Crafting Your Own Zelda Dungeons
Link’s Awakening = Zelda Maker?
Back in February, Nintendo revealed its remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the Switch. At the time, I wrote a piece discussing the announcement itself, and why Link’s Awakening is such a significant entry in the famed franchise. Now, only a few short months later, and we find ourselves knee-deep in E3 madness. As expected, Nintendo have lifted the curtain on this new Zelda just a little more. As well as confirming the September 20th release date, we now know a little more about the game itself.
Nintendo’s reasons for actually going ahead with this particular remake are much clearer now. Eiji Aonuma — now Nintendo’s official custodian of the franchise — wasn’t involved in developing the original Game Boy version of Link’s Awakening. However, he was always fascinated with it. Playing a vast Zelda title on the tiny Game Boy screen felt like holding an enormous world in the palm of your hands, according to Aonuma. There was a sense of peering into a kind of diorama — or a “tilt-shifted world” — and this directly influenced the art design of the remake. When asked “why now?” at the Nintendo Treehouse event, Aonuma commented that many players had recently become familiar with Breath of the Wild, which fundamentally altered the core Zelda formula. For these players especially, Link’s Awakening might feel like a more traditional Zelda experience.
There’s a lot to talk about with this remake, but true to form, Nintendo had a big surprise in their back pocket: Link’s Awakening incorporates a full-on dungeon creation system! Many people, myself included, have long pined for some kind of “Zelda Maker” — a Zelda equivalent to the stunningly robust Super Mario Maker games. And while the dungeon creator in Link’s Awakening doesn’t quite go as far as a Super Mario Maker, it’s certainly no slouch either.
Your introduction to dungeon-crafting is certainly unexpected. You’ll come across a strange, run-down building in Link’s Awakening. It looks rather foreboding from the outside, but it’s actually the (new?) home of Dampé — he’s a fellow you might remember from Ocarina of Time. He presided over Hyrule’s graveyard, and seemed rather proud of his terrifying night-time gravedigging tours.
In Link’s Awakening, Dampé plays an even more important role: his job is to introduce you to Chamber Dungeons.
At first glance, Chamber Dungeons are a pretty simple concept. Dampé will present you with a grid (often in a certain overall shape — like a heart, for example) and you’ll need to place individual rooms (or chambers) on each square of the grid to create an entire dungeon. There is a unique recursive quality to Chamber Dungeons, too. You’ll actually need to build and clear your own creations in order to unlock more chamber “pieces”, which further enables you to build more varied and elaborate creations.
As you’d expect, there are different types of chambers as well. Chambers are categorised based on the number of entrances/exits they have (ranging from one to four). Within each of these categories are sub-categories that tell you which direction the entries/exits are facing. Creating a successful or complete Chamber Dungeon means you’ll need to meet certain prerequisites. These include having an entrance chamber, a nightmare/boss chamber, and ensuring that all of your entries/exits are connected to a corresponding entrance/exit (so you can’t place a chamber with an entrance/exit that leads nowhere).
There’s a whole lot more going on here than initially meets the eye, too. It’s not just about clearing your own dungeons — and trying to beat your best times — there’s an actual Picross-like puzzle element to the arrangement of the dungeon itself. You’ll need to meet certain conditions for different dungeon challenges, which means that you might spend a good amount of time actually designing/constructing dungeons well before exploring them. As well as the different chamber types described above, you’ll uncover a lot more variety — some chambers have treasure chests, locked doors, and even stairs. If you choose to place multiple chambers with locked doors, you’ll need to ensure you have enough treasure chests to house the keys required for them. Interestingly, there’s a unique collection element to the chambers as well — not only will you find more chambers by completing your own Chamber Dungeons, but you’ll also discover more chambers by completing regular dungeons and various other mini-games throughout the adventure.
There’s a lot more to say about The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening ahead of the September 20th launch. We’re expecting to get some time with the game during our appointment with Nintendo at E3; please look forward to our hands-on impressions soon.