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You May Be Playing Link's Awakening Totally Wrong

The Switch edition of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is an extremely faithful recreation of the '93 Game Boy game (and its souped-up rerelease, Link's Awakening DX). Too faithful, maybe. While Link's Awakening remains one of the best 2D Zelda adventures, and Nintendo's new remake captures all of the original's oddball charm, it also preserves some of Link's Awakening's more frustrating quirks. Games have evolved over the past 23 years, and the new version of Link's Awakening hasn't necessarily changed accordingly.


Some of Link's Awakening's features aren't clearly explained. Puzzle solutions can be obtuse. Mandatory activities sometimes look like sidequests, and the occasional modern flourish can make things confusing for people who're already familiar with the original. As a result, you might be playing Link's Awakening all wrong. Don't blame yourself. Link's Awakening isn't a hard game, but it's from a different time. If you think you're playing incorrectly, our guide should set you straight.

You're avoiding the trading quest

Early on in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, you'll find a harried mother in Mabe Village who's pining after a Yoshi doll. When you pop into the Trendy Game shack, where you can play Link's Awakening's take on an arcade crane game, you'll see a Yoshi plush sitting among the prizes. It's pretty clear what happens next: you win the prize and give it to the mom. And thus, the trading quest begins.


In the trading sequence, you'll schlep goods all over Koholint Island, bartering with needy residents until you end up with the magnifying glass, the ultimate prize. At first, this seems like an optional sidequest. It's not. You'll need to trade to access Kanalet Castle en route to the game's third dungeon, and you need the magnifying glass to learn how to navigate the Wind Fish's egg at the end of the game. Trading is also required to get the boomerang, which is very, very useful.

Thankfully, the trading sequence follows roughly the same path as the main campaign. If you start early, you won't have to go too far out of your way to finish it. Pick up that Yoshi doll ASAP, and talk to everyone you meet. It'll pay off later.


You're grinding for rupees

The bow, one of Link's most powerful weapons, appears in the Mabe Village shop early in Link's adventure, and it comes with one heck of a price tag. In the Koholint Island economy, 980 rupees is a small fortune. Still, it's the bow. It's an iconic piece of Link's arsenal. You need to have it, right?


Slow down. While it's tempting to spend the next couple of hours hacking away at bushes to collect every stray rupee you can find, you don't actually need to grind at all. Simply keep playing. As you progress through Link's Awakening, you'll naturally end up with more cash than you'll ever be able to spend, and the bow isn't necessary until extremely late in the game. In fact, if you know what you're doing, you may not need the bow at all.

And oh, by the way, if you're really impatient, there's a much cheaper way to get the bow: steal it. Just be prepared to face the consequences. Don't say we didn't warn you.

You're playing Link's Awakening with the sound off

From its Game Boy debut to its current revival on the Switch, Link's Awakening was always meant to be a portable adventure, but enjoying Zelda on the road comes with a few sacrifices. Playing games in public with the sound cranked up is rude. If you're surrounded by other people, you might be tempted to turn your Switch's volume all the way down.


Bring along a good pair of headphones instead. There's one room in the second dungeon that requires you to beat a set of enemies in a certain order, and the buzz that sounds when you do it incorrectly is the only indication that there's a puzzle at play. Also, the compass doesn't show all of the hidden keys on the map; instead, it plays a tone when you enter a secret-filled room. In addition, you'll need to dig up hidden warps to unlock fast travel on Koholint Island; the sound that the warps make is the only real indication that you should be looking for something.

You can muddle through Link's Awakening without the sound cues by relying on trial and error, but the noises will make your experience a lot less frustrating. Make sure you can hear everything. It's how Link's Awakening was meant to be played.


You're not channeling your inner Mario

Even by Zelda standards, Link's Awakening is a weird game. Its strangest feature? It's absolutely crammed full of cameos by other Nintendo characters. Piranha Plants pop to block your way. Kirby appears as an enemy in the seventh dungeon. A Yoshi plushie features prominently in the trading quest. A goat-lady catfishes a lonely writer using a photo of Princess Peach. See what we mean? Weird.


Link's Awakening doesn't just borrow some Mario characters, though. Occasionally, it plays like Mario, too. Link's Awakening is littered with brief side-scrolling platforming sequences, many of which are filled with classic Mario foes. Play these stages like a Mario game, and you'll be rewarded, too. 

Basically, if you're running low on health when you run across a Goomba, don't smack it with your sword. Take a cue from your favorite plumber instead. Unless you're playing on Hero Mode, which eliminates health drops from enemies, jumping on a Goomba using Roc's Feather will kill it and net you an automatic heart. It's a win-win for everyone (except the poor Goomba).

You forgot to check the shops for new loot

Early on, Mabe Village acts as the primary hub for Link's dream-inspired adventure. As he explores more and more of Koholint Island, however, he spends less and less time in its sole human settlement. By the end of the game, you'll probably avoid Mabe entirely. Warps are a faster way to get around the island, and you've probably done almost everything there is to do in Mabe anyway.


As a result, you probably won't have popped into Mabe's shops to see if anything new is in stock. That's a mistake. The wares hawked at the store and at the Trendy Game change over time, with new items appearing as the story progresses. The bow won't appear until you've bought bombs. The Mario-character collectibles won't show up at first, but if you check in at the Trendy Game regularly, you'll find them eventually.

Even if you've already scored an item from the store, it's worth checking again, because the Trendy Game actually has multiple heart pieces and seashells to collect. If you're a completionist — and Link's Awakening is a short game, so you might as well be — go shopping often. It's the only way to get everything.


You're not combining items

The items that Link collects during his time on Koholint Island make him more powerful. When he uses them together, he's almost unstoppable. One of the big tricks to mastering Link's Awakening is learning how to use your items together. If you're stuck on a puzzle, think about whether or not there's a combination of abilities that would help. Chances are, that's the solution.


For example, you can use Roc's Feather to leap over small holes, but for bigger gaps you'll need to combine the Feather with the Pegasus Boots. Link can pick up and throw bombs, which is required to beat certain enemies, but he can't chuck explosives very far, and you'll have to time your tosses so that bombs explode at the right time. The better solution? Equip the bow and the bombs, then activate both at the same time. That creates a "bomb arrow" that'll send the explosive hurtling across the room, making it explode on impact. Much easier.

You're putting off Link's Awakening's seashell hunt

Did you think tracking down all 26 seashells in the original version of Link's Awakening was a pain? In the Switch remake, there are 50 of them to find, and like Breath of the Wild's Korok Seeds, many of them are hidden in extremely unexpected places. You'll need to get all of the seashells if you want to unlock the Koholint Sword, Link's most powerful weapon, and complete your Chamber Dungeon tile collection, but the idea of hunting for that many collectibles is overwhelming. You might be tempted to put the search off until the end.


Don't. See, while the number of hidden seashells has been doubled for the new version of Link's Awakening, they actually get easier to find as time goes on. Once you have 15 seashells, make a beeline for the Seashell Palace. There, you'll get a new item called the Seashell Sensor, which makes seashell hunting a cinch.

The Sensor beeps (and makes your Joy-Cons rumble, if you're not playing on a Switch Lite) whenever there's a seashell nearby, so get the Sensor as early as you can and take full advantage of it while you're exploring. You'll be well on your way to 50 before you even know it.

You're leaving plants standing as you play Link's Awakening

If you want to get the most out of Link's Awakening, there's one thing you need to do: slash and smash. See a bush? A rock? A blade of grass? Whip out your sword and slice it to ribbons, or grab it with your Power Bracelet and reduce it to rubble.


Link's Awakening seems to be designed under the assumption that Link is going to destroy everything that he sees. If you want to get enough rupees to buy expensive items, like the bow or extra Chamber Stones, looting Koholint's natural flora is practically a full-time job. More importantly, many secret exits, including a few that you need in order to progress the main campaign, are hidden under random bushes and rocks. If you're stuck, break everything. There's a good chance you'll find the way forward.

Taking out plants and stones is also a great way to stock up on seashells, and besides, it's just fun. No, decimating the local flora isn't environmentally friendly, but that's okay. Koholint is a magical place. Travel a few screens away, and it'll all grow back.


You're spending too much time with the Chamber Dungeons

The Link's Awakening remake is excellent, but it comes with one major disappointment: the make-your-own dungeon feature, officially known as the Chamber Dungeons, kind of sucks. Instead of letting you design clever puzzles intricate death traps, the Chamber Dungeons force you to cobble together levels from rooms you've already beaten a dozen times, creating a disconnected, repetitive hodgepodge that's not particularly interesting. Zelda Maker, this ain't.


Skip them. Yes, there are a few rewards hidden behind Chamber Dungeons — one seashell, a couple of heart pieces, and the third fairy bottle, but they're not necessary to beat the game. You can get 40 seashells, which unlocks the Koholint Sword, without touching the Chamber Dungeons at all (the reward for finding all 50 seashells is just another Chamber Stone). By the end of Link's Awakening, you should have enough hearts to survive almost anything. Two fairy bottles is more than enough.

You don't even need to get all of Koholint's treasures in order to get the game's best ending. Unless you need to 100% Link's Awakening, skip the Chamber Dungeons. They're not worth your time.

You're relying on fairy bottles for a last-minute revive

If you've played other Zelda games, you know how it goes. You're up against a tough boss or trying to solve a punishing puzzle. Slowly, your health begins to disappear. Before long, the tell-tale beep warning you that Link is near death starts to sound, but you're not worried. See, you have a fairy trapped in a bottle in your inventory. When your health runs out, the fairy will emerge from the bottle and revive you, saving you from a game over.


Try this in Link's Awakening, however, and you will die. While the Switch remake of Link's Awakening adds Fairy Bottles to the game for the very first time, they don't work exactly like the ones in other Zelda titles. In Link's Awakening, you need to deploy your life-giving fairies manually before you run out of life. They won't save you automatically.

There is an auto-revive item in Link's Awakening, however. Crazy Tracy, who can be found near Goponga Swamp, sells a Secret Medicine that works like a standard normal fairy bottle. You can also find the medicine in some of the later dungeons. Make sure you always have some on hand. The difference between a regular and perfect ending is just one death away.


You're driving yourself crazy trying to 100% Link's Awakening

In case you haven't noticed, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening has tons of items to collect. Not only are there heart containers, seashells, Chamber Stones, and fairy bottles to find, but the Switch remake adds yet another item to the list: Mario-themed figurines, which can be won at the Trendy Game, and then handed out to Mabe Village residents to spruce up their houses.


If you're trying to get the most out of your Link's Awakening experience, you might be tempted to try and score all of the Mario statues before visiting the Wind Fish's egg for your final showdown with the Nightmares. If you do, you'll never finish the game. Apparently, the final Trendy Game prize, the BowWow figurine, only appears after you've finished the main quest.

That's fine. Collecting all of the figures doesn't get you anything aside from some praise from the Trendy Game owner and a discount on future runs. That's helpful for farming rupees, but by that point in the game, you've probably bought or stolen everything you need already.

You're too impatient while fishing

The fishing minigame returns for the Switch edition of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, and it's absolutely worth your time. By fishing, you'll be able to score two heart containers, a couple of seashells, and a Fairy Bottle. That's not bad for a few minutes of work.


Still, if you're not patient, you might find that you're having trouble reeling in your catch. Occasionally, bigger fish will break the line and swim away, leaving you with nothing for all of your hard work. Link's Awakening never says why this happens. Here's the deal: if you're reeling in a fish while it is facing away from you, there's a good chance the line will break.

In other words, don't just mash the button as fast as you can. Wait until the fish is facing Link. When it turns around, stop. The fish will make some distance while you wait for it to face the right direction, but you'll eventually win the battle of tug-of-war and walk away with your well-earned prize.