Link's Awakening Mobility Accessibility
Link's Awakening is a frustrating, exhausting, and downright embarrassing remake with regard to accessible options. No game should be this flawed in 2019.
Score5 out of 10
Nintendo is no stranger to remaking classic games. Varying iterations of Pokémon, Metroid, and Mario regularly receive fresh coats of paint for the newest generation of systems. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is the latest in the long-running series to earn a facelift. Unfortunately, the egregious amount of accessibility barriers prevents this title from earning a spot in the library of physically disabled players.
Published by Nintendo, and developed by Grezzo, Link’s Awakening revamps the classic 26-year-old title into an aesthetically pleasing work of art. Much of the game, from the overall layout of the map, to the items acquired are nearly identical to the original, apart from a dungeon building mechanic. As a fan of the original, I eagerly purchased the Switch version, blissfully unaware of what was to come.
For starters, Link’s Awakening requires players to simultaneously press ‘L+R’ to begin the game. Unless someone stays by my side after setting up the console, I am physically unable to play. This obnoxious feature is not new, as numerous titles within the Switch library come equipped with this mandatory component. Thankfully, I am surrounded by people who understand my limitations, and are willing to briefly assist me when I play. Yet, my inability to launch Link’s Awakening proved to be a relatively minor barrier compared to the rest of the game.
In the original, Link’s shield was always active, meaning that he would deflect projectiles, block enemy attacks, or move difficult objects just by facing them. In the Switch version, Link’s shield has been bound to the ‘R’ button, forcing players to continuously hold, not toggle, the trigger to utilize a crucial item. Within the first 10 minutes of starting my campaign, I lost the ability to progress due to my inability to activate my shield. In order to acquire Link’s sword, he must traverse to the beach, deflecting Octorok projectiles, as well as push spiny urchins out of his path. While I was able to simply dodge the Octoroks, I needed assistance from others to move the urchins. If I was left alone, or if friends or family were busy, I would not have been able to progress.
To coincide with the need to press ‘R,’ certain enemies require Link to use a shield. For example, shielded Moblins, a common enemy, continuously block attacks with their shields, only opening themselves to a killing blow when Link successfully blocks one of their sword swipes. Thankfully, I found an unconventional method to deal with this pesky enemy. When Link suffers any form of damage, he becomes momentarily invulnerable, allowing him to rush whichever monster, and unleash a flurry of blows. After a shielded Moblin lands a successful attack, it temporarily lowers its guard, meaning that I can position an invincible Link behind its shield. However, this method only works if I have enough Hearts to withstand the damage. For those unwilling to utilize this method, shielded Moblins can be defeated using Magic Powder, which brings up another barrier: item usage.
In Link’s Awakening, items are bound to the ‘X’ and ‘Y’ buttons. This is a vast improvement from the original, as individuals could only equip a single item to use. Yet, players still need to regularly access the inventory screen to switch items. For disabled people that play with the Switch Pro Controller, this may be a nonissue. However, for players that utilize the Switch Joy-Cons, like myself, the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons are too small and difficult to properly press without assistance. As a result, I am unable to switch items during tense moments.
Unfortunately, Link’s Awakening poses another accessibility barrier in the form of saving the game. Much like switching items, players must access the inventory, then press either ‘L’ or ‘R’ to reach the appropriate menu to save their progress. After struggling for approximately an hour, the last thing I wanted was to ask for more assistance just to quit playing this obnoxious remake.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is an accessibility monstrosity. In the year 2019, it is an utter embarrassment to release a game which refuses to utilize optional accommodations. As a longtime fan of the Zelda franchise, I was thrilled to jump into a remodeled classic. However, rather than enjoy my time, I left Link’s Awakening frustrated, and more importantly, defeated by an inaccessible title.