Link’s Awakening on Switch: A Beautiful Remake of a Pretty Bad Game

I must preface this post by saying that I did indeed play the original Link’s Awakening on Game Boy, and have beaten both the original and the DX version on the Game Boy Colour. I also did that many, many years ago and my memory of them was lacking during my playthrough of the new and improved Switch Version. As a result, a lot of my playthrough felt pretty fresh. I didn’t recall a lot of the solutions from the original game and I did have to do a lot of working out, but as a result, feeling very unspoilt by my previous runs of the original/DX version, I can say that Link’s Awakening is a pretty bad game from a design standpoint.

It’s not all bad when you look at it on the surface. The art style used for the remake is incredibly cute and lovely to look at, and the reworked OST is beautiful. One thing I do remember fondly of the originals was the soundtrack, so hearing the music reworked for the remake was a joy. The Tal Tal Heights theme is still one of my favourite songs in gaming ever and the remake does it so much justice. Something about the pitter-patter of Link’s feet when using the Pegasus Boots made me grin from ear to ear every time I heard it too. Aesthetically, aside from the frame drops when the game loads an upcoming area you are transitioning to, the game truly is a marvel.

When it comes to the game though, this game is a remake of an early to mid 90’s Zelda game (or late 90’s if you are more familiar with the DX remake). The overworld is easy enough to navigate, mostly, gating off areas behind the need for tools found in the various dungeons as you would expect. But the game’s early design flaws show in said dungeons. The dungeons are the main event of the game, and again, as aesthetically pleasing as they are, are less of a test of intelligence and more of a test of patience. The game has a horrible tendency to not throw puzzles at you, but rather put locked doors in your way and taunt you with keys several rooms away. It’s less of “How do I resolve this puzzle” and more “Where the hell is the key for this door”. It leads to a lot of wandering around using trial and error, rather than using your mind to solve a fiendish puzzle which I found unsatisfying. This is much more of a thing later in the game, although I will give the seventh dungeon, Eagle Tower, a soft pass for its overarching pillar destroying puzzle. It’s just a shame the other dungeons didn’t have a unique mechanic similar to that. But I give it a soft pass because they still make the puzzle a lot more about running around and a lot less about actually solving the puzzle. The dungeon maps, however, have been given a much needed facelift making them easier to read and in turn, much more useful for finding your way around. The addition of allowing the player to add markers to both the main map and the dungeon maps does ease navigation to an extent, but often I found myself still getting lost and feeling more detail could have been added. 

The trading quest, which is actually mandatory to finishing the game, also throws some curveballs. A man asking for “vittles” who wants a pineapple, which is great if you’re familiar with the term vittles, could have been reworded, but wasn’t for authenticity’s sake I would guess. And the necklace was for an NPC who I wasn’t even aware existed because, during my playthrough, I was never led to them and was stuck running around all of Koholint Island talking to everyone until I happened to stumble upon the correct one. Games like this need a breadcrumb trail. It doesn’t need to tell you the solution, but with no guidance at all, you get left feeling lost and frustrated, unable to progress because you have no clue where to actually go looking.

For a 90’s game a lot of this was forgivable and for its time it was a great game, but the remake is very faithful, warts and all. On the surface it is beautiful, but all in all, it is still an old Zelda with very 90’s game design tropes and problems. If you are very familiar with the original there is a lot to get out of the remake and I am sure a lot of people will have a lot of fun going through a beloved game, but new players may find things get very slow and frustrating in the second half of the game, with lots of backtracking (that may not even be necessary but where are the clues right?) putting off some people here and there. It’s well worth a playthrough if you want to experience a classic Zelda with a luscious coat of paint though.

I understand that the dungeons couldn’t be changed much otherwise it just wouldn’t be Link’s Awakening. I’ll concede that, although 90’s game design, etc etc. and I appreciate the map changes. But yeah… Faithful remake or not, the game design is frustrating when you don’t know what you’re doing. 

There is one thing that wasn’t quite so faithful in this remake though, and that is the crane game and I LOVE what they did with it. Restocking items and actual physics involved made it genuinely fun to play and keep going back to. It just baffles me that, if they could change that so much, why couldn’t some of the other frustrations of the game be tweaked? 

Pokémon Let’s Go Review

Oh hey, it’s me. Did you miss me? No posts in November? Are you sure? Ohh yeah… Well I am here now, smack bang in post game land of Pokémon Let’s Go, and I feel like I’ve played enough of this game to give it an informed review. I played Pikachu Edition, which I bought for myself.

We return to Kanto, which is nice. A nice, colourful, HD Kanto and it is beautiful to look at. The Pokémon are emotive and adorable and the renewed soundtrack is delightful! The world itself though is still very square, as they have gone with the full 1:1 rescaling of the original Kanto, which isn’t a bad thing, but in HD almost feels a little fourth wall breaking. The NPC’s also feel lifeless as they stand around forever waiting for you to walk by and challenge you.

The trainer battles are what would would expect though. Abilities from the core games are gone, but this just serves to simplify the battles a little, so that is nice for newcomers and isn’t a deal breaker for experienced battlers. But you will have to bear it in mind. No Levitate Koffing means it can and will get hit by Earthquake for instance.

Catching Pokémon leaves a lot to be desired for me. On the dock the throwing mechanics are super wonky, making you throw balls in wildly wrong directions for seemingly no reason and requires a lot of practice. The game does very little to show you how to throw to the left and right and the throwing tutorial is very basic. As well as this, it has Pokémon Go mechanics, so you don’t battle wild Pokémon to catch them. Which brings me to the biggest issue I have with this game.

Fleeing. Pokémon can flee at any time and seemingly with no way to mitigate it. Also the RNG on this, and catching in general, feels so arbitrary. There’s no sense of difficulty, and regardless of how difficult the game says the catch will be, it never seems to translate into reality. But fleeing, I believe, can be stopped with the Nanab Berry in the game, but if it breaks out of a Pokéball, be prepared to throw another berry. In Pokémon Go that is quite simple with a touchscreen. you press the berry button and select your berry. In Let’s Go, with lack of touch controls it is a slog through two or three menus before you can use the berry, and with Pokémon able to flee at any time, you’re on the clock. It can lead to situations where you are throwing ball after ball and catching nothing for twenty minutes and having nothing to show for it, and as a player, there is no feel-good feeling in this situation. I have found myself turning the game off as the fun stops and the frustration sets in. And bear in mind this game is marketed to the younger newcomers to the series. The Go catching mechanics just don’t translate well here and it feels clumsy. Not to mention in handheld mode it IS easier, with you able to track a moving Pokémon with the gyroscope in the system and it amazes me why that control scheme hasn’t been implemented into the Pro Controller (that’s right, no Pro Controller support). Not to mention with all this, there is a chaining mechanic where if you catch the same Pokémon over and over again, you get increased shiny chance (shinies are very low chance at an alternate coloured version of a Pokémon) and better stat rolls. Chaining mechanic with arbitrary fleeing with next to no mitigation is horrifying and leads to a lot of disappointment. The mitigation is if you miss a throw or two, you run away yourself to keep the chain, but again, there is really no place for the frustrating flee mechanic in the first place without something more solid in place to mitigate it. Running from battles just feels like a workaround rather than a legitimate solution.

Storywise, again, if you’ve played any Pokémon game, you know what to expect. Defeat eight gyms and beat the Elite Four. Team Rocket show up from time to time (including Jessie and James from the anime, which is a nice touch) to battle you and stop you in your tracks and all that jazz. It’s not too complex and doesn’t distract from the catching and battling that make up the core of the game.

All in all, I have had fun with this game, and the more I played it the more fun I had. But those moments where you just want to throw the Switch out of the window, especially when chaining and suchlike, really left a sour taste in my mouth. It may feel like a silly thing to moan about, but remember who this game is marketed for. If I was an 8 year old and having this happen, I’d likely never play the game again. Arbitrary RNG is not difficulty. It’s just arbitrary without proper mechanics to mitigate it. And that is my only real moan. Pokémon aren’t loot drops, they are the core of the game, and they just don’t feel like they are treated as such. The core games had abilities like Arena Trap, moves like False Swipe and different types of Pokéballs for different situations but this game has none of that, but if it had something, just something more than what it does have, I feel it would be a much more fun and rewarding experience.

I look forward to the release of the new core game next year!