'Link’s Awakening' Is an Excellent Update of a 90s Video Game, Warts ‘n All

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was technically released in 1993, but for those (like me) who missed the original Game Boy release, this week’s remake from Nintendo is, in essence, an entirely new 2D Zelda game. Remarkable! But an important difference between Link’s Awakening and the last time Nintendo pulled a similar stunt with the also-excellent A Link Between Worlds for 3DS is A Link Between Worlds actually was, top to bottom, a new (and modern) game. Link’s Awakening is a game from 1993 given a very slick coat of paint, some welcomed tweaks, and a few modern conveniences. Frustrating frame rate issues aside, it’s an excellent update of a game from 1993, but, well, it remains a game from 1993.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/wjwg5b/zelda-links-awakening-is-an-excellent-update-of-a-90s-video-game-warts-n-all-review

Really enjoyed reading the review. I’m watching my wife play through the game for the first time with no knowledge of the game and the experience is brilliant. This is one of the only games I replay often to this day ever since I got a Gameboy colour. If you’ve not played before, definitely set expectations of a 90s Gameboy game in your mind and hopefully it’s still a good time. I can’t wait to play through myself again!

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I just finished the game. It’s shorter than I remember, and there are some spots where it shows its age—particularly the amount of backtracking and the lack of signposting in the last couple of dungeons—but, compared to most games from 1993 (a notable bunch that includes Myst, Mega Man X, Star Fox, and the first Doom) it’s honestly incredible how well it holds up. I really loved it when I first played it, and going through it again with the new art style felt just… very comfortable to a longtime fan of Zelda games. Like a comfy old winter sweater.

That said (now veering into spoiler territory for the very end of the game) while I absolutely love the art style for 95% of the remake, I really felt like the last section, in the Wind Fish’s Egg, was missing something because of it. There was an eeriness to the original pixel art that, while incredibly simple, was extremely effective in creating this nightmarish atmosphere. Lots of hard lines and right angles, and a very limited color palette in the DX version I originally played. Same with the final boss—it was hazy and distorted in a way that felt creepy. And I felt like the remake was missing that; the textures were really soft and the models different Nightmares felt, like the rest of the game, very clean.

That all said, everything else I felt was generally warm and fuzzy. Good good game, even 26 years later.

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