Original Release: June 6, 1993 (Game Boy), September 20, 2019 (Switch Remake)
Developer: Nintendo (Game Boy), Grezzo (Switch Remake)
Platforms: Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch
Played on: Switch
Growing up, my household was a Nintendo Household. My brother had a Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64, my sister had a Game Boy, and I had a Game Boy Color. I also had a PlayStation, but that came a bit later.
Anyway, I loved both console Zelda games we had at the time. Namely: A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. And one day I saw a Game Boy cartridge sitting out by the TV and saw that familiar Zelda logo.
Without a second thought, I popped it into my Game Boy Color and was thoroughly confused by the fact that it didn’t start with the Triforce coming in from the edges of the screen, but instead began with Link fighting a terrible storm at sea and finding himself shipwrecked on an island, found by a young lady before the screen scrolled up and revealed the title image of this piece, albeit in black and white. Or possibly sepia. I think it depends on whether you’re playing the original release of Link’s Awakening or the DX version where they added color, and honestly I don’t remember which version we had.
Regardless, it was a weird and fun adventure at the time, despite my never finishing it, so naturally I was eager to come back to it when I found out that it was being remade for the Switch. The art style was a little off-putting at first, but the more I thought about it prior to release, the more I liked it and the more I realized that it fits Koholint Island perfectly.
I’m not sure how to describe the environments without potentially spoiling the story, so instead I’ll just say that going with the sort of playset aesthetic that they did not only updates the look and feel of the game, but also manages to preserve the look of the original game with the less detailed features than, say, Breath of the Wild or Twilight Princess. And at its heart, I think that’s part of what I like so much about Link’s Awakening: Like Majora’s Mask after it, the game is so very different from any of the others. No mention of Ganon, the Triforce, or Zelda beyond the opening bit. Just Link, the land he’s found himself in this time, in this case, Koholint Island, and whatever he needs to do, be it save the land from impending evil, or just find a way to leave.
As far as gameplay goes, it’s exactly the same as the Game Boy version. Link has a small collection of items he can find in dungeons and around the island, and each section of the island is identical to its previous incarnation. However, the Switch version does add a few things: First, they add an item called the Seashell Sensor. Similar to how the compass in dungeons will play a sound when a key is hidden in the room, the Seashell Sensor will activate and play a sound when a Secret Seashell is nearby, and there are 50 across the island. I found it was worth the time to collect 40 of them, but it’s entirely up to you.
Second, they’ve introduced Dampé the Gravekeeper from previous installations, except this time he assists you by letting you make Chamber Dungeons that you can explore yourself for various rewards as well as save to amiibo in order to share them with friends. Personally, I didn’t do much of this, but I will concede that it is a neat idea that was executed well.
Beyond that? I’m not entirely sure if anything else is different. It’s been such a long time since I played the Game Boy version that only a handful of details stick out to me, all of which are story-related. So I’m going to go ahead and give this one a strong recommendation. The game is good, there are a lot of neat ideas and the update is more than just a new coat of paint. Nothing really detracts from the experience for me.