Why Didn't The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening Switch Remake Follow in the Footsteps of A Link Between Worlds?

Why Didn't The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening Switch Remake Follow in the Footsteps of A Link Between Worlds?

The Link's Awakening remake doesn't appear to be an overhaul like a Link Between Worlds, but does that matter?

Nintendo sure doesn't waste any time with its Nintendo Direct presentations, especially now that the Switch is hotter than a Goomba on the receiving end of Fire Mario's wrath. But even by the usual standards of Nintendo Direct, this was an especially good one.

In a Direct packed full of announcements, Nintendo saved the best reveal for last: 1993's The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is being remastered for the Switch. This is a big deal. Link's Awakening isn't just the best Game Boy game ever made, it also ranks very highly on our List of the Best Zelda Games, period—and you can bet there's some stiff competition on that billboard.

Indeed, despite the age of Link's Awakening, and despite the fact it was born on primitive hardware, it's still great. I replayed the game recently and am still impressed by its heartfelt story, its creative dungeon designs, and the fact there's just so much to do on Koholint Island. Not a pixel of Link's Awakening is wasted. There's always something under a rock, always a cave to squeeze through, always a deep pool of water to dive into and explore. Each of its dungeons bear a theme ("Tail Cave," "Bird Tower," etc), a series staple that started with Link's Awakening and carries on in modern Zelda games.

But (isn't there always a "but?") the reveal trailer for the Link's Awakening remaster has me a bit conflicted. No, I'm not bothered by the remaster's hyper-cute art style. On the contrary, I think it's an excellent HD adaptation of the adorably simplistic style utilized by the original game. Rather, I'm a touch disappointed to discover Link's Awakening for the Switch seemingly isn't a total re-imagining of its source material in the same way The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds overhauls The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I guess I always expected Nintendo to flip Link's Awakening on its head, too.

Then again, I wonder if Link's Awakening needs to be turned upside-down and inside-out like A Link to the Past. Nintendo had a lot to prove with A Link Between Worlds, and we're not just talking about the sheer amount of guts producer Eiji Aonuma whipped out when he decided to mess with such a beloved game. See, when A Link Between Worlds came to the Nintendo 3DS in 2013, the Zelda series was in a strange place. 2011's The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Wii left a lot of fans dissatisfied. They complained about the restrictive overworld and Fi's endless stream of unsolicited and unnecessary advice. Message boards, game sites, and social media grumbled about the Zelda series abandoning the sense of freedom and danger that keeps its early installments so exciting.

Aonuma took fans' criticisms to heart when he developed (the much more favorably received) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the Wii U and Switch. But before Link hacked his way through that beautiful, overgrown iteration of Hyrule, A Link Between Worlds arrived on the 3DS and surprised everyone by being excellent. Not only did Aonuma do justice to A Link to the Past's legacy, but he took clear steps to address some of the fears Skyward Sword left behind. A Link Between Worlds didn't shackle players. It gave us access to the entirety of Link's famous toolset early in the game, thereby letting us tackle its dungeons in nearly any order we chose. In other words, A Link Between Worlds served as desperately-needed proof that Aonuma "still had it."

Now that we're all confident and cozy in our post-Breath of the Wild timeline, we no longer need to stress about the Zelda series going downhill. Nintendo seems happy to just revamp the Link's Awakening we already know and love, and we're happy to receive it.

Though I doubt it'll happen, I hope that means Nintendo won't take the day off and just give us a 1:1 adaptation of Link's Awakening. Though it's a brilliant game packed with a busy overworld and fascinating dungeons (not to mention a kickin' soundtrack I'm eager to hear again), there's still room for quality-of-life improvements. First and foremost, I can't imagine even the most diehard Link's Awakening purists want to juggle Link's expansive inventory across two buttons. The Power Bracelet, the Pegasus Boots, and the Roc's Feather should all be permanent items mapped to specific buttons—all customizable, of course. Do leave us with the option to equip any item or weapon in Link's weapon slot, though. A world without bomb arrows is no world at all.

Second, for the love of every Goddess that's ever descended upon Hyrule, kill the explanatory text boxes that pop up every time Link grabs a Piece of Power, a Power Acorn, or finds a Rupee in a treasure box. People snark about how these hand-holding messages weren't a problem until The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. They are incorrect.

The Switch revamp of Link's Awakening might not be the Link Between Worlds-level overhaul I've been pining for, but that doesn't mean I'm not jazzed to re-experience one of the best games in the series. Remaster or overhaul, Game Boy or Switch, I'll probably still weep like a scolded orphan after I beat the final boss. I suppose that's what really matters.

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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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