After setting sail in search of new lands, Link’s ship is struck down by a vicious storm. Washed ashore with his ship in tatters, Link’s woken by a familiar face. Malon? No, “Marin”. Everything is so familiar and yet so different. But Link must return to Hyrule. He is told by an owl that he cannot leave the island until he wakes a mysterious creature called The Wind Fish, but that if he does so, the island will disappear. Could something so real be just a dream? Link’s Awakening’s story is an interesting side story, generally light-hearted but increasingly poignant towards the end. At the time of its release it was easily the most touching Zelda yet. 8
Link’s Awakening is the pinnacle of 2D Zelda playability. The way Link moves is so agile and fluid, its possible to sometimes softly “break” the game by doing things you’re not meant to, but this only lends the game a sense of possibility and freedom. LA really is a joy to play, and once you have mastered jumping and advanced fighting tricks, the game blows open wide. You’ll be hopping around and slashing your sword like a regular Zorro. 9
The side-view from The Adventure of Link makes a return here, but these sections are no longer stodgy, awkward fighting stages, but quick, short, flexible links that offer a nice break during dungeons. It also enables scenarios that would have otherwise been impossible with a top-down view, like swimming underwater. That isn’t to say a top-down view is stifling, however; the range and ingenuity in the game’s bosses are unlike anything seen in the previous three games, with the only negative being the ease of the otherwise dramatic final battle.
Taking into consideration the fact that the Game Boy is barely as powerful as a NES (though it does only have 4 colours to worry about), Link’s Awakening looks fantastic. When you compare screenshots of LA to those of The Legend of Zelda, you begin to understand what a technical achievement this game is, especially on such a little cartridge. If you play the DX version, you’re in for even more of a treat, as the vibrant visuals liven up a world that can sometimes become monotonous in its quad-green glory. 7
Surprisingly, the sound is really where Link’s Awakening shines. The Game Boy has some of the weakest sound hardware imaginable. The chip-speaker combination produces blippy, unclear sound, and yet in Zelda, the tunes are just completely memorable and recognisable. The soundtrack is totally timeless, standing up to newer handheld Zeldas like Phantom Hourglass. 7
Being played on an fuzzy, tiny green screen, you would think that it would be hard to been too absorbed in the game, or to care for what happens around you, but somehow, this isn’t the case. While the dungeons do lack a certain sense of tension provided by the game’s big screen counterparts, the villages feel lively and the overworld practically begs you to explore it. 6
Link’s Awakening is the first real portable Zelda game, and so by default, it sets benchmarks. The impressive feat accomplished here is the standard of these benchmarks; they are arguably higher than those set by A Link to the Past, and still haven’t been matched by the Oracle duo, or The Minish Cap. It’s another shining gem in the Zelda series. 7
Innovative, great storyline, compelling gameplay, gorgeous graphics. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty bloody close.