At PAX West 2019, I played through the third dungeon in Link’s Awakening on Switch, the Key Cavern. While it’s been nearly two decades since I last played the title on the Gameboy, it was surprisingly easy to get right back in the groove. From my opening moments using a pot to smash open the door in the first room to collecting keys, the compass, and the map, adherence to classic Zelda designs within the scope of a new and cutesy aesthetic conjures up the old magic all over again.
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Slaying skeletons, bats, and other creatures leads me to a room with a mini-boss – two giant snakelike creatures that are immune to swordplay. Somehow, my brain remembered how to deal with these hungry chompers – feeding them bombs until they blow up! These snake creatures eat anything in front of them, including well-timed explosive drops. Besting them, I unlock a convenient warp point that shoots me back to the dungeon entrance, perfect for more efficient exploring.
Eventually, I pick up the dungeon’s signature item, the Dash/Pegasus boots that allow me to charge. These boots are instrumental, letting me kill enemies that warp out of the way under normal circumstances and letting me “boost jump” with my feather, clearing massive distances and facilitating passage over big gaps. My dungeon exploration continues, taking me into a side-scrolling segment that features a Thwomp and a Piranha Plant. Using the dash boots, I collect the necessary keys to make my way to the boss room, an seemingly empty chamber with a large shadow looming overhead.
Using the Pegasus boots, I smash into the wall, bringing the dungeon boss down from the ceiling. Known as Slime Eye, some quick slashes allow you to pull the two big chunks of this boss apart – perfect for opening up a running charge through its weak point, cleaving it in half and creating two dangerous but vulnerable medium-sized slimes. Avoiding their jump attacks, I make short work of the boss and claim my instrument prize in the final room.
Link’s Awakening releases on the Switch September 20, and I’m looking forward to experiencing the age old journey through one of the franchise’s best games all over again.