Hello dear readers and welcome to Shoot the Rookie! Today is another post in my occasional ‘The Rookie Plays…’ series in which I take an in-depth look at a video game I’ve completed recently. Today’s game is a recent remake of a classic title, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, so come join me to find out what I thought!
Before I start I should probably make a confession. I’ve never played the original version of this game which was released for the Game Boy in 1993. Not only that, but despite loving the Zelda series, I’ve never actually played a Zelda game by myself before. All of this means that I came to the game with fresh eyes and no expectations, which will hopefully result in some interesting takes.
I’ve noticed throughout my time as a blogger that the Zelda series is very precious to a lot of people. Generally I find people celebrate both the nostalgia and the continued excellence that the series offers. I didn’t grow up with Zelda games so there is no nostalgia for me, just a great opportunity to try out a new game and a chance to finally get control of that annoying blonde.
Please be aware before jumping in that there are minor spoilers ahead.
Setting and Feel
Set entirely on Koholint Island, this game is full of the charms of island life, combined with an underlying darkness which our hero Link must defeat. There are a ton of cool locations to explore, characters to talk to and activities to try out. Being an island it of course includes a beach with palm trees, but also stretches to a mountain, a forest, a desert and lots in between.
Whilst locations like the mountain and forest are quite inhospitable and foreboding, the two villages and other occasional outposts of civilization that you come across are really lovely and provide great bases to go back to after a tough trip to a dungeon. For me, the Animal Village was probably my favourite location, full of charm and whimsy alongside the usual weirdness you might expect from a Zelda game.
Although these villages offer a sense of calm, the many dungeons each offer a different vibe and challenge that make for quite an intense experience and the game as a whole definitely has a sense of uncertainty which grows as you progress through it.
Link’s Awakening shares gameplay elements with many of the Zelda games that came later, and although it clearly looks quite different from the original version of the game, I get the sense the original must have been an impressive game in its time. Exploration, fighting monsters, puzzles and conversation make up the bulk of the game, with some fun activities like fishing and rafting thrown in for good measure.
It has a relatively open structure for such and old game, but many areas are still gated until you have the required item. There are a lot of different equipable weapons that you can play about with and lots of secrets to be found if you are willing to go around trying stuff. There were a couple of boss battles I found very tough, and I had to google A LOT of stuff, especially relating to a certain big and unexpectedly compulsory side quest, but overall I didn’t find the game too challenging and it was nice to have a few distractions when dungeons got a bit mind-boggling!
Characters and Story
My general experience of Zelda games is that not a great deal happens but there is a big overriding threat that will need to be defeated to avert disaster. This game has a slightly different slant and both the threat and Link’s circumstances remain quite opaque until the end. Whilst relatively light on story, it does a really job of building suspense and uncertainty, with lots of references and odd conversations that make you wonder what you are actually supposed to be doing there.
The characters are also similar to other Zelda games in that they are all pretty odd, but all have their own take on things and I was quite surprised about the likeness between one of the main characters and Mario. The standout human character for me was Marin, a sweet and charming girl who frankly could do better than Link when it comes to romantic sub-plots. Props also to Crazy Tracy for adding the exact right level of smut (and being the only reason I beat the game!). Switching to the non-human cast, Bow Wow has got to be one of the best and cutest additions to any game and the Flying Rooster and the rabbits of animal village filled my heart with infinite joy.
Link’s Awakening is a charming game that is easy to fly through once you get going. For me it offered a nice level of difficulty with exploration getting easier as the game went on and a few bosses that offered a real challenge. It suffers on a couple of occasions with stuff being difficult to spot on screen, and at least one dungeon where the design was maybe a bit ahead of its time. Overall though it is a great game which unusually for Zelda games brought me close to tears at the end thinking about all the charming people and places I could never visit again.
So there are my thoughts on Link’s Awakening on the Nintendo Switch! But what did you think? Maybe you’d already played the original game? Perhaps you’re still considering whether or not to pick it up? Let me know below in comments and don’t forget to join me next time for more video game and anime chat!
Thanks for reading,