The Breath of the Wild sequel may be years away, but Zelda fans will have a new game to play in 2019. Sort of. Announced during the February Nintendo Direct, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a modern reimagining of the classic top-down Game Boy game. This isn’t the first time Link’s Awakening has received an update. In 1998, five years after its launch, Link’s Awakening DX arrived on Game Boy Color. But Link’s Awakening for Switch adds more than just a splash of color. The art style has been completely reworked and Nintendo is adding new features to the grand adventure.
Welcome to Koholint Island
Link’s Awakening was the first handheld Zelda game. It also became one of the rare games in the series that isn’t set in Hyrule. Link’s Awakening takes place on Koholint Island, where Link must collect eight magical musical instruments from dungeons to wake to Wind Fish and drive out the Nightmare known as Dethl. For those who haven’t played Link’s Awakening, it may come as a surprise but Princess Zelda and the Triforce are nowhere to be found.
What you will find, however, are nods and characters from other Nintendo franchises. The moment you walk from your house, you’ll see a Chain Chomp (Super Mario) latched outside to the left. Goombas and Piranha Plants can be found in underground sidescrolling sections. A plush Yoshi was a prize in a crane game in the original, while an enemy looking a lot like Kirby was found in one of the dungeons.
During the E3 2019 demo we played, we came across a new house in town that appears to house Super Mario collectibles. So Link’s Awakening for Switch will retain the weird cameos from other Nintendo franchises and perhaps expand on them, too.
Koholint Island is explored from an isometric perspective in Link’s Awakening on Switch. Nintendo has drastically changed the art style, which is bright, colorful and adorably cartoonish. Link himself looks like a glossy doll.
It appears to be 1:1 remake
It’s hard to say for sure because Nintendo has obviously added some new landmarks and features, but the opening sequence and first dungeon matched the original. Link’s Awakening appears to be a faithful reimagining, retaining the same puzzles, dungeons, and overworld layout from the original.
Minor, impactful improvements
Though authentic, Nintendo has made some quality of life improvements to inventory management and exploration. Link’s shield no longer occupies one of the two item slots, which will make a world of difference after unlocking a handful of items. This means you won’t have to spend as much time swapping between items in the inventory menu.
Taking a cue from Breath of the Wild, Link’s Awakening lets you mark points of interest on the map. So when you stumble across a Heart Piece that you can’t snag just yet, you can drop a marker on the map and come back later. Those who have played Link’s Awakening know that there’s a fair bit of backtracking to be done after acquiring new items, so the new marker system will certainly be helpful.
If you absolutely cannot wait to get your hands on Link’s Awakening (we don’t blame you), you can watch the 30-minute gameplay session above that Nintendo showed off during E3 2019.
Design your own dungeons
The biggest new feature in Link’s Awakening is Chamber Dungeons, a new dungeon editor mode run by the Ocarina of Time gravedigger Dampé. The dungeon editor is located in Tal Tal Heights in the same spot where the Camera Shop once stood in the Game Boy Color version. Throughout your adventure, you’ll unlock pre-made dungeon rooms. Bring those to Dampé and you can arrange the rooms to create your own dungeons. Then you can play through your creations to earn rewards.
It’s not The Legend of Zelda Maker we desperately desire, but Chamber Dungeons sounds neat nonetheless. Nintendo hasn’t said whether created dungeons will be able to be shared online, though.
A Grezzo/Nintendo collaboration
Nintendo is developing Link’s Awakening in collaboration with Japanese developer Grezzo. Though not a household name, Grezzo handled the 3DS ports of Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Luigi’s Mansion. Grezzo also developed Tri Force Heroes.
New Link Amiibo
Coinciding with the launch of Link’s Awakening, Nintendo will release a new Link Amiibo for $16. Modeled after his appearance in the game, this is arguably the cutest Amiibo released thus far.
The new Link Amiibo along with at least four other Amiibo from The Legend of Zelda series will have special functionality with Link’s Awakening. You can save the creations you make in Chamber Dungeons to an Amiibo, which will allow your friends to play your creations on their Nintendo Switch. Just make sure they give adorable Link back to you when they’re done.
Release date and special editions
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening launches exclusively on Nintendo Switch September 20. The standard edition costs $60. Nintendo is also releasing a Dreamer Edition that comes with an art book for $70. Sadly, North American fans won’t be able to grab the coolest edition without importing. The Limited Edition comes with a special version of the artbook and a steelbook case resembling the original Game Boy (displaying the Link’s Awakening title screen).
- The best Zelda games ranked from best to worst
- The 25 best Nintendo 3DS games
- The best Wii games of all time
- The best GameCube games of all time
- The best Nintendo Switch games for 2020