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The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was a terrific game in 1993, and it's now a terrific game in 2019. What was originally a Game Boy title, bound by the restrictions imposed on it by targeting Nintendo's low-spec handheld, is now a beautiful Switch remake that positively embraces the limitations of its predecessor and works them into a compact and compelling adventure perfectly suited to bite-size portable sessions.
Link's Awakening both looks and sounds delightful, its toy-like characters complemented by environments that could almost be plucked from a physical playset, laid out across a dining room table or a bedroom floor. There's an appealingly tangible look to everything from shiny red apples to enemies crackling with electricity, through to the sparkling blue of the shoreline.
This is very much the Link's Awakening of old with its relative shortcomings filled in by imagination, and then that mind's eye take on the game made real using today's development tools. It might look cute, slight, and too-stylised for some; but if you're coming to this remake having experienced the original, you're going to be wowed by how evocative it is of how you saw beyond what was on the Game Boy screen.
Unlike many a Zelda story, Link's Awakening isn't set in Hyrule. Instead, the game begins with Link waking up on Koholint Island. He's told that in order to leave he must awaken the Wind Fish - which, spoilers, isn't actually a fish at all. The Wind Fish rests within a gigantic egg, on top of the island's highest mountain - and to stir it, Link must collect the eight Instruments of the Siren, each of which is hidden in a dungeon, guarded by a Nightmare.
And so begins one of the weirdest Zelda games to date, with several nods to other Nintendo series - most notably the Mario franchise, with appearances from Piranha Plants, Goombas and even Princess Peach - and a general air of oddness brought about in part by this game being somewhat inspired by the TV show Twin Peaks.
Link's Awakening already underwent one revision in 1998, with a DX version released to support the Game Boy Color console. It added an all-new, colour-based dungeon, which also features in the remake. What isn't included here is another DX addition, the Camera Shop - but in its place is the remake-exclusive Dampé's Shack.
Visiting this little hut on the edge of Tal Tal Heights allows the player to create their own Zelda dungeons, courtesy of interacting with a character who previously played the role of graveyard keeper (he still carries a shovel) in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. These Chamber Dungeons can be arranged using rooms from previous explored dungeons on the map; and completing them will reward Link with extra rupees and more.
Don't approach the Chamber Dungeons expecting the equivalent of Super Mario Maker for Zelda - these are very much an optional extra, in the same way as the Camera Shop and Colour Dungeon were in the DX version. They're pretty limited, can't be shared online with friends, and probably won't eat up much of your time - but it's fun to mix challenges from six or seven different dungeons into one punishing run.
Or maybe "punishing" isn't quite the word - there's little in Link's Awakening that'll make you sweat, nothing at all to rival the difficulty spikes of Breath of the Wild. This is a game where decent progress can be made in a short space of time - dungeons can be conquered on a single commute, the final two aside, and countless treasures unearthed in small pockets of play time.
The map is small but densely packed with secrets - although you'll still make use of fast-travel warp points - and while the terrain is fairly diverse, encompassing coastlines, forests and deserts, there's nothing nearing the aggressively hostile environments of some Zelda games. Nevertheless, it's a world full of life, with lots of strange but friendly locals to meet, trade with, and deliver letters for.
The game's somewhat child-like look, carried over and fleshed out with fantastic vibrancy from the Game Boy version, is married to a challenge that's always manageable. This makes Link's Awakening a perfect first Zelda for any newcomers, despite its thematic distance from standard series tropes.
Link's Awakening is a joy to behold, an effortlessly charming revision of a long-loved entry in its series. As a remake, it doesn't present any innovations to the fore, the Chamber Dungeons aside - but it stands magnificently as a 'classic'-styled Zelda game now confidently capable of holding its own beside the all-timer that is the Super Nintendo's A Link to the Past.
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