Screenshot: Link’s Awakening (Nintendo)

Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?


I’ll confess to feeling a certain degree of skepticism when Nintendo first announced it was reviving my favorite Zelda game, Link’s Awakening, for the Switch. I tend to be more annoyed by reboots than thrilled—I say this with the knowledge that somewhere out there a Final Fantasy VII obsessive’s eyes just turned blazing red—and even more so when the game in question already does exactly what it sets out to achieve. In the case of Link’s Awakening—first released on the Game Boy in 1993, and played by me that same year—that meant creating a portable Zelda game that also heightened the series’ low-key sense of charming weirdness, filling its world with transplanted Mario enemies and casting hero Link as the harbinger of an extremely adorable apocalypse. My remake agnosticism wasn’t helped by the fact that Link’s Awakening is already available to anybody with a 3DS through its Virtual Console release. What’s the point of a reboot treatment, I asked, armored in righteous cantankerousness, if it’s being applied to a readily available game with no marked need for improvement?

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The answer became a little clearer for me, though, once I finally gave in to the nostalgia and dipped into the brightly colored Link’s Awakening remake—and then observed the effect that its lush, plasticine visuals had on my significant other, who loves games, but who grew up without ready access to them. As an American man with a baked-into-my-job-but-also-if-I’m-being-honest-baked-into-my-personality tendency toward didacticism, supporting her as she develops her tastes in the medium—without trying to impose my own—has been a daily test of my “But you’ve gotta play Super Metroid!” sense of self-control. I don’t want to be the guy who pushes his own childhood favorites onto his partners as some sort of digital shibboleth, but part of resisting that impulse has to be acknowledging its existence deep within me in the first place.

Screenshot: Link’s Awakening (Nintendo)

But the Link’s Awakening remake short circuits all those troubling psychological minefields. As a game that looks like a gorgeous, lush toy box full of adorable little heroes and monsters all running around trying to murder each other, it becomes something infinitely easier to share. (Being popped into the Switch dock doesn’t hurt.) It’s ready-made Let’s Play content for an audience of one—someone who would never watch a Fortnite stream—and it’s become appointment viewing/playing in our house since we started our journey through Koholint Island. As a Bitter Old Man, I tend to discount all but the most revolutionary of graphical updates, but I can’t deny that the look of the game matters; it’s aesthetically inviting in a way that old Game Boy Color graphics simply couldn’t be, while maintaining the original’s wonderful, weird, occasionally obtuse gameplay. (Also, they set a dedicated button for your sword and shield, thus cutting out 90% of inventory fiddling, and that’s pretty hard to discount.)

I’ve always loved Link’s Awakening, hunched over my Game Boy and 3DS, lost in my own little world. But the Link’s Awakening remake has brightened my life considerably, by making it a game that lets you share the love.

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