It gives me great pleasure to say that today I have an excuse to get paid for writing about Link’s Awakening. My personal favorite game in the Legend of Zelda series is getting a 3D remake on Nintendo Switch.
No one truly knew what we’d get when Nintendo announced a new Direct would be streamed Wednesday. We figured there’d be something about the next Fire Emblem, and we were right, but otherwise the majority of Nintendo’s 2019 content was a question mark. Boy, did we get one large exclamation point to replace it…
Link’s Awakening is one of the best Zeldas ever made and its last revision was twenty years ago (though you’ve been able to buy it in digital form since). Many games in the series have been released since then, but this one has managed to hold up to them all, despite being made for a tiny handheld. It was the first to use different music for each dungeon. It was the first to take you out of Hyrule. It introduced ocarinas and owls to the series, both of which would have more pronounced presences in the next installment.
The quirky sense of humor is unparalleled. You meet a man in the village who tells you “I’ll be lost in the hills later,” and sure enough, halfway through the game that is where he is. There is a talking alligator whose favorite hobby is “collecting rare and unusual canned food.” Mr. Wright from Sim City is living in a shack and unknowingly crushing on a goat. The series would never be this consistently witty again….or this poignant.
You see, the longer you spend time on Koholint Island, the more you get to know its inhabitants, and the more you get attached to the place. You wonder why you would really WANT to escape. Then a cruel twist hits you like a sack of bricks. There are other Zeldas with more innovative gameplay, or more expansive worlds. But this one, without a doubt, has the best story.
And the music, despite being a set of primitive chiptunes, is simply amazing. One of my favorite articles on the entire Internet is this analysis of the Link’s Awakening soundtrack by composer Jason M. Yu. He uncovers things I never noticed about the music, and how subtle and deliberate choices enhanced the experience. It proves just how much thought was put into this lowly 8-bit score, and how utterly awesome Link’s Awakening is as a whole.
If you’ve never played the game, I would say it’s worth it to track down the original or the DX version even though this new version is on the way. Trust me, you’ll want to play this more than once. I’ve played many video games over the decades, but every now and then, I’ll always crave another visit to Koholint Island.