The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening Drops Frames Like Marin Drops Beats, But it's Not Too Bad

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening Drops Frames Like Marin Drops Beats, But it's Not Too Bad

The small hitches in Link's Awakening don't spoil an otherwise wonderful Zelda adventure.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening for the Nintendo Switch is a remake of the classic 1993 Game Boy title. The biggest change between the old and new versions of the game is that the latter utilizes one of the most charming graphical themes Nintendo's cooked up to date. Everybody and everything in Link's Awakening for the Switch looks like sugar-gummy adornments for a gingerbread house. I literally want to eat this game up.

Link's shiny new threads come at a cost, however. The frame rate for Link's Awakening on the Switch is inconsistent and even a little bit choppy at times. When the game demoed at E3 2019, there were quite a few complaints about frame rate drops, including from our own Eric Van Allen.

I didn't get to go hands-on with the E3 build for Link's Awakening, so I can't say how much the final product improves (or doesn't improve) on the demo's hitching issues. I talked to a few reviewers who've played both versions and received confirmation Nintendo's improved on the E3 demo with the retail build. How much it's improved varied from person to person and ranged from "it's a bit improved" to "it's much smoother than what I played at E3."

I've observed most of the trouble in Link's Awakening comes from its seamless overworld. In the original Game Boy game, Link moves screen-by-screen in the tradition of the original Legend of Zelda and Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the SNES. In the new game, Link toddles around as he pleases. There still seems to be a scene-loading mechanic that blurs the scenery above and below until Link enters the area. It's a weird effect that takes some getting used to. I'm about halfway through the game, and I don't notice it anymore.

I also don't notice the much discussed overworld choppiness to a degree that bothers me much, but I can't deny it's there. It's most prominent in Mabe Village and Animal Village, especially when I cut grass—and especially when I equip the Pegasus Boots and charge through the weeds like a madman. The frame rate very obviously drops from 60 fps to 30 (or maybe less) during these instances.

While this might sound like bad news, the frame rate drops in Link's Awakening don't affect my play experience. I still dispatch Moblins with ease, and I don't have a problem executing some of the game's trickier gymnastics, e.g. running and jumping with the Pegasus Boots/Roc's Feather combo.

Most importantly, I haven't noticed any frame rate drops at all in caves or dungeons. Dungeons run at an even 60 fps and are every bit as fun and challenging as you remember them. I've often said Link's Awakening is one of the best games in the Zelda series because Nintendo doesn't waste an inch of space, and that holds true with the new Link's Awakening. It doesn't take you very long to cross the entirety of Koholint Island, and dungeons are certainly smaller and take less time to complete compared to newer 3D Zelda titles. But every item you win, every secret you unearth, every puzzle you solve still makes you feel brilliant because Nintendo's careful assembly of Koholint remains rock-solid a quarter of a century later.

"I caughted a fishie!" | Nintendo

Grezzo, the studio behind the new Link's Awakening (as well as The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D), put out a call for Unreal Engine 4 programmers a couple of years ago, which leads people to believe Link's Awakening runs on the same engine. Unreal Engine 4 doesn't always play nice with the Switch, which might explain the inconsistent frame rate in Link's Awakening. This brings a critical question to the fore: Is the game's lovely new graphical style an acceptable trade-off for its frame rate problems?

I still believe it absolutely is. I've yet to get tired of marvelling over the candy-like models populating Koholint; I think it's a perfect upgrade to the original sprites for Link's Awakening, which are charming in their own right. Again, the slowdown is mainly restricted to the island's overworld, and even then, it's only seriously noticeable in towns. So far, I can't single out an instance where Link was injured because a frame rate drop caused me to mistime an attack.

You can read my final impressions of Link's Awakening (which are subject to change, of course) on September 19. Famitsu's already published its review, which makes no mention of choppiness or slowdown, so make of that what you will. For now, don't forget to make the Wind Fish happy by visiting our guides for Link's Awakening.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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