Well it’s the end of the first part of Zelda month of reviews. So for my last review, how about a detour to a Zelda game that is considered to be the black sheep of the series, though the more people who actually play it, the more people like it. So…huh, my experience was different but not as negative. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, known as Zelda no Densetsu: Yume o Miru Shima (ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島 Zeruda no Densetsu: Yume o Miru Shima, The Legend of Zelda: Dream Island), developed and published by Nintendo and was released in 1993 for the Game Boy, but I’m going to play the updated version called The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX via 3DS Virtual Console. This version was originally released for the Game Boy Color that was released in 1998 in Japan and in the US, but in 1999 in Europe.
We start the story, where it doesn’t involve Hyrule, nor Zelda, nor Ganon nor Ganondorf and no Triforce, with Link, sailing on his boat in a storm, and suddenly a lightning bolt strikes Link and destroys the boat. Link eventually washes ashore on Koholint Island where he is saved by a girl called Marin along with her father Tarin. After waking up, he explores the beach and finds his sword, only for an owl to appear out of nowhere to tell Link that in order to leave the island; he must wake the Wind Fish who is the guardian of the island. You see, on top of a mountain lays a giant egg, which contains the Wind Fish and it must be woken up by collecting eight instruments of the Sirens.
So the game plays near enough like Link to the Past, with the overhead view and overall gameplay. The aim of the game is to find eight dungeons, solve puzzles in said dungeon, and fight bosses in said dungeon and then collect the instrument…in that said dungeon. When exploring the dungeons, you can collect items that you can use to defeat enemies or do something. For the first time in the series, you can assign items to the A and B buttons which includes everything you have, including your sword.
Items include the default sword and shield, but you’ll eventually pick up Magic Powder (also known as Montana’s secret stash). Roc’s Feather, where Link can jump for the first time and this will be important in certain dungeons too. Power Bracelet, which allows Link to pick up heavy objects, most notably boulders…lots and lots of boulders. Pegasus Boots, where Link can dash around the place with his sword, Shovel, which you’ll use a few times. Bow & Arrow, shoot a bow at enemies…that’s that. Boomerang, back from A Link to the Past and is now incredibly overpowered and can obliterate a lot of enemies…and this will also give you an anti-climactic moment. Bombs, -Insert certain joke (in your head) here-. And finally, the Magic Rod, use this at your enemies and you slowly see your enemy burn, imagining their screams before they disappear. These items are great but compared to A Link to the Past, the amount is small and there are a lack of potions or no bottles to keep stuff in but I don’t miss it since it’s a handheld and the game is near enough easy…to an extent.
I want to talk about the enemies, we have some decent mooks and all, then there are enemies from other Nintendo games like Goombas and Piranha Plants from the Mario series, that rat from Earthbound and even Kirby, KIRBY is an enemy…which makes too much sense right there. There are other references to things from other Nintendo games which makes no sense, but it’s nice and quire humorous seeing them here.
But enough about that for now, since you can explore the island and for a Game Boy game, it’s pretty large. There are a ton of side-missions to do during the game, and this is where the game goes back to Zelda 1 in terms of being near cryptic, I got stuck a lot, even with a map, since it doesn’t really tell you where to go, no markings at all, just explore the island and the map will be revealed, so the game makes you explore until you find what you’re looking for, and this can get tedious.
And this is the issue I have with the game; it can be cryptic at times and overly tedious. Cryptic being that you can collect secret seashells, some can be a bit easy to find, but some are completely hidden. Oh, you know that random tree somewhere, just bash into it and get the seashell. Oh, you know that patch in the sea you can barely see, dig a hole on that said patch and you may get a secret seashell. It’s ridiculous, and to make matters worse, collecting all of them upgrades your sword which does help you especially with some bosses. There’s also the trading side quest…SCREW THIS, because despite the fact that you have little idea that this exists and you sometimes have no idea who to give the items to, THIS IS MANDATORY, you HAVE to do this, when you do finish the quest, you get a Magnifying Glass and you need this to battle the final boss, it’s annoying and you will need a walkthrough to figure out what to do.
And tediousness intensifies the more you play the game. The dungeons are straightforward and they’re great, but the later ones, especially the seventh and eighth dungeons, they can go on and on and man it never feels good when finishing them, only when I turn it off to play another day…well I played the final dungeon and the final boss since I was nearly finished. My biggest gripe is the inventory system. You know the sword, it’s considered an item and not something that is just part of you, which isn’t too much of a problem except for you’re going to switch your items every five seconds and this can break the pace of the entire game, once minute you have your item to pick up a rock to get to the next screen, then change the item to jump across a hole and you’re going to continuously do this, you’re going to do this about 90% of the time. But that’s what happens when you have to work with two buttons.
Any positives? Well, the music is pretty good and there are some great pieces, including the Zelda Overworld theme, the Face Shrine and the Ballad of the Wind Fish will surely blow you away. The graphics are pretty good, but the level design is kind of forgettable, I don’t really get invested in this world unlike A Link to the Past. Oh, and the bosses, depending on where you go with the right items in hand, they’re a piece of cake most of the time. I’ll talk about the final boss later.
Oh, and since I’m playing the DX version, I also get to play a new dungeon not seen in the original Game Boy version called Color Dungeon, where many of the puzzles are colour based because of course, it’s on the Game Boy Color. But your only reward is one of two new shirts to choose from, red increases the attack of your sword, blue increases your defence.
Overall, Link’s Awakening is a Zelda game in your pocket, and because of that, it takes sacrifices to make it playable, but it’s a decent game nonetheless, but it’s one of those games where the more I play it, the less I enjoy it and I start to see all the problems come unfolded. It’s cryptic and tedious and that’s something you don’t want to happen, especially playing a big game like this. It’s still a Zelda game and some gamers might enjoy it more than I did. I would say that it goes backwards as a Zelda game, but that wouldn’t exactly be fair because it’s a handheld and handheld games, especially at the time are going to be different and of course, liberties are going to be taken. But on the bright side, it’s nice to know that the developers of this game at least had a nice time making it.
If you want the original game, then you can get it on the Game Boy, but if you want the DX version, then you can get it on the Game Boy Color and on the 3DS Virtual Console.
BONUS ANALYSIS (CONTAINS SPOILERS):
You ready? Ok, so during one of the dungeons, you find out that the island doesn’t even exist, just something from the dungeons, to the enemies including the nightmare creatures…to the people? Holy crap, so everyone that you interacted with…never existed, and what’s worse, if you do defeat the nightmares, the entire island will disappear and that also means the people too and that’s a total shame…if I actually cared about them, because no one is interesting, no one is memorable and thus, you wouldn’t miss them. Though, the only character you do interact with throughout the game is Marin, but only because she may/may not be the love interest. But consider this, go into a mind of a child and this could be a bit sad for them, maybe they might have talked to everyone even if they don’t really say anything that make you truly care for them, but yeah, it’s a bit of a downer if it was the ending (EPIC FORESHADOWING!!!)
So after collecting all eight instruments of the Sirens, you use those instruments to open the egg on top of the mountain, only for you to end up at a maze in which you’ll get lost in…if you did not get the code from the library, which are the directions to get you through the maze. And don’t think about getting them online because the codes are random for each game save. So when you get the correct directions from the game, you battle the final boss…es. You defeat it and it transforms into different forms in which you must use correct weapons to finish different forms. Then it will transform for the last time, and how do you defeat the boss of all bosses? One throw of the boomerang in the eye…
So you’ve defeated the nightmares and…the island disappears…and it was all a dream after all, so Link wakes up in the remains of his wrecked ship in the middle of nowhere and that’s that. Yeah, the entire story was pointless because it was just a dream, heck, the Japanese title is called The Legend of Zelda: Dream Island, which kinds of spoils the entire game anyway.
Like I said, it’s a bit of a downer for an ending…oh but Marin was real after all…in the form of a seagull. Link? WHAT DID YOU DO? PLEASE DON’T TELL ME YOU…never mind.
So the story overall is simple, straightforward, but not very epic and it makes sense considering that it’s a dream, but Zelda games are supposed to be epic adventures and if you are going to make it a dream story, then it should have been made better than this. And then there are the other Nintendo characters, how did he know about them? He’s never appeared in…any…other…aaaaahh, I completely forgot about one fighting series, and considering that the Zelda timeline is consistent as the wrong jigsaw piece on the wrong jigsaw puzzle, it’s a possibility.