The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was first released in 1993 as the first portable Zelda game. Then, in 1998, when Nintendo introduced Game Boy Color, they made a new, colorized version of the game.
Link’s Awakening takes place directly after Zelda 3. After ridding Hyrule of Ganon’s curse, Link goes out to the sea for special training and to see if everything really has gone back to normal in the world. Then, one fateful night, Link’s ship is caught in the middle of a violent lightning storm. His ship is struck and destroyed, and Link is sent flying. The ocean carries him to Koholint Island. Our shipwrecked hero is saved by Marin, a woman from the nearby Mabe Village. Link wakes up to find himself in Marin’s house, and realizes that although Marin’s father Tarin found Link’s Shield, his sword must still be on the beach somewhere. When he finds it, he meets a talking owl, and learns that the only chance he has of getting back to Hyrule is by following the owl’s directions.
The story behind Koholint Island is slow to develop, but as the game advances, explanations about the dungeons, the nightmares, the Wind Fish, and the big egg on the mountain eventually unfold. Usually, a new clue is revealed every time Link defeats a boss, talks to the owl, or finds one of the many owl gargoyles scattered across Koholint. The story is pretty simple and doesn’t get personal with Link or any of the other characters, but it moves the game along.
The gameplay of Link’s Awakening is very much like that of both Zelda 3 and the original Legend of Zelda. All the action takes place in a 2-D overhead view environment. All of the caves and dungeons, as well as the overworld are divided into locations that are one screen in size. The screen only scrolls when Link reaches the end of the current location, at which point the view shifts to the next room in the cave or dungeon or to the next spot on the overworld.
Like the other Zelda games, Link’s Awakening has a set of themed dungeons to complete. Each dungeon has a shape befitting its name and enemies to match. There is also one important new item in each dungeon, and this item is usually required for completion of the dungeon it was found in. To find his way through the dungeons, Link will need to find keys and solve puzzles. Puzzles can involve defeating enemies, pressing or weighing down switches, pushing blocks, and various other tasks. In addition to the Nightmare at the end of the dungeon, all dungeons have at least one mini boss. Dungeons are very fun to explore and figure out.
Most enemies in Link’s Awakening aren’t very dangerous to seasoned Zelda veterans. There are some that are good at doing harm to Link, but most are easy to hit and only require a few attacks to kill. There are a few bosses in places other than the dungeons, but these bosses are less powerful than the ones from the dungeons. Still, you will probably die a few times when playing this game for the first time. The Nightmares provide the hardest and most exciting battles aside from the final boss.
In addition to the big battles, Link’s Awakening provides fun in the form of the search for items. Many of the traditional Zelda weapons including bombs, the hookshot, the boomerang, and the bow are in Link’s Awakening. In addition to finding the item and earning another heart in each dungeon, Link can gain power by finding items hidden around the world. Observant players, as well as those who remember to go back to old areas once they’ve acquired the right items will find many hidden places. The most common rewards for finding hidden areas are life hearts, secret seashells, and cash, but every so often the prize is a little different. Other things to keep an eye out for are brief appearances of characters, images, and enemies from other Nintendo games.
Due to the limited number of buttons on the Game Boy Color, the controls to Link’s Awakening DX can be a little awkward. All actions for use with the ‘A’ and ‘B’ buttons are selected on the sub screen. Whereas in Zelda 3 you would be able to use your sword and an extra weapon with different buttons, as well as have a single button left for dashing and picking up objects. In Link’s Awakening, all such actions must be chosen. As a result, whenever you want to switch from being able to jump to being able to lift objects or use bombs, you have to go to the sub screen and change your equipment. Even the sword and shield must be selected if Link wants to use them.
Link’s Awakening DX offers a fair graphical improvement over the original Link’s Awakening. Environments such as forests, graveyards and dungeons were improved with the addition of color. Also, the visuals made surprisingly good use of a height concept for an 8-Bit game. Colorization of the enemies and sprites was rather shallow. Enemies and bosses and distinguishable, but most aren’t very detailed. Most sprites still only use one or two colors. Link, for example, is completely green, black and white. Link was actually more detailed and colorful in the original Legend of Zelda than he is in Link’s Awakening DX, despite the fact that the Color Game Boy can support more colors than the standard NES. Also, the crystal switches in the dungeons, as well as the barriers they cause to go up and down, are always the same color. In the Super NES game, Zelda 3, there were blue and orange barriers, and the crystal switch changed from blue to orange when the orange barriers went down and the blue barriers went up and vice versa. Putting in two different colors for the crystal switches and barriers was entirely possible technically, but Nintendo didn’t implement it. The graphics were okay on the whole, but there was definitely room for improvement.
The music in Link’s Awakening DX includes a new twist of the traditional Zelda overworld theme. There were several different dungeon songs composed for this game as well, and they fit the many different themes of the dungeons. If you look in the right place, you’ll find the dungeon music used in the original Legend of Zelda. The music for caves was rather simple and repetitive. Town music was good, and it had a good “soft and relaxing” feel to it. I particularly liked the songs that played when something sudden and exciting happened or when Link was on the rapid river raft ride. Although the Game Boy Color lacks the power to produce truly captivating music, Link’s Awakening DX didn’t really need it; it gets by with its simple tunes.
Link’s Awakening DX had a good set of sound effects. Things like bombs exploding and weapons being swung or fired sounded about as accurate as can be expected. As always, a very familiar sound plays when Link gets a new item. My favorite sound effect from Link’s Awakening is that of a boss being harmed.
Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX is a fun and entertaining adventure. Fans of the previous three Zelda games will find that this game provides yet another fine set of dungeons, battles, and secrets to find. The portability makes it a great game to play when you’re away from your TV, computer, and consoles. It’s well worth its $30 price tag, and will be even better deal when it is inevitably re-released as a $20 “Player’s Choice Million Seller”.