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The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Game Boy) artwork

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Game Boy) review


"I always thought that nerds on the Internet who wine “it’s all about the gameplay!” when their favorite game gets ripped on for some stupid gimmick or whatever were idiots. Obviously gameplay is the most important aspect of any game, but I would be damned if graphics, sound, replay value, etc don’t matter at all. "



I always thought that nerds on the Internet who wine “it’s all about the gameplay!” when their favorite game gets ripped on for some stupid gimmick or whatever were idiots. Obviously gameplay is the most important aspect of any game, but I would be damned if graphics, sound, replay value, etc don’t matter at all.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening taught me two things. First of all audio/visual presentation plays a key role in games. Secondly it doesn’t matter too much. Playing Link’s Awakening on the dark, black and white screen sure hurts the overall experience and therefore prevents it from reaching the classic status that other games in the series have reached. But it doesn’t prevent it from being a highly enjoyable, refreshing experience.

After defeating Gannon and saving the world in A Link to the Past Link decides to set sail and leave Hyrule, hoping to find a better and more peaceful place to reside. The game opens with Link waking up inside the house of two villagers named Marin and Tarin, who inform him that he was washed up on the beach after a shipwreck thanks to a huge storm. After making a quick stop to the beach to pick up his sword he left there, Link meets a talking owl. This owl informs him that he is trapped on the island (known as Koholint Island) until he wakes the almighty Wind Fish, so Link embarks on a quest to find all of the instruments so he can leave the island once and for all.

It might sound cheesy at first, but this story really works. First of all the Zelda series finally drifts away from the monotonous “Link saves the Princess from Gannon and the kingdom is at peace” scenario. Now Link himself is in trouble and he has to find a way to save his own ass. In the previous Zelda titles you also knew from the start that Link was eventually going to defeat Gannon and save the day. Link’s Awakening isn’t like this at all, and will keep you guessing until the very end of the game. What is this “Wind Fish”, and why can’t Link leave? Also what will happen once the Wind Fish wakes up? These questions will give you a reason to continue playing and keep you in suspense.

That’s not the only reason why one would want to play this game. Link’s Awakening has one of the best environments I’ve yet to see in any game to date. Unlike other Game Boy games the system’s limited hardware never interferes with the game. Koholint Island is freakin’ huge and each area contains something different and unique. There are towns, forests, a desert, rapids, mountains, prairies, a beach, a swamp, and much more. And that’s not all. There are plenty of other areas to explore, such as buildings, caves, dungeons, and even underwater. Everything you would ever want is present, which is quite impressive for a game with such limitations.

But what does that matter if each area is bland and has nothing to do? Fortunately that’s not the case here, but the exact opposite. Each area is loaded with kickass challenges, puzzles, and events that give the game so much personality. These include hoping over large pits with a combination of the Pegasus’ boots and the roc’s feather, waking up a walrus that blocks the entrance to the desert, playing a “crane” game with hopes of grabbing money, the popular Yoshi doll or something else, rescuing the village’s dog and then using it as a weapon, teaming up with a flying rooster, searching for the lost golden leaves, riding the rapids at the raft shop, and much more. There’s just always something to do that is incredibly fun and often unique.

You begin the game with just a shield (and soon a sword), but it isn’t long before you find some more awesome items. There aren’t as many as in A Link to the Past, but unlike the SNES game every one of your gadgets plays a crucial role in your journey. You won’t use anything once and put it away for good; the constant challenges will always force you to use what you have to the fullest to succeed. Favorites such as the hookshot (an item with a long chain that can help you get past pits as well as attack enemies), Pegasus’ boots, magic powder, and power bracelet are all present, as well as new ones such as the roc’s feather, a very useful tool that gives you ability to jump over pits and enemies, and the Ocarina that is vital to waking the Wind Fish and completing other tasks. Never before have I enjoyed using weapons this much.

Although Link’s Awakening sticks to the basic find a dungeon, complete it and move on to the next one format, the dungeons have never been more enjoyable. They require much more than moving from room to room while defeating enemies and collecting keys. For example the seventh dungeon takes place in a giant tower that you’re trying to reach the top of. Unfortunately there’s a void floor that prevents you from reaching the top. So now you must come up with a way to collapse the floor by transporting a ball to four pillars that are each located at different spots in the tower. Don’t forget that there are enemies, immovable blocks, and pits that will hinder your progress.

That’s just one awesome example. There’s much more, such as lifting elephant blocks to find hidden stairways, running while being chased by falling blocks, lighting the torches in the room so get rid of ghosts, and defeating the creative bosses and mini-bosses (more on that in a sec). The list goes on. Link’s Awakening will also test your mind as well. Each dungeon is LOADED with awesome puzzles that range from strategically melting ice blocks to manipulating pegs with a crystal ball to memorizing patterns of glowing tiles.

The bosses in A Link to the Past might’ve been dull and uninspired, but now they are the exact opposite. Although none of them offer much in terms of challenge, most boss fights are a blast to play. Some even use or require unorthodox methods to fight/defeat. You’ll encounter a mole that challenges you to a dodge ball match, an Eagle that fights you on top of a tower (think Storm Eagle from Mega Man X), and even a boxing kangaroo! The fact that each boss requires different tactics and items to defeat makes them much more enjoyable than your typical charge and slash with sword type bosses that are way too common in Zelda games.

Unfortunately Link’s Awakening has a few minor gripes. The puzzles will surely make you think, but the enemies don’t post much of a threat (I think I only encountered two or three game over screens during my first play-through, and at least one was intentional). The soundtrack is also the least memorable in the series, and some of the songs (LEVEL 4!!!) just flat out suck. Finally there are also the hardware limitations that ruin the experience. Although these are all minor flaws they are enough to keep Link’s Awakening in third place on the list of best Zelda games after the original and Ocarina of Time, which are both essentially flawless. But this isn’t a game that should be missed, and once you get over the crappy screen you’ll find one of the best adventure games out there.

Those nerds might be right, but I still think they’re idiots.

Rating: 9/10

Halon's avatar
Community review by Halon (November 28, 2007)

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