Next up we have the first portable Zelda title, Link’s Awakening. Originally released on the Game Boy and then re-released (with improved graphics) for the Game Boy Color, this is a game that I spent a lot of time with when I was younger.
For this title, we play another version of Link as he explores the mysterious island of Koholint. This makes the game unique as it is the first Zelda game to take place outside of the Kingdom of Hyrule. In many ways, this game looks and plays very similarly to a Link to the Past, but also introduces several unique features. One of the most obvious changes is Link’s ability to jump. This is something that is a first for an overhead Zelda game.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the original title is the graphics. In many ways, the game features excellent art for a classic Game Boy game, but many players felt that the screen was too “busy” and lacked fine details and definition, which cause the game to suffer as a result. Thankfully, the re-release fixes many of these complaints. The use of color made obstacles and environmental details much clearer.
Another feature of the DX version is a new dungeon that does not appear in the original game. Naturally, this dungeon takes advantage of the GBC’s new color feature to present the player with color-based puzzles.
To me, the game is very enjoyable but occasionally doesn’t feel much like a Zelda game. I think this is mainly due to the introduction of new monsters and the foreign-style environment. Overlooking these oddities, Link’s Awakening is a solid game and a great way to experience classic Zelda on the go.
Difficulty: Medium – Another very well balanced Zelda title. The game is very playable by most even if it does feature some pretty tough dungeons at some point. The key here is patience and repetition.
Story: Surprisingly, this title features a very in-depth story, even if it is mostly isolated from the rest of series. The introduction of a new locale and new characters and creatures make for a really good time. There’s a cute little twist at the end of the game that I’ve never really been sure if I liked or not. You’ll see what I mean if you complete this title.
Originality: I think the goal of this game was to create a portable Link to the Past experience. And in many ways, this is exactly what Link’s Awakening is. But there’s enough new and original ideas present to let this title shine all on its own.
Soundtrack: The music composed for this game is nothing short of wonderful. One of my favorite memories from this game is the ever popular Ballad of the Wind Fish. Classic chiptunes.
Fun: What’s not to love? Portable Zelda and it’s done right. Great fun to be found in this title.
Graphics: As I mentioned in the main review, the original version suffered a bit. The artists filled the screen with lots to see, and the pixel art is not bad per se, but in a black and white environment, things got really confusing at times. The DX version of the game was a much needed improvement and is the only way to go if playing the game on modern hardware.
Playcontrol: Overall no complaints. The controls are very precise and accurate. However, playing with only two buttons get’s a little annoying with all the menu switching.
Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Again, another four-star Zelda game and a must-have for any fans of the series. Link’s Awakening is classic Nintendo and one of those titles that every Game Boy owner should have.
Original System: Game Boy
Currently available on: 3DS eShop (DX version)
Other Reviews In This Series:
LoZ – LoZ II – Link to the Past – Link’s Awakening – Ocarina of Time – Majora’s Mask – Oracle of Season & Ages – Wind Waker – Four Swords – Minish Cap – Twilight Princess – Phantom Hourglass – Spirit Tracks – Skyward Sword – Link Between Worlds – Breath of the Wild