Recently, I snagged a copy of Nintendo’s, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX on the 3DS Virtual Console. This was a colorized, re-release/port from the original 1993 Game Boy title. Eventually, it made it over to the Game Boy Color in December of 1998, with a couple of extra features tacked on (an extra dungeon, and use of the Game Boy Printer for snapshots taken in-game). I never had the opportunity to play the original, but, when I was a kid, I did struggle my way through a bit of the first two installments to the franchise on the NES. I believe I said one of my first curse words during a playthrough of The Legend of Zelda, and that snowballed through The Adventure of Linkuntil my parents just took it away and sent me to my room. I’ve since learned to control my swearing at least a little bit, which helped me keep calm, and allowed me to remain unbanished from the laundromat, where I played the majority of Link’s Awakening.
At the beginning of the game, Link’s ship sinks, and he washes ashore on Koholint Island. He later wakes up in the home of golden-voiced Marin, and her mushroom-crazed father, Tarin, who explain where he is and how he got there, before providing him with his lost shield and sending him on his way. Away from the house in Mabe Village, a sort of hub for the game, is a beach, where he finds his sword; however, before he can recover it, an owl drops in to explain to him that in order to leave the island, he must first awaken the Wind Fish. Now the musically inclined, fetch quest-riddled adventure begins. In order to wake the Wind Fish, Link must first obtain eight musical instruments hidden in dungeons. These instruments are not only protected by an assortment of ferocious feral creatures, but ultimately by the baddest bosses in the game, The Nightmares. Throughout the adventure, Link will traverse the island in search of these dungeons via his feet, rafts, birds, flippers, and even teleportation.
As usual, there are things that work, and things that don’t. The dungeon puzzles can get a tad frustrating at times, because you must blunder into the answer, when in-game mechanics don’t work as they should. For example, there are several instances where a hidden door is the key to progression, and in order to find the door, you must hit your sword against every wall until you hear a nose different from the previous ones, then bomb the spot to open the doorway. That’s fine, if it worked. Regardless of what technique I used, the noises never differed, which left me placing bombs randomly against walls, hoping for a new pathway. Also, I found myself backtracking a lot more than I would have liked. I can handle some back and forth, but it does get tiring after you’ve gone from Mabe Village to Animal Village, then down to the house by the bay, only to go back to Animal Village again, all before you can progress even a hint of the story. It LA’s defense, however, I believe at least partial blame for that running around is due to me, for forgetting some things, and going out of order.
The amount of things that do work, though, far outweigh those that don’t. In relation to the puzzling riddles, some simply can not be solved until certain items are attained. For example, Link will not be able to cross a small gap without falling until he obtains a special feather allowing him to jump, or flippers which let him swim into different parts of the sea. The musical aspect of the game was a huge hit for me, as well. The soundtrack is as catchy as it could possibly be (the theme is now my ringtone.) The short tones that occur when you find that secret door, or when you’ve earned the key needed to progress through the dungeon, really give a sense of accomplishment, and in some cases an overall, “FINALLY!” feeling that really drives you to continue playing. Continuing with the musical elements, my X Factor award for this title definitely has to go to instruments acquired through completion of the eight dungeons. After defeating the bosses, Link is granted access to music makers needed to wake the Wind Fish, such as the Coral Triangle, the Surf Harp, and the Wind Marimba.
Link’s movement speed was a big plus, as well, as too many modern games rely on the “sprint” function, instead of just making your character simply move at a reasonable speed to begin with. Never did I wish for him to move faster while backtracking, which was nice. The visuals, considering it was a Game Boy Color game by this point, were very good, also. Your typical top-down camera (mixed with now vibrant colors) with some side-scrolling sections avoiding certain Super Mario Bros. villains (Goombas and Piranha Plants) added in for variety, made for a pleasant visual experience and a much needed break from the pressures of current HD requirements.
Link’s Awakening is a fun game, packed with puzzles (both clever and annoying), humor, and a whole lot of adventuring for such a tiny cartridge. Some things failed to achieve their goals, but more aspects nailed it than failed, leaving me very happy with the outcome. I recommend it to anyone looking for a decently difficult game to take on the road.