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'Link's Awakening' plays like a dream

By Max Engel
On March 25, 2014

The Legend of Zelda franchise is one of the most popular videogame franchises to exist, having roots going back to the mid-1980s and the Nintendo Entertainment System. In 1993, this franchise had its first handheld outing in the form of "Link's Awakening" for the Game Boy; the title had a remake five years later for the Gameboy Color, titled "Link's Awakening DX," which this is the version of the game I am reviewing. Curiously, this title is one of only two "Zelda" titles to not feature the eponymous princess. Instead, the game introduces our hero, Link, washing up on Koholint Island from a shipwreck, embarking on a journey to awaken a mystical creature known as the Wind Fish. To do this, Link must collect eight instruments by doing battle with powerful adversaries, solving intriguing puzzles, and mingling with the inhabitants of Koholint Island.
Following in the footsteps of its predecessor for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, "A Link to the Past," this game utilizes an overhead perspective of our hero as he slashes octoroks, clashes with darknuts, and smashes pots full of money. However, taking a page from the second game in the franchise, "The Adventure of Link," the game brilliantly uses side-scrolling in some of the dungeons, and does so to no detriment to the gameplay. Throughout, the game also features cameos from other Nintendo characters, including goombas in the aforementioned side-scrolling sections, chain chomps and Mr. Wright from the Super Nintendo version of "Sim City."
My favorite part of this game is one that is often a staple of "Zelda" games: the dungeons. Some players today may find the some of the puzzles frustrating, but I personally found them adequately challenging given the era "Link's Awakening" was released. I especially have a soft spot for how each dungeon's boss requires the use of the item you obtain in each dungeon. For example, the Power Bracelet allows you to pick up and throw pots; shortly after acquiring it, you use this new item against the genie-like boss of the dungeon to destroy the bottle he inhabits.
Another large part of "Zelda" games is exploring areas with new gear. Like another Nintendo franchise, "Metroid," you'll find yourself gleaming with satisfaction when you realize an item you obtained is finally the one that gets you past a pit to a stairwell, or lets you get past a seemingly invincible minion. In this regard, I feel "Link's Awakening" performed very well. The world seems quite large, but it doesn't feel overwhelming. I'd say it may be around the same size of the Kanto region in Pokémon Red and Blue.
Ultimately, I found "Link's Awakening" a solid addition to any fan of the Gameboy. Even if this is your first "Zelda" game like it was for me, anyone with sufficiently decent critical thinking and puzzle-solving skills can clear "Link's Awakening." However, even upon its release, "Link's Awakening" was hardly a sleeper hit, and those with a disparaging image of the game are in for a rude awakening.
 


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