cover_large.jpgThe first Game Boy Legend of Zelda, Link’s Awakening was released between two amazing LoZ games: A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. I think due to the fact that it was on Game Boy and fell in between those other two great titles is the reason why it kind of got overshadowed. Allow me to say that this is one of the best games I’ve played on Game Boy.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening opens with Link in a storm at sea, rigging the mast or something (I know nothing about ships). Link is soon shipwrecked and wakes up on the beach of Koholint Island. Taken in by the nearby friendly villagers, Link must now find a way off of the island. He is met with an owl who explains to him that the only way off the island is to wake the Wind Fish, sleeping in its egg at the top of the tallest point of Koholint. To do so, Link must learn the song, Ballad of the Wind Fish, and play it (orchestra style) for the Wind Fish on the 8 instruments hidden within the 8 dungeons.

So Link sets out on his quest to wake the Wind Fish, learning about the mysterious island and its inhabitants the whole time. Throughout his journey, he’ll obtain many items from a Link to the Past, such as the bow, hookshot, magic powder, Pegasus Boots, and a few more. One of the first items Link acquires is a new one however, Roc’s Feather, that allows him to jump over enemies and holes in the floor. In fact, when combined with the Pegasus Boots for a running start, Link can jump quite a gap! There are a number of puzzles and enemies that are tailored for this new ability, and they are some of the most fun obstacles in the game.

10The gameplay is virtually unchanged, but interesting to note is that this is the only Legend of Zelda after the first game to NOT have its own special mechanic. For instance, Link to the Past has the Dark World, Ocarina has the time-shifting, Majora has the 3-day and transformation mechanics… Link’s Awakening is pretty straightforward, but in my opinion, that’s one of Link’s Awakening’s strengths: It’s just a straightforward and enjoyable Zelda game with a decent sized world to explore.

One thing that has changed slightly from a Link to the Past, is the dungeons. Dungeons now have a few more things in them to help you along in your journey. First, and most notable is the compass upgrade. One you get a compass in a dungeon, it will beep whenever you enter a room that has a key in it, that way you’ll know to really look in every nook and cranny of that room. Next, are the stone owls. Since the owl helps you along your journey, they placed stone owls in dungeons and added a new item for each dungeon, the stone beak. Like maps and compasses, stone beaks are specific to each dungeon, and once you have them, you can activate the owl statues for hints in each dungeon. Some hints you may not need while others are absolutely necessary to figure out some of the more cryptic puzzles. Additionally, some portions of the dungeons go into a 2D sidescrolling mode, that’s actually quite fun and breaks up some of the monotony of normal 2D LoZ dungeon crawling.  I actually welcome these dungeon changes.

Speaking of puzzles… Link’s Awakening goes back and forth from being very easy and hand-holding to incredibly cryptic. Before I go into puzzles, let me just say that combat is cake. I’ve only ever came close to dying once, really early on. Back to puzzles and exploration… 1.jpgOftentimes the owl will just pop in and tell you exactly where to go instead of letting you explore for yourself, but the items necessary to get to where you’re going are often hidden so well that you may have to resort to a walkthrough (shout out to Zelda Dungeon for that, they have the best LoZ walkthroughs). Hidden walls are an absolute favorite of Link’s Awakening; you’ll just have to bomb everywhere if you want to find all of the heart pieces… And speaking of secrets, Secret Seashells make an appearance, which are all hidden (again, some cryptically well) and you are required  to find 20 of the 26 (two are missable, by the way) shells if you want to upgrade your sword. If you do get stuck, there are various phone booths that you can stop by for a bit of help, but they still won’t tell you everything.

Another annoying thing about LA is that any rock that can be moved or broken has a prompt everytime you touch one. Something like “THIS IS A STRANGE OBJECT, THERE MUST BE SOME WAY TO TACKLE IT”. Like, no shit, I just don’t have the item or upgrade yet. Still, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. you touch a rock, you have to see this dialogue… Similarly, every time you get a compass, it feels the need to tell you about the beeping feature… Like, if I’m in the 7th dungeon, you REALLY don’t need to tell me these things. They should be once and done!

One thing about LA I’m not sure how I feel about… It makes sense as far as the story goes, but the game seems really geared toward kids. Bosses often taunt you before fighting (including the notable “neener-neener”) and the inclusion of a number of Nintendo enemies just seems lazy… 240x135.jpgYou’ll encounter Goombas, Piranha Plants, Bloops, Kirby, and many other Nintendo character throughout your journey… I don’t know, it just seems lazy to me to recycle these characters.

AT ANY RATE. Link’s Awakening is like wishing there was more Link to the Past, which is a HUGE accomplishment. Firstly, LttP is the best 2D Zelda, and the fact that you can even compare LA to it is an amazing accomplishment. Let’s not forget that LttP is on Super Nintendo, and LA is on Game Boy. They really pushed the Game Boy to its full potential. If you have the option, play Link’s Awakening DX, which was the remake in beautiful color that even goes so far as to add an extra dungeon, complete with color-based puzzles. It’s an easy dungeon, but the reward you get for clearing it is well worth it. At any rate, if you liked Link to the Past, you’ll definitely enjoy Link’s Awakening.

The Bottom Line

Pros

  • More A Link to the Past style Zelda. Nothing wrong with that!
  • Some neat ideas and enemy designs, especially with the inclusion of the jumping item.
  • The new dungeon mechanics are a fresh and welcome change.
  • A fun loving story and adventure.

Cons

  • The weird imbalance of simple and cryptic.
  • The use of other Nintendo characters… I don’t want to see Octaroks in a Mario game either.

Final Score: 9/10

Link’s Awakening is a great accomplishment and one of the best games on the Game Boy. If you like 2D LoZs, you need to play this one. You won’t be disappointed.