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The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is an action/adventure game for the Nintendo Switch. It's a remake of the 1993 Game Boy game of the same name. The game has a cute cartoon presentation and some mild fantasy combat that sees Link using a sword, arrows, and bombs against cartoonish fantasy creatures such as giant spiders and skeletons. There's no blood, gore, or graphic content. Link's a traditional hero, helping those in need, using his wits to solve puzzles, and defending himself from aggressive monsters. Figuring out what to do next can be a bit tricky in some areas, but kids may take away the lesson that perseverance pays off, and learn to approach problems as fun puzzles to be solved. The dungeon maker missions could inspire creativity and an interest in game design. Players can also use amiibo that are sold separately to unlock additional content.
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What's it about?
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: LINK'S AWAKENING is a remake of the 1993 Game Boy original. It begins with series hero Link, clad in his traditional green suit and cap, waking up on the shore of a mysterious island. He wants to leave, but doing so requires him to undertake an epic mission that will see players explore every inch of the island, which is full of puzzles to be solved, dungeons to be explored, monsters to be defeated, and non-player characters to be greeted. The action's presented from a retro overhead perspective, giving players a good view of the island, a bright and cartoonish world filled with objects and character models that almost look like miniature toys. Link begins with nothing, which limits what he can do and where he can go. But as the game goes on, he equips himself with weapons and a shield, as well as various items (bombs, a bow and arrow, boots that allow him to sprint) that give him the ability to overcome many obstacles and access new areas. While many core play concepts are very similar to the original, new elements include an improved control scheme, an enhanced map that allows players to mark areas of interest, and a new dungeon-building module that has players placing rooms on a board as though they were tiles before venturing in to explore what they've created.
Is it any good?
Remakes don't get much better than this. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening stays remarkably faithful to the original, bringing forward all of the key elements that made it an enduring classic. From puzzles and map locations to bosses and their weaknesses, players familiar with the Game Boy version may be surprised at just how much Nintendo's designers have kept. And the changes they've made -- such as making it easier to access items when needed, track important locations on the map, and move around the island -- are essentially quality of life improvements that shouldn't give purists any cause to complain. The visuals and music are all brand new, too, but are invested with such style and possessed of such reverence for the original that they are instantly iconic. The only potentially rough spot is the new dungeon building activity -- which could have benefited from giving players a little more freedom to create -- but the fact that this is the harshest criticism speaks volumes about the quality of the rest of the experience.
What might be most astonishing is just how well everything has aged. Link's simple combat skills -- basically just stabbing with a sword and blocking with his shield -- are still effective and gratifying. The thrill of discovering secret areas is just as potent as it's ever been. And earning items necessary to get past obstacles and access new areas is a compelling motivator to keep exploring. Even slicing swaths of grass looking for treasure remains weirdly satisfying. And all of this seems to be age agnostic. Older players are bound to experience a pleasant sense of nostalgia, but this is unnecessary to appreciate the rest of the adventure. Indeed, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a fantastic way for parents to introduce an enduring classic they played when they were younger to their own kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Have you ever considered that taking breaks can actually improve how you play? The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening's puzzles can be challenging, but did you realize that sometimes stepping away for a while and coming back with a fresh mind can help you solve them?
In games, the "right" course of action is often easily identified, but that's not always the case in real life, so what do you do when you have a hard time figuring out right from wrong?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release date: September 20, 2019
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures
- ESRB rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence
- Last updated: September 19, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.