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Link's Awakening release date, trailer and editions

Nintendo has always had a knack for surprising its enthusiasts, and in February 2019, a Nintendo Direct had fans of a certain green-clad hero cheering. Before the end of the 36-minute presentation, we saw a mysterious reveal trailer. The video opened up on the stormy seas, and we saw a young boy on a rickety little boat, trying to brave the elements. Suddenly, lightning struck, and we cut to a long shot of an island. Then we see the title drop: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.

The newest game in The Legend of Zelda franchise isn't quite something everyone was expecting, but it's a welcome surprise. This upcoming release remakes the old Game Boy title, upgrading it for the new millennium. While Breath of the Wild offered a cutting-edge take on the Zelda formula, Link's Awakening returns to the series' roots. Despite the shinier exterior, much of this new version retains the essence of the original.

If you're interested in Link's Awakening but don't know much about it, stick around. We've gathered everything you'll need to know about the retro remake.

Link's Awakening's release date

When Nintendo announced Link's Awakening in February, we didn't get a release date to go with it. We had to wait until E3, but now the game's launch is nigh. Expect to begin your journey through Koholint Island on Sept. 20, exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, of course. It's a first-party Nintendo title, after all. It shares a release date with the recently announced Switch Lite — a total coincidence, we're sure.

September houses some pretty heavy hitters, as far as new game releases go. The wildly successful Monster Hunter: World has its first expansion, Iceborne, slated for the 6th, while Gears 5 drops exclusively on Microsoft machines four days later. The 13th rings in the highly anticipated Borderlands 3, and if that doesn't satisfy your looter-shooter itch, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep deploys the 17th.

The Switch itself has a pretty busy month, with two major JRPGs launching on it. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered and Dragon Quest 11 both release on the hybrid console in September. Yet, despite all this competition, Link's Awakening might be the one game to keep an eye on.

Link's Awakening: The E3 trailer

The most recent trailer we have at the time of writing is the one from E3. The big news here — the release date, of course — drops in the last ten seconds, but there's a lot to see on the way there. The trailer opens with a shot of a girl finding Link on the beach. Some text appears, which reads, "Washed ashore a strange land, a castaway will seek the truth. Only first… he must awaken."

We get a montage of shots featuring this chibi, cute version of Link running around Koholint Island. In some scenes, he swings his sword against dastardly foes, while in others, he does less violent actions, like eating an apple or catching a fish. Our hero also digs through various dungeons, and we see a few clips of him fighting bosses. Then the title drops, but we're only halfway through the trailer.

After it cuts to black, we get a glimpse at the new dungeon building system. In true Nintendo fashion, the company saved the surprise for last. We see a user interface that looks like a way for players to connect rooms, something that wasn't present in the original release.

Link's Awakening pre-orders and special editions

You can pre-order Link's Awakening right now via your retailer of choice for $60. There are no pre-order bonuses as of the time of writing, but there's a way to get the game at a better price, thanks to Nintendo. For Nintendo Switch Online members, you can purchase two game vouchers for $100. These vouchers give you access to a digital game of your choice, as long as its from a pre-approved list. Link's Awakening is on the list, as well as other major names like Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Pokémon Sword and Shield.

For $70, you can purchase the Link's Awakening Dreamer Edition, which comes with a hardcover concept art book. Additionally, big Zelda fans can look forward to the Limited Edition of the game, which comes with a 120-page artbook and a steelbook that bears a resemblance to the original Game Boy. At the time of writing, though, this edition is only available in Europe. You can also keep an eye out for the Link amiibo, which releases the same day as the game.

The original Link's Awakening

Let's take a look at the original release, since this upcoming game is a remake. Link's Awakening initially launched in June 1993 in Japan on the original Game Boy. It came to the West two months later, and it was received with open arms. Link's Awakening marked itself as the fourth release in the franchise, after A Link to the Past. More importantly, it was the first time a Zelda game made the leap to a handheld gaming device, paving the way for many more to come.

In fact, Link's Awakening was so well liked that it received a remake, and we're not talking about the 2019 one. Back in 1998, Nintendo remade the game for the Game Boy Color, adding lots of new features, like dungeons and — you guessed it — color. This new version, called Link's Awakening DX, was also a big success.

Both versions of the game play more like old-school Zelda, with the top-down view. In these action adventures, you explore various dungeons full of puzzles and enemies. Link's Awakening DX got a re-release in 2011 on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, and that's the last we heard of the game until 2019.

Rewind: What do you need to know about The Legend of Zelda?

Let's back up a little. Many of you probably have fond memories with an assortment of Zelda titles, ranging as far back as A Link to the Past to the modern and beloved Breath of the Wild. But for the uninitiated, The Legend of Zelda is a legendary (no pun intended) series in Nintendo's stable. Since the first game launched on the NES in 1986, the franchise has seen more mainline games and spinoffs than you can imagine.

More often than not, the more respected, well-known Zelda titles are the mainline ones, despite the complex, overarching timeline. A Link to the Past perfected the old-school Zelda formula, while Ocarina of Time defined many 3D action-adventure conventions we see in modern gaming today. Even some spinoff titles, like the musou-style Hyrule Warriors, sell fairly well, despite the radical departure from the formula.

If you're looking at a typical game in the franchise, though, you can always expect some recurring thematic elements. You'll always have a boy hero named Link on a quest to save Princess Zelda from a wizard named Ganon. You'll usually traverse a world called Hyrule, primarily using a sword and shield.

Revisiting Koholint Island, again

So what's new in this Link's Awakening re-remake? It shares the same name as the original, so clearly that didn't change. However, there's a lot to digest for this upcoming release. For one, Nintendo completely rebuilt the game from the ground up. Everything from the graphics to the audio has been re-done, bringing this classic into the 21st century.

We can see this in action across the various gameplay videos and trailers that Nintendo has released. Link has received a substantial increase in his pixel count, yet this chibi version of our hero looks more adorable than ever before. But don't be fooled by his cute aesthetic. Link still faces some terrifying foes in the various dungeons around Koholint Island.

Additionally, the music has received a dramatic upgrade, as expected. After all, technology has made a pretty big leap between the Game Boy Color and the Switch. In the reveal trailer, we hear a flute carry an iconic melody, as opposed to the 8-bit sound chips of the '90s. Meanwhile, in the E3 2019 trailer, we get a glimpse at what the strings sound like when they join the soundtrack.

The tale of Link's Awakening

Link's Awakening is, obviously, a title in the Zelda franchise. So clearly, Zelda and Ganon are in it, right? And the game takes place in Hyrule, right? Well, that's where Link's Awakening sets itself apart. We still have Link, but that's about it. Ganon and Zelda don't play a role in this narrative, and our hero doesn't even get his legendary Master Sword. Hyrule isn't in the picture, as everything takes place in the humble little locale known as Koholint Island.

Link washes up on the shore, and after he awakens, he can't find a way to leave the island. In order to escape, he has to gather instruments, which will be used to wake up the Wind Fish. Upon waking the creature, he hopes to find a way home. The remake doesn't seem to be shaking up the premise of the original game, considering how faithful it's trying to be to the source.

Gameplay, combat, and dungeons in Link's Awakening

If Breath of the Wild was your only experience with the Zelda series, Link's Awakening might come as a shock. The game harkens back to the old-school Zelda games. The camera takes an isometric view of the action, almost pulling it directly above Link. From here, players control our titular hero, navigating him through towns, fields, and dungeons.

In the towns, you can talk to various NPCs that call Koholint Island home. Some of them will have quests for you to complete, which call on you to do all sorts of things. In some cases, you'll need to explore the village to find a certain item, while in other cases, you might need to go out in the field and do some heavy lifting.

In fields and dungeons, you do what any boy with a sword and shield would do: exterminate monsters and solve puzzles. You might throw a couple ceramic pots around, too. It's out here where all the action takes place. Additionally, you'll find various tools, like bombs and a hookshot, that help him navigate the world or deal with foes.

Link's Awakening's new Dungeon Editor Mode

While Link's Awakening presents itself as a faithful reimagining of the old Game Boy game, there's a major new feature that sets it apart: the Dungeon Editor Mode. But if you're thinking of something on the level of Super Mario Maker 2, you may want to temper your expectations.

You won't be able to build dungeons completely from scratch, but every time you clear a dungeon, you earn some of the rooms that were in the dungeon. These are called Chambers. Then in the village, you can piece together these rooms to create a unique adventure. The objects and enemies within each room remain the same, but the way these rooms are connected are at your discretion. As long as every doorway connects to another room and you have an entrance and boss room, your dungeon should be good to go.

You'll notice the game gives you a pre-set area to fill with these Chambers, so you don't exactly dictate the layout of your dungeon. Nonetheless, it's a level of customization we haven't seen in a Zelda game before.

Amiibos bring Link's Awakening to life

Nintendo also plans to launch a new Link amiibo along with the game. For those of you out of the loop, amiibos are collectible figures of various Nintendo (and third-party) characters, like Mario and Pikachu. This upcoming figure depicts the cartoonish version of our hero that we see in Link's Awakening.

But this toy does more than decorate your shelf. You can also use it in your game, thanks to the Switch's NFC capabilities. By scanning this cute Link amiibo, you can add Shadow Link to any Chamber Dungeon. This enemy will constantly be a presence until you beat the dungeon, literally playing as your shadow. If you beat the dungeon, you'll have a chance at reaping more rewards than usual, thanks to the increased risk.

If you've been collecting amiibos already, then you're in luck. Nintendo also said that previous Zelda amiibos will work in Link's Awakening as well, including the Super Smash Bros. ones. As long as it's a Zelda character, it should theoretically work. Nintendo hasn't revealed exactly what they'll do yet, but they'll at least have some sort of use.

Is Mario in Link's Awakening?

If you haven't gathered by now, Link's Awakening is a fairly atypical Zelda game. The princess herself isn't even in the story! Instead, Nintendo opted to include other iconic characters, like a chain chomp, some goombas, and … Yoshi? That's right, some creatures from the Super Mario universe have invaded Koholint Island. 

The inclusions of chain chomp and Yoshi are fairly non-intrusive, and they feel more like cameos. In the village, you can see a few chain chomps being kept as pets, as if they were dogs. Meanwhile, Yoshi appears as a doll that players can collect in a crane minigame. It's not like we'll be seeing Link ride Yoshi.

The goombas, on the other hand, act as full-on foes for Link to fight. Furthermore, the camera perspective shifts to mimic some classic Super Mario Bros. sidescrolling gameplay. In some ways, it feels like an homage. The previous versions of Link's Awakening from 1993 and 1998 also included references to Mario, showcasing the faithfulness of this 2019 remake.

Link's Awakening hands-on impressions

At E3 this year, attendees had the chance to play a demo of Link's Awakening. Many hands-on impressions came out, and for the most part, people have a positive outlook on the game. Digital Trends writer Steven Petite applauded the game for keeping true to its weirdness, even more than two decades since the last remake: "This weirdness is why I've loved Link's Awakening for two-plus decades. At face value, the moving parts are disjointed, but they inexplicably come together."

IGN managing editor Samuel Claiborn enjoyed his time with the game as well, and he recounts a story of his time stealing from an NPC. Spoiler alert: it didn't end well. However, he also noted that the build he played had performance issues, with occasional choppiness and frame-rate dips plaguing the session. Petite also noted similar issues, but he was more optimistic about it: "I wouldn't worry much at all about the performance issues in the E3 demo. There's a better chance of Super Mario Bros. releasing on PlayStation 4 than Link's Awakening not living up to Nintendo's rigorous standards."

Even more Legend of Zelda on the way

Longtime Legend of Zelda fans might be used to long waits between major releases in the franchise, but Nintendo has been generous with the Nintendo Switch. Link's Awakening may be coming out soon, but we already know about a new title that we can look forward to.

At E3 2019, Nintendo dropped a mysterious trailer, showcasing Link and Zelda as they explore a mysterious cavern. Foreboding, mysterious energy swirls around in this cave, and at the center, we see a mummified version of Ganondorf, whose eyes turn an ominous red. The trailer ends with the sentence, "The sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is now in development."

It's not often that Nintendo works on more than one major Zelda release within a year. Now, we know about two major games that are in the works. Granted, we don't have a release window for the Breath of the Wild sequel. But consider that when Twilight Princess launched in 2006, we didn't know anything about Skyward Sword, which released five years later. Could this be a sign that Nintendo's putting more resources on Zelda than ever before?