THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: LINK'S AWAKENING / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: NINTENDO / PLATFORM: SWITCH / RELEASE DATE: 21ST SEPTEMBER
Originally released on the Game Boy in 1993, Link's Awakening started life as a handheld port of the 16-bit Link to the Past but eventually turned into a brand new game. It was notable at the time for being the first Zelda game to be set outside Hyrule - there's no sign of Princess Zelda, no Triforce, and no Ganon. Instead, Link finds himself washed up on the shores of the mysterious Koholint Island, where a girl called Marin takes him back to her house. After retrieving his sword from the beach, an owl tells Link that he must wake the Wind Fish at the top of the mountain if he wants to leave the island...
Awakening is very much a classic top-down Zelda game. There are eight dungeons to visit (nine if you include the optional Colour Dungeon from the Game Boy Colour version, which has been included here), each containing puzzles, bosses to defeat and items that will allow you to progress deeper into the island which, of course, is full of monsters to smack with your sword, adorably eccentric characters to meet and tons of hidden secrets. Everything is exactly where it was in the original, although there are more heart pieces and secret seashells than there were before.
A new addition to the Switch remake is Dampe's shack, which becomes available part way into the game. Here, it's possible to assemble your own dungeons out of pre-made tiles, and save them onto your own Amiibo figures so that you can share them with your friends. Dampe has a few tutorial / challenge missions to play through, awarding further tiles that expand your creation options, and even more can be unlocked by scanning in any Zelda-related Amiibo toys. It's a nice extra that you can certainly get a fair but of fun out of, but it's really made us want a fully fledged “Zelda Maker” game!
The newly orchestrated version of the old Game Boy soundtrack is a complete triumph, and the fantastic reworked toy-like graphics are a tremendous fit with the overall atmosphere. The story is very much like something that might come from a child's imagination, so remaking the graphics in this childlike not-quite-plasticine sort of style really adds to the overall package.
Link's Awakening is much more streamlined than most other Zelda games, with plenty of clear direction so you always know where to go next. Koholint is a fairly small island, but it's packed with things to do and new areas open up throughout the game as you find various items - newcomers are looking at around 10+ hours to complete the story, and there's more than enough to keep returning players busy.
Revisiting Koholint after nearly 30 years and seeing the results of its lavish overhaul is an absolute pleasure, and those who have never been there before will get to experience one of the greatest Zelda adventures (we'd put Awakening in our top 3, alongside A Link To The Past and Ocarina of Time) ever made.