Is was a long time ago that Nintendo home consoles users forget what it was to play top-down classic-style Zelda. Ever since the N64's Ocarina of Time took the world by storm, the regular main 3D entries in the series kept expanding their worlds and stories, up to the climactic Breath of the Wild back in 2017, which landed when the Switch was released. In the meantime, Game Boy, GBA, Nintendo DS, and finally Nintendo 3DS users were able to keep enjoying that classic top-down flavour anywhere, from the "Oracle of" games to Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, via The Minish Cap and A Link Between Worlds. They all built upon the foundations laid down by the very last main 2D Zelda, 1992's SNES-classic A Link to the Past... but also by the very first handheld Zelda, Link's Awakening, which hit Game Boy back in 1993.
Such was Link's Awakening's importance that it always sat next to A Link to the Past as the most-requested remake for a top-down Zelda. Et voilá: Nintendo Switch is about to get another Zelda game on September 20 because, as you know, the hybrid device allows for Zelda experiences - both 3D adventures and on-the-go journeys - to exist on the same platform.
This is vital to note that the game is basically the same adventure that has been played and replayed for more than 25 (!) years. This means same world structure, characters, quests and even similar simplistic/classic controls and mechanics, although as you'd expect it comes sporting a brand-new audiovisual finish as well as a couple of extras.
In Los Angeles last month, we got to play Link's Awakening for the Nintendo Switch for the very first time. And first of all, yes, it's über-cute. We're aware some fans are not totally convinced by (or rather they're completely against) the new visual style, but to us, it really stands out compared to other top-down Zeldas with its wooden/clay elements, the diorama depth of field, and the black-eyed characters. What we weren't happy with was the performance of the game, but we all know the polish Nintendo adds during the final stretch ahead of launch. This part of the game has to be a rock-solid, silky-smooth 1080p60 on TV, and 720p60 when in handheld, given the rendering load.
The game feels great though, and we particularly love how Link moves and walks, with his 8-direction sword slashes, his 4-direction shield blocks, and his jumping ability, which you have to earn, although it doesn't take long. After all, other than puzzles, most of the early game's challenges and enemy encounters are all about timing and the perception of distances (but hardcore fans beware: some enemies and items will be altered this time around to keep you on your toes).
Alas, the E3 demo was too short. We understand it has to be brief to reduce queuing times, but the 15-minute press demo just wasn't enough. So we played it twice, the second run trying to speedrun it, as shown in the accompanying gameplay clip above. As you can see, everything is very introductory, including the first mini-dungeons and bosses. What with our many years of Zelda experience, we had been hoping for a more advanced temple to explore or section to play, to try and see how Link will perform when more abilities and items have been unlocked.
But it was what it is: a section many of us had played before, with very subtle differences to the gameplay and a love-it-or-hate-it visual overhaul. As such, the main new features came with the beautiful, much more modern, and pretty useful menus, including a more contemporary inventory and markers-based map, which are welcomed changes. At the same time, we loved that some of the very classic, obscure design choices remained, such as pushing a totally-random block inside the Tail Cave to magically-open the next chamber's door.
And speaking of chambers, we understand this was the first time Link's Awakening was playable on the Switch, but we would also have appreciated if the just-announced Chamber Dungeon was available in L.A. for a first look, as the new create-your-own-adventure feature could very well act as the foundations for a potential Zelda Maker in the future. With that feature and the already-acclaimed adventure combined, this returning Zelda adventure already looks appealing for newcomers and fans alike. Thankfully, there's more than enough time between now and September 20's release to play more and to bring you a much more in-depth preview here on Gamereactor. For now, for more, feel free to watch our demo playthrough and our video-impressions below.
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