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

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


"The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening "



The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Introduction
Game Boy vs. Console games aside, Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a true adventure rpg classic that looks, sounds, and plays better than you could possibly imagine. It’s a fan favorite, I hope, for Link’s Awakening is one of my favorite Zeldas and it’s my pick for “most fun” adventure/rpg.

Graphics
No Game Boy game can touch Link’s Awakening in terms of graphics (except for maybe Wario Land). Nintendo made the absolute best use of the Game Boy’s abilities with this one, and the end result actually looks better than the SNES counterpart A Link to the Past (in my opinion).

Link looks surprisingly good for a sprite! He’s go a ton of animation, his artwork is near perfect, and he’s the perfect size for the screen. Animations change upon weapon; Link using a hookshot is much different than Link using a Shovel. Link’s sword fighting skills are also quite spectacular - especially if you can find his Level 2 sword that shoots bolts, like in previous Zeldas. Spin attacks are as cool as always.

Dungeons, Temples, towns, overworlds, passageways and the such look marvelous. There is a true feel of each place being different, helped by a surprising variety in textures and objects. The mountain range is very convincing, the swamps are marvelous, and any underground section is claustrophobic and believable.

Weapons, as may have mentioned before, look very good. The hookshot is just downright cool; magic attacks are neat; Link does a flip whenever you use the jumping ability; arrows are big and fast; and the boomerang just rocks. I think the thing that makes the graphics in Link’s Awakening so good is that everything is “big.” Enemies, Link himself, and Link’s various tools are all well done and fill up a good portion of the screen.

Speaking of enemies, bosses are incredible creations. Each one is different (on a gameplay perspective as well) and who can deny that these guys rock?

Gameplay
Weapons and tools make up a bulk of Link’s Awakening’s gameplay, so there had better be a great variety and a great batch of tools at Link’s fingertips.

One of the best things about Link’s Awakening’s gameplay is that there are several different ways to defeat an enemy or to beat a boss, and sometimes to tackle a puzzle. You can even get around certain puzzles before you’re really supposed to, if you’re good with your long jumps and slashing skills. This, to me, is always a good sign of great gameplay.

Link’s array of attacking weapons include the Hookshot, Flame Rod, Bow and Arrow, Bombs, Boomerang, Bomb-Arrows, Sword levels 1 and 2, and even magic dust for good measure. Other tools include a shovel, levels 1 and 2 power ring, Roc’s feather (which allows him to jump), an ocarina, levels 1 and 2 shield, and Pegasus boots (along with a Pegasus sword charge).

The variety is astounding, as with most Zeldas. The amount of stuff you get to do in Link’s Awakening is a big deal in itself, as well. You’ll be using these items to their full extent throughout the game’s many dungeons, mini-dungeons, overworlds, and the such. The dungeons are extremely well done (and will be touched on later), but unlike some Zeldas these things tend to be more gameplay orientated. Some dungeon puzzles in Zeldas are all about having the right item or whatnot, but Link’s Awakening ups this up a notch by putting you into challenging “gameplay” sections. There is 2D scrolling sections that test your swimming, jumping and running skills; some puzzles have you erasing certain portions of lava with a magical block; and long jumping across those chasms isn’t as easy as it may seem.

The pacing of Link’s Awakening is very good, especially considering the game‘s large size. Dungeon crawling is a very fun experience, but if you get stuck, you may become discouraged. Getting stuck in Link’s Awakening is extremely easy, much more so than A Link to the Past (despite them nasty silver arrows! Darn that fat faire!) In Link’s Awakening you must participate in the bulk of the trading game in order to advance, in many cases. But the coordination of the trading game, the dungeons, and the overworld crawling is smooth. You’ll see potential traders all over the overworld, you’ll read and see hints on the location of the next dungeon by talking to town residents, while at the same time picking up rupies and murdering Goblins and the such. The motivation is definitely here in Link’s Awakening, be it the interesting characters or the thrill of adventure; or for me, the whole package.

Design
There is so much packed into Link’s Awakening, it’s really hard to believe. Alas, everything is very coordinated, polished, and such a joy to play through.

The towns in Link’s Awakening have a lot of people to talk with, stuff to do, bushes to pummel and various animals to turn into dinner via the help of the fire rod. The people never seem “just there,” for many of them are part of the trading game or their dialogue is just so well written, they feel like a part of the adventure.

The overworld is full of lots of things, from enemies to various plant-life and tons of extra stuff to see. There are many places in the overworld that are out of reach to the player until they have a certain weapon, tool, or item (taking a page from the legendary Super Metroid..... or the other way around considering this came out first..... Actually, previous Zelda‘s started this trend if you wanted the truth). This creates a wonderful sense of “Hey, I saw that in the overworld! Maybe that leads me to the next part of the game...”. If you’ve ever played a game utilizing this, you know what I’m talking about - some of the finest adventure gaming comes in moments where you figure these types of detailed things out on your own.
The overworld itself, though, can be a bit confusing at times, and it’s generally just a tad too big. I never really fully enjoyed the overworld in Zeldas, for some reason - they all felt like too much repetitive backtracking to me.

As with any Zelda, there is a large amount of stuff for you to find in Link’s Awakening - from the trading quest to seashells that will earn you a level 2 sword to the patented Zelda Heart containers, the replay value is through the roof and you’ll have loads of fun playing this game for many hours at a time.

The finest aspect of the design in Link’s Awakening comes with the dungeons. The dungeons in Zeldas are legendary. Every Zelda fan has their favorite dungeon, favorite dungeon puzzle, favorite dungeon song, favorite mini-boss, favorite boss fight, favorite dungeon weapon.... If you’ve never played a Zelda before, you’re missing out on some of the best gaming ever put together. Dungeons are marvelous things, that require adequate battle skills for the mini-boss and boss; and even more skill and thinking power for the puzzles you’ll have figure out.

Link’s Awakening’s dungeons are as intricate as any other Zelda’s (yes, even though it’s on the Game Boy). The later ones even top some of the dungeons in some of the Zeldas (Ocarina of Time for example) in size, amount of puzzles and enjoyment. As you may have guessed, these things are huge and require an ample amount of backtracking and the such. As with the overworld, you’ll see stuff that you’ll have to come back to later; generally with the weapon or tool that you find by killing off the mini-boss of that dungeon.

Despite being extreme challenges of wit and will, the dungeons of Link’s Awakening are very immersive and so much fun. They’ll make you addicted, that’s for sure - it happened to me!

Characters and Story
Link’s Awakening may stray from other Zelda’s in terms of the Legend of Zelda story (as did Majora’s Mask), but just like Majora’s Mask, Link’s Awakening is darker than the rest of them. The ending will probably shock you, as will the foreboding opening and some of the freakier plot points.

The characters are also a driving force in Link’s Awakening. The “Owl”, also referred to in Ocarina of Time as some unpronounceable name that you dare not force me to remember (it was only mentioned once by one of the stone things!), made his first Zelda appearance in Link’s Awakening. You can think of him as Navi or Tatl in the n64 Zelda’s; he doesn’t follow you around the whole time, but he may show up every so often to provide motivation and hints to continue to the next area.

Marin, the character that finds Link when he washes ashore in this strange dream world, impacts the story in many ways - kind of like princess Zelda. Link even mistakes Marin for Zelda - showing that Link and the princess may have gotten close after the events of A Link to the Past. Marin is a very interesting character that just happens to sing, get into sticky situations, and she even comes along with Link during a portion of the game. You’ll like her a lot - you‘ll be glad she has a liking for Link.

The story in Link’s Awakening isn’t a primary factor to the game, as with all other Zeldas. But, it is very interesting, intriguing, and dark in Link’s Awakening. This Zelda has its share of creepy introspective moments that will immerse you even more into the game. I certainly liked it a lot - that scene after the battle with Amos Knight still can give me the creeps!

The icing on the cake is the writing job. Link’s Awakening is one of the funnier Zeldas - those townsfolk say some strange things, and they are strange in themselves. The Owl plays the role of the guardian very nicely, with some excellent moments in the last half-hour of gameplay that reveal some of his story.

Starting a trend for the n64 Zeldas, music plays an important part in Link’s Awakening’s story. Music ends up being the key and the only weapon that can resolve the game’s conflict. Marin has a large part to do with it (she knows a very important song) and the actual game involves beating the dungeons to obtain magical instruments that can perform the job. The final song to resolve the conflict is quite memorable.
This is such a magical game.

Music and Sound
The final factor needed to create an immersive atmosphere for Link’s Awakening is the music. You’ll totally forget this is a Game Boy game - for as with any Nintendo effort, the music is inspiring and brilliant and will be the reason for many great gaming memories.

The fact that music plays an important role in the story sweetens it even more. The music is just so memorable and awesome; there’s not much else to say!

Sound effects are aplenty and they sound much, much better than they should.

The Deluxe Version (not graded)
When the Game Boy Color came out back in 1998 the flagship title was a full color remake of this Game Boy classic. The color is nice, but for some reason I barely noticed it! The cinematic opening and the ending look much nicer, but there isn’t much reason for you to own this game unless you don’t have the original.

This version comes with an extra dungeon that isn’t all that long. It’s interesting and the end reward is certainly worth it, but couldn’t they have made it harder?

Amazing Replay (not graded)
Alas - since I bought the DX version (even though I already had the original) and beat it once, that means that I’ve beaten Link’s Awakening 5 times. That’s my record for me for the most amount of run throughs! Wow, I’m proud.........

Conclusion
My favorite Zelda? That’s a hard question - they’re all just too d*** good! Link’s Awakening is far from being the perfect Zelda, though. For a few times in the game, things weren’t clicking for me and I felt it was a tad bit too repetitive. The so-so overworld might be to blame.
Also, the limitation of the Game Boy are apparent after awhile, but not enough to mess with the score.
A classic that any Zelda fan should play. Naysayers of the Game Boy will be shocked!


Positive:
+Intricate dungeons
+Lots of variety
+Fun-to-kill-things-with weapons
+Memorable characters and townsfolk
+Surprisingly good dialogue and story to back things up
+The trading quest and other things to do after or even during the game
+Highly memorable music - this is the stuff that dreams are made of
+Graphics are big, bold, and beautiful
+This game is HUGE

Negative:
-Can be either too slow or too frustrating at times
-A so-so overworld


Graphics: 8.75
Gameplay: 8.75
Design: 8.75
Characters and Story: 9.25
Music and Sound: 9.25

Rxfang6’s Game Grade: A


Rating: 10/10

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Community review by rxfang6 (August 26, 2002)

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