We now have confirmation that Link’s Awakening will be coming to Switch this year.
A port of a former title seemed the most likely candidate as we alluded to following the announcement. Not many fans were probably expecting that port to be Link’s Awakening though.
It’s not a Zelda title that’s received a lot of love since it’s release in 1993. It seems a strange time to launch a remake but it could also be a very tactical decision. So is this just another nostalgia trip or a nod to the future for Nintendo?
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Like many Zelda titles, Link’s Awakening was critically acclaimed upon release. It has often been listed amongst the best games of all times but was also left in the past.
Why? Well, it probably has a little to do with the timing of the release. The Legend of Zelda series had been building steady momentum since the initial title. It quickly rose to become one of Nintendo’s most prized assets, offering variety to their conventional platformers.
Link’s Awakening was actually the last Zelda title spearheaded by legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto. The same mind that also brought the world the likes of Super Mario, Donkey Kong and Star Fox.
The next Zelda releases would be the outsourced disasters The Faces of Evil and The Wand of Gamelon. You’ll find few people who’d argue the fact that the Philips CD-i releases are the worst in the franchise. And it would send the series into a five-year hiatus whilst the franchise was re-designed.
Link and Zelda emerged again in Aonuma’s Ocarina of Time, largely considered the best game ever made. From there Aonuma took over management of the timeline, taking the series to new heights in the 3D era.
Early releases like The Legend of Zelda and Link to the Past were remembered fondly. But coming less than a year away from the CD-i releases, Link’s Awakening was consigned to the end of an era in the series. And there are some significant reasons why it was never much publicised in the modern era.
Protect the Canon
The early days of many of Nintendo’s flagship franchises are not like the consistent formats we enjoy today. The industry was still in its infancy and designers were playing around with the latest revolutions in technology.
Whilst this yielded many significant advancements it often wreaked havoc with the canon. Nobody knew how long these series would run at the time and a coherent narrative wasn’t always a priority.
Eagle-eyed viewers may have spotted references to some of Nintendo’s other franchises in the new Link’s Awakening trailer. Most notably, Kirby and Super Mario, that’s because both of these series featured in the original.
The Chain Chomp and Goombas from Mario and Gordos from Kirby are clearly present in the trailer. Gordos also appeared as an easter egg in the Super Mario Land 2 released just a year prior to Link’s Awakening.
They aren’t the only characters to make cameos from those series’ in Link’s Awakening though. Mamu (or Wart) the primary antagonist of Super Mario Bros 2 (outside of Japan) also appears, to teach Link the Frog’s Song of Soul. And Kirby himself appears as a mid-level boss in this game, raising all kinds of questions.
Like we said, havoc, because in the modern era, these things don’t just fly without in-lore explanations. Now Nintendo could just not address this, which is a viable option for them, but what if they do?
Nintendo has attempted to explain away some of these infractions with their official Zelda timeline. In it, we see that only in a parallel existence where Link is defeated in Ocarina of Time do the early games exist as canon.
In fact, there are three different timelines of canon for Zelda series that split off at that same game. This goes some way to explaining the weirdness of the earlier releases as they all exist in the same alternate canon.
Fans of the Kirby series will also know that the titular hero has been known to travel through dimensions. So it’s not inconceivable the two could end up in a separate timeline to their main series canon but that doesn’t explain why they butt heads.
We’re digressing a little but this is relevant because it could tell us why Nintendo chose to remake Link’s Awakening now. For years the game giant has resisted becoming too bogged down in story despite advancements in cinematic gaming.
Gaps have been filled in by official mangas, in-game lore and fan theories for some, but it’s still not the standard level of storytelling. This isn’t the first time Nintendo has resisted industry advancements such as YouTube and cloud gaming. But in recent years they’ve backtracked on a few of these to conform to an industry standard.
Are we about to Nintendo do the same with cinematic storytelling? They’ve already expressed an interest in franchising a series of films based on their popular characters. A Mario movie from Illumination Entertainment is already rumoured to be in the works. Link’s Awakening could be a nod to a forthcoming Nintendo universe.