Review by Tenshi No Shi
"Dream a little dream."
The Legend of Zelda series is, without a doubt, one of the most successful franchises to ever come out of Nintendo. It has seen the release of six games on five different Nintendo systems with no less than four more on the way (a new N64 game and three new Gameboy Color games). When The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was originally released for the old black and white Gameboy, I was overjoyed at the prospect of playing a new Zelda game. To this day, Link's Awakening remains one of my favorite games of all time.
The story for The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening doesn't really fit into the usual pattern of a Zelda game- Link decides to explore the world after saving Hyrule and the Princess from the evil clutches of Ganon. During his returning travels, he is caught in a fierce storm on the seas and loses conciseness only to find that he has washed ashore upon a strange remote island. Link soon discovers he is trapped on the island and the only way to free himself is to awaken a mysterious entity known only as the Wind Fish. However, things are not always as they seem...
Surprisingly, the graphics packed into the tiny Gameboy cartridge share the same style and detail as those found in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo. Despite the limitations of black and white, Nintendo's programmers did an excellent job of stylizing Link and company, giving the game a distinct look and feel. Link's new world is wonderfully detailed; every area fitting together perfectly yet still unique from each other. Animation is also impressive, especially given that this is a Gameboy game. All in all, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is easily the best-looking non-color game on the Gameboy to date.
The toughest thing to do on a Gameboy game is sound and it isn't hard to see why; the size constraints of a Gameboy cartridge coupled with the simplicity of MIDI makes it nearly impossible for the programmers to create any sort of musical score or sound effects that can be appreciated by gamers. With The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, the impossible has been made a reality. The music is recognizable and familiar (even if it is a little simplistic) and sound effects are the best ever heard on any Gameboy game. In fact, as impressed as I was by this game's graphics, the sound blew me away, as I never thought I would hear something so pure on the Gameboy.
The Legend of Zelda on the Gameboy controls just like the Super NES Zelda except with a few less buttons to worry about. You assign inventory to either the 'A' or 'B' slot which then can then be used by pressing the corresponding button. The addition of new items to Link's arsenal adds a few new moves to be learned as well, including the ability to jump. As with any Zelda game, these items are used in a variety of ways to not only fight off enemies but to solve intricate and realistic puzzles as well. The overall feel of the controls are tight and extremely responsive, with absolutely no flaws to hinder the playability of this title.
So far I've reviewed Zelda's graphics, sound, and control, finding all three to be in highest form. How these elements now come together is a design issue, which I shall now examine. Quite simply put, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is the most well designed Gameboy title ever. From the riveting and original plot to the incredible selection of inventory items, Zelda has a lot to offer even the most skeptical of gamers. I most enjoyed the puzzle designs, which forces players to use two or more items in order to solve many of them. There is also an abundance of worthwhile side-quests to keep you busy should you decide to make the most of your Zelda experience. Dare I say this is perhaps the most perfect portable game ever?
There aren't really any bonuses in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, but there are several little things to look for that long-time Nintendo fans will instantly recognize. Three examples of things to watch for are: A) Gombas from Super Mario Bros. guarding small rooms below dungeons, B) Kirbys acting as little vacuuming pests in a certain dungeon level, and C) a stuffed toy in the shape of a Yoshi. There are, of course, many other familiar sights to see, including items and characters not uncommon to the Zelda universe, but it's much more interesting to see familiar faces from other Nintendo-made games.
If you haven't played Link's Awakening but you own a Gameboy Color, you should just skip this title and get The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX. If you but own a regular Gameboy and never plan on purchasing its colorized cousin then you owe it to yourself to track down this title. In black & white or color it doesn't matter- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is an incredible game and perhaps the greatest title ever created for Nintendo's portable wonder.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 08/10/09
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (US, 08/31/93)
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