breath of the Wild, and Ocarina of Time and Link to the Past can get back in the loft with your N64 and SNES. Wind Waker? Well, it might have been criminally under appreciated in its heyday, but it’s still not a patch on Link’s Awakening.
That’s right, it’s not the fancy pants home console games, but the first portable rendition that many treasure most in the venerable series. In the era of modernised remakes, it makes sense for Nintendo to revive this classic, and even revise and add to it in some ways.
The first thing you’re greeted by are the games wonderful new visuals. The game now sports the look of a claymation miniature, with a hefty tilt-shift effect blurring the top and bottom of the screen. That might be a bit divisive at the end of the day, and could also be playing a part in the frame stutters we saw with this E3 build of the game, but I’d expect the latter at least to be ironed out and hopefully there might be a visual option for the blurring.
OK, in fairness the new graphics are the second thing you see, after an animated cutscene that sees Link caught in a fearsome storm and crashing onto Koholint Island. There he’s found on the beach by Marin and brought back to Mabe Village to recuperate.
There’s still the essence of the Game Boy original throughout. As you head out from Marin and Tarin’s home to reclaim your sword, you’re exploring a world built around the same grid system of classic Zelda games, but have smoother movement through the analogue stick and full eight directional movement, and without breaks between screens. Purists will have to cross their fingers here though, because theres no D-pad support for movement at this point. Hopefully Nintendo add this in before launch, as it could feel a little more natural and precise, but with enhanced movement, using the shoulder button for the shield and being able to assign items to X and Y, it feels so much more fluid than returning to Link’s Awakening DX through the 3DS Virtual Console.
It’s upon reaching the sword that you’re given the main thrust of the story by a giant owl… obviously. The Wind Fish is sleeping atop the mountain at the centre of the island, keeping Link trapped there unless he can awaken it. Meanwhile, there’s monsters on the loose and dungeons to tackle, starting with a trip to the foggy Mysterious Forest to hunt for the key to Tail Cave.
A big part of the charm of Link’s Awakening came through its mini-games and nods to the rest of Nintendo’s games. This remake adds physics into the mix, so there’s a little more complexity to the side-on fishing mini-game (which is now a staple of the series), and the claw grabber is now as wonderfully wonky as real world machines you can lose far too much money on. It’s there that you’ll find the Yoshi doll that starts off a chain of item trading that runs through the whole game.
Also new is a fascinating dungeon creator mode, where you slot together dungeon tiles in a specific shape and then battle your way through it. While it wasn’t something we got to try in our brief time with the game, it looks like an excellent addition to the game, and a worthwhile repurposing of the DX version’s Camera Shop from the Game Boy Color.
While not the most sensational of remakes that we’ve seen in recent times, this Link’s Awakening remake is almost certain to delight fans of the classic Legend of Zelda series. The new art style is gorgeous, matched by the chamber orchestra renditions of its soundtrack, and Nintendo are making sensible changes in all the right places to subtly modernise how this classic game plays.