Review by marijumanji
Only the memory of this dreamland will exist in the waking world...
This was one of the first games I played on the big grey, toaster-sized GameBoy I had as a child. Zelda: Link's Awakening still conjures up great memories of afternoons spent trying to wrap my little mind around puzzles I thought were impossible and battling monsters I thought invincible. Chock-full of clever puzzles, funny characters and secret heart pieces to uncover, fans of old-school Zelda will not be disappointed by this gaming masterpiece.
Your goal in Link's Awakening is to wake the sleeping Wind Fish by playing 8 magical musical instruments in front of a giant Yoshi egg on the island of Koholint. If the story sounds weird, that's because it is. Don't be put off though, it's really just an excuse to set up the 8 different dungeons you'll need to traverse in order to beat the game. The story departs from the the previous 3 games in the series by not having Zelda or a Tri-force as the main plot device and it ends up being the most original Zelda story until The Wind Waker in my opinion. Your guide for most of the game is a helpful owl who will swoop down at opportune moments to offer cryptic pieces of advice and generally urge you on to the next objective. Without ruining anything, there are several interesting town members you can interact with that add a little character to the game world. By the time you beat the last boss you'll definitely feel like you've just played an 'epic', and that's a deep compliment for any action rpg.
Zelda's graphics hold their own with any other title released for the Gameboy. They are detailed and maintain the same style as the graphics in the original NES title and it's SNES sequel. It's not going to blow any minds today, but at the time they truly stood out for the GameBoy. In my personal opinion the game actually looks worse in the 'updated' GameBoy Colour version of the game. The black and white (or more accurately black and green) version had more shading and just looks a lot crisper in comparison. The enemies are well designed and Zelda fans will recognize many. The introduction and conclusion of the game are brief but well done and the design of the Wind Fish is memorable to say the least.
It plays and controls like an even sharper version of "A Link to the Past". It's classic overhead Zelda action and fans of the series will know exactly what to expect here. In what may be considered a throwback to Zelda II for the NES, it even includes some side-scrolling sections that help change up the pace every once in a while. One thing that needs to be noted is the 'Roc's Feather' which gives Link the ability to jump for the first time in the series and added a few twists to the puzzles. It's nothing groundbreaking or amazing for the series, but it's all extremely tight and well thought out. The puzzles will leave first time players scratching their heads and running for GameFAQs. I owned this game before GameFAQs existed, so while gamers today might whip through it in under 10 hours, I on the other hand agonized over every quest and puzzle. I could not tell you how long it took me to figure out how to get the key for the first dungeon, but if I knew I would probably break down and cry. Part of the reward of playing games like this is figuring things out for yourself and you'd be doing yourself a major disservice by immediately opening up a walkthrough whenever you get stuck. Old-School ranting aside, the game is obviously smaller in size and scope than it's SNES cousin, but don't be fooled, there is still plenty of game to be found here and it should take you awhile before you get to the end.
Seeing as the game introduces the Ocarina to the series (it was just called a Flute in previous games) it better have some good music! Link's Awakening delivers. The pulse pounding boss music and 'dream-like' tunes for the story sequences all work well and convey emotion at appropriate times. When you throw in all the regular Zelda classics it's guaranteed to keep you entertained. After every boss fight you gain an instrument and are treated to a little ditty which is a nice touch. It's about as good as you're going to find on the entire system.
It gets taken down a little here. The amount of stuff to do in the game is quite large, if you want to hunt down every heart piece go and do it. Some later iterations of the game added four player multiplayer but it was still felt tacked on. I'd pick it up again for nostalgia and I did go back and replay it a few times as a kid. The second time through loses some of it's lustre as you'll know exactly what to do to solve the puzzles. That said the gameplay still holds up today and I challenge anyone to say otherwise.
Overall a must-play for true fans of the series.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (US, 08/31/93)
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