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Shacknews Best Art Style of 2019 - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

In a year overflowing with stylistic games, the whimsical visuals of Link's Awakening stood out from the rest.

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Every Legend of Zelda title carries the baggage of history. Fans have come to expect certain aesthetics and functionality, and as such Nintendo tends to create each game's visual direction through a combination of familiar styles and new ideas. 2011's Skyward Sword for Nintendo Wii blended the cartoon-like veneer of 2003's Wind Waker with the more grounded look of 2006's Twilight Princess, for instance. This year's remake of Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch draws from the past, but manages to craft a face that's more new than familiar.

In a way, the remake of Link's Awakening is derived from 2013's The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. The 3DS title's visual style built on 1992's A Link to the Past while slanting in a more stylized direction with characters and environments that appeared taken straight out of a painting. Link's Awakening circa 2019 builds on that style, but is more unique, with characters and settings that would look right at home in the stop-motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special from 1964. It's vibrant, expressive, and whimsical. To wit: the unabashed delight on Link's face when he bags a fish still makes me grin. At the same time, the art style, for all its joy, still captures a melancholy mood as the reality of what Koholint Island is, and what will likely happen to it when Link's adventure draws to a close, sets in.

In short, Nintendo's remake of Link's Awakening is a dramatic upgrade from 1993's black-and-green color palette, but retains all the magic of its source material. That's hard to do in an age where developers are often tempted to go all-in on their platform's horsepower and set visual directions that are flashier than they are substantive. Come for dungeons filled with a strong balance of combat and brainteasers, a dense world packed with memorable characters and quests, and a story that will pull at your heartstrings. Stay for one of the most visually striking titles of 2019, and on the Switch's swollen library of new and old games.

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at davidlcraddock.com and @davidlcraddock.

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