Review by horror_spooky
Zelda...now in color!
Nintendo has always been in the business of enhancing their existing games to fill out the library of their systems, yet a lot of people like to act like it is some new thing that they are doing. At any rate, one of the earliest examples of this is when Nintendo re-released Link's Awakening, a Game Boy classic, on the Game Boy Color with the added benefit of, well, color. Adding color to games hugely improved them in many cases, and Link's Awakening DX is a game that is far, far better than the original, mainly because of the added benefit of color.
Link's Awakening DX is one of the weirdest Zelda games out there. Not only does it utilize the traditional Zelda gameplay, but it also features a really strange cast of characters, even compared to other Zelda titles; a strange quest to wake up a giant fish instead of saving Princess Zelda like is the usual song and dance; and it also features enemies, items, and gameplay reminiscent of Super Mario Bros.
Link's Awakening has sidescrolling segments that feature Link jumping on Goombas and avoiding Thwomps. There are plenty of other references to Super Mario Bros. throughout the adventure besides these examples, and it just goes to show how straight up weird Link's Awakening is.
That being said, it still plays like any other Zelda game. Link collects new items, explores an overworld, solves puzzles in dungeons, fights bosses, and all that jazz. Link's Awakening is sometimes disappointing in this regard for a couple of reasons, however.
For one, the bosses are all very familiar to Zelda fans. In fact, Link's Awakening reuses a lot of the same bosses and enemies that have been featured in pretty much every Zelda game made to date so far. The game also requires players to semi-constantly switch the items that are equipped, and thanks to the limited buttons on the Game Boy Color, this can be a pain.
This is made even more of a pain when playing on the 3DS. Yes, the version of Link's Awakening DX that I am technically reviewing is the version that is available on 3DS through that system's Virtual Console service. This version has added benefits such as save states that can make the more frustrating parts of the game less frustrating, but it also has to deal with the terrible start button on the 3DS, which makes switching between weapons a lot more difficult than it is when playing the game on an actual Game Boy Color system.
At any rate, the game is still a lot of fun and very engrossing. One would be hard-pressed to find a more satisfying experience in gaming than conquering a Zelda dungeon. Link's Awakening also has added gameplay mechanics thanks to the platforming and a higher focus on combat than in other titles, but this isn't explored enough in my opinion. There's definitely still room for more of that kind of gameplay in the realm of Zelda.
Like I said, the premise is very weird. The basic gist is that Link washes ashore on an island and has to awaken the giant fish that resides on top of a mountain there by gathering different instruments found in various dungeons across the island. I can't go into much more detail regarding the plot without spoiling some things, but that's what the premise of the game is, as weird as it may seem.
Link's Awakening also has some of the less appealing dungeons I've seen in Zelda games. There is one dungeon in particular that is designed in such a way that a couple of false moves makes it impossible to complete unless you kill Link...and if you wind up killing all of the enemies, then you can't even do that, forcing you to reload the last save and start back at the beginning of the dungeon. A lot of the dungeons feel way too similar thanks to the limited hardware of the Game Boy Color, so there is not a whole lot of visual variety, unfortunately.
Still, the worst in a Zelda game is still better than the best in many other games. I've said many times that Zelda games are held at a different standard than most other games out there, and there's a good reason for that. Most developers simply cannot hope to live up to the expectations set by each Zelda title. Link's Awakening DX is one of the weaker entries in the franchise, but that doesn't mean it's still not a phenomenal title worth every minute of your time.
Earlier I remarked on the somewhat repetitive environments, and while this is true, that doesn't mean the game doesn't look great. The animation is top-notch and the colors really make the world come alive. The enemy variety here outclasses other Zelda games. The hit detection is a smidgen off, but most of the weapons make this a non-factor anyway, so even the technical aspects "under the hood" are tight as well.
Link's Awakening DX is extremely addicting at first, though loses steam near the end when the visual repetition starts to get old. The game requires a little too much backtracking since it is one giant overworld being explored and sometimes one simply has to grind for rupees to purchase bombs and arrows to solve some puzzles. However, it's easy to just lose yourself in the game and dump hours and hours into it without even realizing all that time has passed.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX is not the best Zelda game, but that still makes it better than most games out there. It brings to the table an extremely engrossing and enjoyable adventure that is one of the best that can be found on the Game Boy Color. I can't recommend Link's Awakening enough.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (US, 06/07/11)
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