Review by jimmybiceps
How Does Link's Awakening DX Stack Up Against Other 2D Zelda Games?
As a long time fan of the Legend of Zelda series, it's hard to believe it took me so long to get my hands on Link's Awakening DX. After playing several Zelda games before it, and all the other 2D Zelda games, I am now able to compare LA to the rest of the pack. The game gets a lot of positive comments from all kinds of different gamers, so I had relatively high expectations for it. Were those expectations met?
The plot is pretty simple, as most of the plots of the earlier Zelda games are. You are on an island, and are unable to leave until you wake the Wind Fish. To accomplish this, you will need to obtain 8 musical instruments which are hidden in dungeons throughout the island. There is a little more to it than just this, but I won't go into too much detail for two reasons. First, I don't want to spoil any major points of the plot for those who have not played the game yet. Secondly, I'm not too big on story in video games, so this aspect didn't affect my score of the game very much to begin with. However, the story is a little different from the 'save the princess' formula, but it was also a little lacking at times also.
The controls were well done for the most part. You can assign different items to the A and B buttons, allowing you to have 2 items ready for use at any time. Movement was relatively smooth throughout the game, and there weren't many slowdowns or lag present. My only gripe with the controls is that it was difficult to move Link diagonally. He moves very smoothly in 4 directions, but not so much when trying to move diagonally. The buttons were very responsive for a GBC game, so there are no major complaints here.
This is where LA takes a bit of a dip. Although the game follows the classic Zelda formula of "go here, find this, use it to enter a dungeon, conquer the dungeon, repeat", it just wasn't as fun for me as the gameplay of other 2D Zelda games. Link to the Past and Legend of Zelda were more fun to play overall. The puzzles and dungeons in Link to the Past put those in Link's Awakening to shame. The fun factor was definitely lacking a bit, and that is what made LA a chore for me to finish completely. My biggest complaint with the gameplay was the overworld. The overworld was poorly done compared to LoZ and LttP. In this game, you run into more dead ends than you can shake a stick at. You then have to backtrack quite a bit to find your way to where you actually want to go. This gets to be time consuming and frustrating. You would think you would learn the overworld enough to avoid running into dead ends more than one time, but this wasn't the case for me. This goes to show that the overworld in LA just wasn't too memorable. A lot of it all looks and feels the same.
Another problem I had with the gameplay was the fact that you were required to navigate the menu to switch items far too often. This broke up the flow of the gameplay for me. Even just to get around the overworld, you would be required to pause and select an item to jump over a gap, smash a rock or lift a rock, or grapple across a pit just to proceed across the overworld. This became tedious rather quickly.
However, there were many positives to the gameplay. There is a nice inventory of items available in the game, and some of them are fun to use. The Hookshot and Roc's Feather come to mind. These items are fun to use, but not every 5 seconds when trying to just move across the overworld though.
There are 8 dungeons, and they are well done for the most part. The difficulty of the dungeons progresses nicely throughout the game. Boss fights were creative and fun. There are also some sidequests in the game, including a rather large trading sequence and hunting down seashells which can allow you to make an important upgrade to one of your items. There are also 12 Heart Pieces hidden throughout the overworld for you to find to increase your life meter. Gameplay is definitely a mixture in LA, but the positives still outweigh the negatives.
Replay Value: 5/10
This was the biggest disappointment of LA for me. Once I completed the game, I had no desire to return to it at any time in the near future. It just seemed to lack that bit of magic that LttP and LoZ both had, which keep me coming back to play those games at least once a year. I doubt I'll ever return to LA anytime soon. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly why this game had no replay value for me, but I'm left with no desire to return to it. This could be different for other gamers, though.
Link's Awakening DX had it's ups and downs, and in the end the ups are still more than the downs. However, the downs are what made this game 'good' rather than 'great'. LA isn't as epic or fun as Legend of Zelda or Link to the Past, but it still gets my recommendation for a playthrough. You probably won't want to play through it more than once, since replay value is not one of its strong points. In conclusion, Link's Awakening is a solid game that is worth a try, but I wouldn't call it one of the best Zelda games out there.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (US, 12/31/98)
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