Although Breath of the Wild, quite rightly, has been stealing the headlines in 2017, we’re going to fondly remember the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening today. What a game it bloody well is! The action-adventure (and part RPG) title was released in 1993 on the Game Boy and became an instant classic with a heady mix of exploration and typical Zelda-styled charm.
It’s one of the more brooding titles from the series, with this one set outside the standard world of Hyrule. It also includes few characters from the Zelda world, features 2D side-scrolling sections, and makes occasional intertextual references to Nintendo’s Mario games. As for the plot – Link’s ship is destroyed during a storm and he ends up stranded on Koholint Island. He’s rescued by Marin, then some owl dude shows up and informs Link he must wake the Wind Fish to return to his home. Adventure time!
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
As highlighted above, Link’s Awakening is an unusual title in the Zelda canon. It’s also, arguably, the best Game Boy game there ever was. It’s also an essential part of the Zelda series for any fans to tick off their list, which makes this one frustrating as, other than a Game Boy Colour re-release in 1999, you can’t really play this game. It’s not even available (for some reason) on any of Nintendo’s eShops. What gives?
Stylistically, it takes the Link to the Past SNES route with an overhead view of protagonist Link. You’re simply left to go off and explore the world, with many areas initially blocked off. As you advance through the game and gather new items, the entire world is opened up to you. At the centre of it all, then, are those dastardly puzzles!
In the pre-internet era, we got pretty stuck on Link’s Awakening. During these periods when we couldn’t figure out what to do, we’d often spend our time gathering rupees, digging holes in the ground with a spade, or fishing in the local pond. It’s the beauty of Zelda games – you’re never compelled to get on with the plot, you can take time out to enjoy the experience. Plus, you can indulge in kleptomania!
Yes, Link’s Awakening is a brooding Zelda game, although A Link to the Past and Twilight Princess can claim to be darker. This title does, however, lay on the life lessons. What sticks with us the most is when you steal something from the local shop – all you have to do is pick an item up and leg it out of there.
For the rest of the game, though, Marin will address you only as “THIEF” – the shame a young Mr. Wapojif felt was very real. Worse still, if you then head back into the local shop to buy anything else the enraged owner will kill you immediately with some sort of cattleprod type deal. All rather sinister!
Link’s Awakening is a gem. It’s difficult (in a challenging, fun way) and features memorable dungeons for players to explore. It’s a surprisingly large Zelda game, too, considering this is the Game Boy, with crisp, clear graphics, an excellent soundtrack, and a stirring storyline.
Our only hope, as we close this celebration of a classic, is it will wend its merry way onto the Nintendo Switch at some point. Go on, Nintendo, pay some respect to one of the very best Zelda games money can buy!