There are some The Legend of Zelda games that can be more impressionable because they dare to be different. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is freeing, The Minish Cap makes a diminutive world more magical, and Majora’s Mask will always be haunting. With each one, their unique visuals perfectly couple with storylines that dared to be different. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was a game that had a story that deviated from the norm, but aside from some Nintendo cameos, it didn’t have the sort of visual style that really accentuated its twists and made it stand out. With the remake, it gets that extra touch it deserves.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has always been a fish out of water story. In most entries in the series, something is very obviously wrong. You’ll encounter people in trouble and have a clear idea of who the villain is. Link has to save Hyrule. You might come across people who are still living relatively normal lives, but most are affected in some way. Here, everyone is happy. Marin is living happily with her father. There’s a family with children who aren’t in any trouble. No one is asking you to do anything, though a mother would appreciate a Yoshi doll for her youngest child. Everything seems fine, aside from the monsters being especially active after Link washes ashore. It’s only when a chatty owl asks you to wake the Wind Fish that you begin to realize more is going on.
The new art direction perfectly suits it. In a peaceful world where a man turns into a raccoon after eating a toadstool or an alligator collects canned food, why wouldn’t everyone look diminutive and happy? It suggests urgency isn’t necessary. Which makes sense, since it isn’t like the world seems be in danger of immediately ending. Everyone, from the people in the village to the enemies infesting the island, seem harmless. But, it’s also incredibly surreal. Especially since, in the opening animation, the Link we meet doesn’t look all that unusual. He seems like his normal self, until he awakes on the island all pint-sized. In a whimsical world where more seems to be going on, it just fits.
Even the fading of the edges of the screen are incredibly appropriate, adding to The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’s wistful nature. It’s like we’re getting to peer through the fog at something we maybe shouldn’t get to see. If we look away, will it still be there? Or will the fog fade in and cover up everything. It encourages the dreamlike themes weaved throughout the game.
Even the idea of Dampe’s Chamber Dungeons, a new feature added for the Nintendo Switch version of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, can feel like it alludes to its nature. These are, after all, original dungeons that we get to create. They can be constantly shifting and changing as we help Dampe with his work. How much you get out of them will be up to you, but the fact that these could be ephemeral things connects well with concepts here. (Plus, it provides the notion of a custom dungeon creator, even if it isn’t exactly what people might have hoped for from such a thing.)
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has always had a certain ambiance to it. However, much of its magic came from the story and its themes. With this remake, we have a look that matches it. It has the same sorts of qualities to it, as well as an innocence and a portrayal that might make a player think that something more could be going on and wonder why such a style was used. It might even help people appreciate the nature of things.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is available for the Nintendo Switch.