Review: Link’s Awakening

An escape to an island of adventure

Why do you consume, engage and celebrate any sort of media? Why do you spend dozens of hours binge-watching a show? Why do you take time out of your busy day to watch a movie? Why do you play video games when you could be doing something else?

The answer to these questions definitely depends on who’s answering them. For me, part of the reason why I spend so much time playing and/or watching any sort of entertainment is because entertainment provides me with a pleasant way to escape from my stressful reality. It gives me a break, a moment of relaxation in a world full of anxieties and work. In particular, I feel that video games are wonderful in achieving a deep feeling of escapism. The level of interaction that only video games can provide makes it so that the feeling of escapism is especially strong for me when I play video games. This idea of escapism is particularly why I adored my time with The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the Nintendo Switch so much, for it is all about escaping into a fantastical and simplistic island adventure.

Link’s Awakening is a faithful remake of the Zelda game under the same name that was on the original Game Boy. This fact is extremely evident while playing the game, for it unfortunately retains a lot of archaic and arguably outdated aspects of the original. The bosses and dungeon design are the main aspects that could have been improved upon. Most of the boss fights are completely forgettable due to their lack of difficulty. While they are designed to be more like puzzles than a test of combat, it doesn’t take long to figure out how to defeat every single one of them very quickly. 

The dungeons, on the other hand, are either forgetable or simply frustrating. Most of the dungeons have a very simple design, and while they can be somewhat fun, they often don’t leave much of an impression. If I do recall a dungeon in this game, it’s due to the frustration I had with it, for some of these levels can be quite tedious and monotonous at times. It’s very clear that the boss and dungeon designs are products of the original game’s limitations.  While these issues don’t really sore the game too much for me, I do feel that more  could have been changed from the original to make this version more modern and fun to play.

Luckily, there are plenty of wonderful attributes of Link’s Awakening that make up for the game’s few shortcomings. One of the many things that I love about this game is it’s presentation. The visuals in this game make great use of the Switch’s capabilities to make an environment to resonates with me. The simplistic, toy-like aesthetic is both adorable and charming and makes this game stand out. The environments look gorgeous with textures that looks plasticy and shiny, making the game have a child-like feel to it which makes me feel indescribably nostalgic. Because of the game’s art style and environments, playing this game makes me feel like I’m some kid who’s pretending to be going out on a grand adventure which has yet to be completed before dinner time. The fantastic visuals make me feel immersed in this fantastical world full of happiness and pure emotions since they are able to remind me of simpler times. 

The game’s strengths lie in the raw emotions that it is able to invoke upon the player. The music is important in portraying these feelings, for it is, as per usual in this series, fantastic at representing the game’s tone. Every track is pleasant to listen to and their sheer beauty is enough to elicit some sort of reaction in the player, whether it’s joy or melancholy. “The Ballad of the Wind Fish” is one of my favorite songs in gaming due to how it invokes such deep feelings of mystical adventure and tranquil melancholy. It’s hard to truly describe how exactly the music has such an effect on me, but it certainly leaves a lasting impression and helps me feel even more apart of this dream-like island the game takes place in.

The simplistic story is another aspect that strengthens the game’s emotional and immersive appeal. The characters feel very expressive and likeable due to their designs and simplistic charm. Their involvement within the story, especially Marin’s involvement, ties into the game’s theme of escapism. 

Your main goal throughout the story is to have a fun adventure throughout the island, but you know that this adventure won’t last. The main character has to eventually leave the island in order to fulfill his heroic duties. Similarly, you can’t immerse yourself in this game forever, and eventually all heroic journey’s must come to an end. Since the characters and the world that they live in are so enjoyable, it’s hard to eventually say goodbye to them. Any form of escape is and should be temporary, so it should be enjoyed while it lasts. The game’s story reflects how escapism works through the main character’s need to escape from the island despite to allure in staying in a true paradise. 

Because Link’s Awakening plays with immersion and simplistic fun so well, I highly recommend adding it to any Switch collection. It may be short, and it isn’t a “10/10, best game of the year” kind of experience, yet it doesn’t try to be anything more than innocent, child-like fun. It isn’t meant to knock anyone’s socks off, it’s simply a short yet entertaining escape into a paradise of heroics and tranquil settings. While it debatably isn’t the best the series has to offer, Link’s Awakening still stands on it’s own as a classic game that is able to resonate with the player in unique, personal ways.

~Elijah Basu, Staff Writer~

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