As the revolution of gaming technology marched on toward the departments of the platform in the late 80’s and early 1990s, ideas began and these ideas became revolutions. Nintendo boasted their mode 7 with its 3D-esque graphics with games like F-zero, Midway showed off their digital camera technology with Mortal Kombat, but among these was a dream project by the head developers of Nintendo. It was something that gamers longed for since the Game Boy came out. And here it was. A portable Legend of Zelda game for that Tetris machine that was so popular.
In the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening your ship crashes in a storm and you are washed upon the shores of an island. You are then taken care of by a girl named Marin, whom you presume is Zelda. And why not imagine she is Zelda? Because that is the only time she is ever even mentioned in this game.
So off you go to get your sword from the beach that Marin found you on.
On the beach you meet a strange owl that then sends you off on a quest to go awaken the almighty and powerful wind fish. However, things are not what they always seem and it might not just be the wind fish that is a dream.
The controls are exactly as you would expect from a bird’s eye view Zelda game, and that is what you play in an over the top view of your character. Your hero will solve puzzles and fight monsters until he reaches the game’s dungeons. Each dungeon contains a special item that will help you in some way or another; be it just to kill the boss at the end of the dungeon or helping you later on in your adventure. Your items prove of extreme use in this game. However a gripe is that you can only use two items at a time and then you have to replace them with something else in your inventory. This is excusable, however, because of the Game Boy’s lack of back buttons but on newer versions like the Game Boy Color version on the 3DS virtual console (which we also reviewed at Classic Game Room) that could have been upgraded. Also when you are in the heat of things or when too much stuff (like a cuckoo attack) is going on, the game will slow down but nothing that breaks the game. On the plus side, though, this game actually looks pretty well colored with the infamous “Game Boy green” look.
Also, the music is always top notch and diverse throughout the map, with almost every area having its own music. Something I found with the gameplay was that it had a nice evenness no matter if you wanted to play for a long time or if you wanted to play for a short time.
In my opinion it seemed like Nintendo fit in something neat in every frame of the world’s pixelated panels. In one place you might find an animal village when in the other you are going down a raft ride. This game in its 8-bit glory surpasses any other 8-bit Zelda games and is built more on the lines of a Link to the Past. The stitchings are what makes a quilt come together and for Link’s Awakening the tiny things like cameos of DR. Wright from Sim City, or all the different Mario enemies like goombas and shy guys really make this a joy for the eye. These, in my opinion, are what make a game living and breathing. When we notice these things it really makes our experiences better.
So call it a coincidence that this is the most critically acclaimed portable Zelda game, but the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening shines brighter than almost every Zelda game on any Nintendo handheld, and it was a starting bar to those which would succeed it. You would be doing yourself a favor buying this game. With microscopic cons and giant pros it’s a no brainer.
It might not have been a leap in hardware but it was the birth of something that might have birthed something even more important…that Link can hold his own on a handheld!
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX adds color to the already absurdist fever dream that served as Link's first outing on a portable system. (Well, aside from a Legend of Zelda Game & Watch, but that one doesn't count.) With the addition of a color-centric new dungeon and a mouse with a camera, the experience is updated, freshened, and now available for the 3DS Virtual Console. Just don't trust any goats who insist that they're Princess Peach.