The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening Cover
Platforms 3DS, GameBoy, GameBoy Color
Genre An adventure to the past
MtAMinutes to Action 1
Keep Playing? Yes
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My favorite game is—and most likely will always be—The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It's a videogame that raised me, coddled me through the early years, showed me the potential games held, and reminded me that there's still good in this world. And strangely, there's never been anything quite like it since its debut way back in November 1992. I guess some games do come close: 3D Dot Game Heroes, Alundra, Beyond Oasis, and Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. Not surprisingly, nobody does Zelda quite like Nintendo.

Nintendo's 2011 E3 conference opened with some love for the Zelda franchise, now twenty-five years big, and a surprise announcement was that The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was going to be available very soon on the Nintendo 3DS eshop. Sadly, I never got to experience this game before on the GameBoy, and a quick bit of research revealed that it both looked and played similar to what I consider to be gaming nirvana. Well, I downloaded it as soon as I could. Let's hope it lives up to my lofty expectations...

Minute by Minute

 00 – It was a dark and stormy night, and Link was trying to sail through it. A bolt of lightning strikes the boat, and Link's washed ashore. A young girl discovers him there, and the camera climbs up to the top of a small mountain where an...egg is. Looks like a dinosaur egg.

01 – I get to now select my save spot and name Link. I go with the strong usual of Pauly. A young woman named Marin wakes Pauly up, informing him of what happened and where he is now: Koholint Island. He unsuccessfully asks about Zelda. I'm now in control of Pauly, exploring the tiny house with wonder. It feels somewhat close to A Link to the Past's opening—except no princess is calling me to her aid using mindspeak.

02 – Marin's father, aptly named Tarin, evidently already knows Pauly's name. Creepy. Actually, no. He learned it from seeing it on Pauly's shield, which he then gives back. I'm told I'm able to knock enemies back with it. But where's the second part of the combo, the sword? Marin says to follow the path south to the beach.

03 – Outside now. There's a chicken minding its own business. Alas, I must attack it senselessly as per rule 7.04 from chapter 9 of the sanctified Link Hates PETA guidebook.

04 – Exploring. Love how the screen moves from one to another as you progress forward. Inside a neighbor's house, Pauly examines a chest. “Wow! This is a nice chest.”

05 – Found two kids outside tossing a ball back and forth. They tell Pauly how to save his game progress, but it's not entirely clear, and you get the sense that they are actually talking about GameBoy controls. With this on the 3DS, I can actually save whenever I want.

07 – Made it to the beach. I can see Pauly's sword, but it's currently unreachable. Sea Urchins block my path, and I'm getting attacked by Octoroks and Leevers left and right. Since I only have three hearts and a shield to defend myself, I'm avoiding everything at all costs.

08 – Died. Brushed against one too many Sea Urchins. I select “Continue & Save” from the game over menu, and it brings me back to the last door I went through, which was, ironically, at the house where the two kids told me how to save my game.

Legend of Zelda Links Awakening Opening

09 – do I get the sword?! Every path is blocked either by holes in the ground or Sea Urchins.

11 – Okay, screw this. I'm heading back into the main part of town to see if I can get any answers at the library. Books always help, right?

15 – Read EVERY book. Learned nothing.

16 – Oh. You can move the Sea Urchins around by holding down the shield button and pushing against them. Yeah, that might've been handy to know about eight minutes ago.

17 – Before Pauly can grab the sword, an owl swoops in to tell our young adventurer about his destiny: to wake the Wind Fish. It's the only way anyone can leave the island. To start down this path, Pauly must meet the owl at the Mysterious Forest. You got it, dude.

18 – ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Acquired a sword. Time to cut some grass to pieces.

Legend of Zelda Links Awakening Sword get

20 – Here comes that owl again. Only this time he calls it the Mysterious Wood, which is not only inconsistent with what he called it previously, but a bit perverted too.

23 – Exploring the shrouded forest map. Killing bad guys, falling into pits, collecting rupees, seeing cracks in walls I can't yet explode with bombs I don't have—the usual The Legend of Zelda stuff.

24 – Died again. I accidentally attacked one of those shocky dudes. Pauses game and note-taking to look up their name. Ah...Buzz Blob. Obviously. Yeah, I totally slashed at it twice, and the dang jell-like thingy fought back with electricity. Upon reanimating, I found a talking raccoon with a sensitive nose. Pretty sure he'll be important at some point.

26 – Getting lost. Found a Guardian Acorn, which cuts damage done to Pauly in half for a limited time. The background music is totally jazzed about this.

28 – In a cave now. Figured out that some stones can also be moved by using the shield and pushing against them. Really gotta remember that this shield is vital to survival. Anyways, a treasure chest rewards Pauly with 50 rupees and a killer soundbite. Exiting the cave. There's a mushroom on the ground, which has a strong aroma. Maybe this will bother the raccoon's sensitive nostrils?

30 – Can't tell. I showed the raccoon the mushroom, but nothing really happened, and he again mocked Pauly about how he'll never get anywhere in the Mysterious Forest thanks to his nefarious clouding. We did, however, find a magical fairy that was willing to heal Pauly and, in her words, “rid him of all his stress.” Yeah, if only. Rid us of that pesky raccoon, too. Well, that's 30 minutes!

Legend of Zelda Links Awakening Koholint

Half-Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 1

Video: Graphically, it's a color GameBoy game, which is like only two steps back from a solid SNES sprite-based title of yore. Everything's a little muted, but it still looks good, animates nicely, and the short cutscene at the beginning of Link's Awakening was a nice surprise, with excellent art and effects. You do get the sense that Link is hanging on for dear life during that terrible storm.

Audio: Infectious. So freaking infectious. I was whistling or humming along to every tune.

Story: It's pretty thin at the moment and unclear, but there is at least something to chase after: her name is Zelda.

Gameplay: Exactly like A Link to the Past. You explore a somewhat open map, entering dungeons and caves, looking for that special item that will allow you to progress further. You can also have fun in the local village, spending rupees at the shop or doing some miscellaneous tasks for villagers. At this point, I've traded a Yoshi doll for a ribbon and found a special seashell.

Challenge: Well, I did die twice. Some of that was my own carelessness though. However, a lack of strong mission objectives does make for a lot of random exploring, hoping for the best...or at least a clue in the right direction. Once you get a sword, enemies become a lot more manageable.

Nintendonly on the DS: We can save anywhere, at any time, all with the touch of the bottom screen! It works like the quick save function from Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies in that you can only create one save and the next time you load it up, it will disappear for good. But that's okay. It's been nice being able to save just outside a dungeon and then picking the game back up later in the day to be...right in front of the dungeon. Cuts back on re-traveling immensely.

Would I keep playing? Yes, no doubt. I've only just started this adventure, and yeah, there was a bit of a learning curve and probably more to learn still; I know I'm capable of figuring it all out eventually and waking up this Wind Fish thingy. Not sure what that has to do with the egg shown at the beginning of the game's cutscene, but whatever. Gotta do it. Gotta get back to Zelda.