7 Things Link’s Awakening Does Better than Breath of the Wild

zelda link's awakening sales with the title screen

Link’s Awakening Remake is almost here, and debate rages on regarding the game’s $59.99 (USD) price tag. Originally released for the original Gameboy in 1993, Link’s Awakening is a bite-sized experience in comparison to Breath of the Wild’s vast open-world. Is Link’s Awakening truly worth the same price as BOTW? The answer to this question depends on what you value as a player, and we’re here to share seven (7) things that Link’s Awakening does better than BOTW.

Before we get started, let’s lay down a list of facts for those gamers who have never played Link’s Awakening:

  • Link’s Awakening is played from a top-down perspective as opposed to BOTW’s three dimensional plain
  • A playthrough of Link’s Awakening will take most players between 15-20 hours to beat in comparison to BOTW’s 100hrs+ playthrough
  • Link’s Awakening is a linear experience where players will need to collect certain items within dungeons to unlock new areas of the map; whereas, BOTW gives players freedom to explore any portion of the map after completing the Great Plateau

There will be ****MINOR SPOILERS**** for those who have not played Link’s Awakening, but we will refrain from major spoilers for those who have not experienced the game. With that out of the way, let’s dive right in!

1. Dungeons

It’s no secret that Breath of the Wild struggled with the concept Divine Beast dungeons. The physics-based puzzles worked well in the smaller shrines, but BOTW struggled to build a large and cohesive dungeon experience with its four larger “dungeons.” Controlling the movements of the Divine Beasts to unlock new areas within the beast was simply uninspiring and felt more like a combination of multiple shrine quests.

Newcomers to Link’s Awakening will find its eight (8) dungeons thrilling and stimulating in puzzle design, layout, and difficulty. Although each dungeon must be completed in a predetermined order, each experience has multiple keys that must be earned in unique ways, a creative mini-boss, an equip-able item that is permanently added to your inventory, and a final boss that must be defeated to earn an Instrument of the Sirens. The linearity of LA’s dungeons naturally lends itself to progressive difficulty in dungeon puzzles, which is a “breath” of fresh air when compared to BOTW’s relatively easy Divine Beast puzzles. Overall, the dungeon design in Link’s Awakening is some of the best in the series.

2. Map Density

Breath of the Wild is a ginormous game. We once had Link walk from the Northeast corner of Death Mountain to the Southwest corner of the Gerudo Desert. The total travel time (in real time) — 48mins. Content density came at a detriment to BOTW’s map size and is prevalent in numerous regions throughout the game, such as Lanayru Mountain and the Gerudo Desert. Traversing large regions without finding even a Korok seed can prove dull, tedious, and off-putting. Not to mention, BOTW’s content was largely myopic throughout the world in that exploration mostly yielded new shrines or Korok seeds.

Link’s Awakening takes a completely different approach. Instead of exploring wide-open plains, the game condenses its map exponentially and adds a variety of secrets to each screen. From Secret Seashells hiding in grassy areas to Fairies hiding beneath boulders to dungeon entrance keys buried beneath the sand, the world of Link’s Awakening is bubbling with variety. This approach lends itself to exploration that is not only memorable but also worthwhile and is some of the best in the series.

3. Pacing

Skyrim. The Witcher 3. Red Dead Redemption II. The Fallout series. They all suffer from it. Pacing in open world games is a challenge that video game developers have yet to conquer, and Breath of the Wild is no exception. Storytelling arcs in a sandbox environment remain dictated by the play style of individual gamers, which can cause BOTW’s high-adrenaline moments to feel sporadic for some players. While some will receive story-tropes early on in a playthrough by focusing on main quest objectives, other players will focus on exploring the vast, open world to its entirety before encountering story-line goals. As with the aforementioned examples, many players will never see an open-world’s story through to its conclusion, and Breath of the Wild is no different. Which leads us to….

Link’s Awakening is one of the best-paced games in the history of Nintendo’s library. From the opening cut-scene of Link washing ashore on Koholint Island to watching the credits roll after waking the Wind Fish, Link’s Awakening is jammed packed full of story, action, exploration, and dialogue. The sacrifice for such beautiful pacing is a shorter, linear adventure that guides the player along a predetermined path. Link’s Awakening mitigates the negative consequences of linearity by incorporating a refreshing amount of diversity in its progression. For example, instead of having each of the eight (8) main dungeon entrances locked, Link must complete a variety of challenges just to gain access to the game’s dungeons. This approach breaks up the monotony and lends itself to a unique gameplay experience without the added “fluff.”

4. Memorable NPCs

Let’s face it. Prince Sidon is the pinnacle of NPC interactions and continues to be one of the all-time fan-favorites when it comes to Zelda characters. But other NPCs in Breath of the Wild are forgettable, and it all goes back to the challenges of an open-world concept. Creating scenarios to engage with NPCs along a main quest solidifies the emotional attachment between the player and the NPCs; however, after saving the Zora kingdom from the Divine Beast Vah Ruta, players had little incentive to engage with Sidon. In fact, players can forego talking to NPCs entirely by taking on Ganon right after completing the Great Plateau. This paradigm is prevalent throughout Breath of the Wild and leads to underwhelming character development.

Zelda. Ganon. Gerudo tribe. Zoras. Gorons. Epona. None are existent in Link’s Awakening so the game’s NPCs must be forgettable, right? Wrong! Link’s Awakening completely flips this paradigm on its head by forcing the player to engage with its original NPCs in order to progress the mainline story. A perfect example is the trading sequence — players must engage with a quirky cast of NPCs to gain items that unlock new regions. Without spoiling the story too much, players will encounter a singing frog, a shy old man who only talks via telephone, an artist who just happens to be an alligator (or crocodile….we can’t tell the difference), and so many more. These NPC engagements give players similar experiences that are charming, unique, creative, and downright hilarious.

5. Boss Fights

Before veterans of Link’s Awakening lash out at us with the boss of the Face Shrine, we get it folks. The Face Shrine Boss is horrible. It feels like the coders ran out of development time (and creativity) and said, “hey, let’s just have some eyes and a face pop up from the floor and call it a boss.” It’s bad. But the four Blight-Ganons in Breath of the Wild can’t hold a candle to the other boss fights in Link’s Awakening. The four BOTW boss encounters focus on combating a Ganon derivative who happens to have a significant amount of health in comparison to normal enemies. This approach lends itself to players focusing on preparation for the Ganon encounters (i.e. inventory management) as opposed to focusing on the combat itself. Not to mention, the four boss battles are similar in that players must avoid different projectiles but engage the boss with any weapon of their choosing.

Enter Link’s Awakening. Instead of spongy boss battles, the eight dungeon bosses in Link’s Awakening are a combination of puzzle solving and combat mechanics. More often than not, the unique item/weapon found in the dungeon must be utilized in a creative way to combat the main boss. This approach leads to memorable boss experiences with a variety that cannot be accomplished with Breath of the Wild’s system.

6. Music

Name one. Go ahead. We dare you. Because outside of the main theme that we’ve heard dozens of times (and perhaps Zelda’s Lullaby from the Temple of Time), we cannot remember a single memorable track from Breath of the Wild. We get it. The ambiance from the sound effects was deemed far more important than over-world music. Aonuma and crew chose this path despite the fact that the Legend of Zelda soundtracks are heralded as some the best in gaming. Which is why…..

Link’s Awakening has one of the best Zelda soundtracks of all time. This should come as no surprise as the whole point of the game is to wake the Wind Fish with the eight musical instruments of the Sirens. Each area of the game features a unique soundtrack that is both well-crafted and memorable. From the peppy foot-stamper that is Tal Tal Heights to the melancholy Ballad of the Wind Fish, Link’s Awakening soundtrack remains a pinnacle in Zelda’s musical history.

7. Story Arc

The best arcs in gaming begin with an initial conflict that has an obvious resolution only to thwart player expectations by exposing the initial desired outcome as undesirable. NieR Automata took this approach. So did Bioshock. Metal Gear Solid 3. Even Undertale. Breath of the Wild negates this proven formula by sticking to a traditional script. Link awakens after 100 years of slumber with the same goal throughout the game. Defeat Ganon. Save Princess Zelda. Zero deviance. Zero consequence from defeating Ganon other than the restitution of Hyrule (which sounds like a good idea to us).

The story of Link’s Awakening adheres to the perspective of those classics mentioned above. Link awakens shipwrecked on Koholint Island, and players immediately assume the only restitution to this problem is leaving the island by awakening the Wind Fish. But as the story progresses, something begins to happen. Link (and the player) become connected to the Island and its memorable characters (most of all, Marin). The cognitive dissonance continues to mount as Link begins to realize that waking the Wind Fish means leaving his new friends behind. Remain in the dream with a newfound love or face the consequences of conquering a great fear? The crescendo to this dilemma is what makes this game so iconic — resolution with hints of regret. Link’s Awakening is a story that could just leave you in tears at the end…..

And there you have it. Our seven (7) things that Link’s Awakening does better than Breath of the Wild. If the aforementioned list is important to you as a gamer, chances are you will find that $59.99 price tag worthwhile. If not, then stick to what works for you. Regardless, Link’s Awakening is a great game that many will enjoy. But we want to know what YOU think. Leave us a comment below or interact with us in the social links on the right-hand side. Enjoy!

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