Gamer Diary: Link’s Awakening

I’ve had an interesting relationship with Legend of Zelda games. My very first was Ocarina of Time, which I originally played on the N64 but never actually completed until I got the 3DS version and finished it a couple of years back. In the past when I wasn’t a very adamant gamer, I had no knowledge of the franchise, and as such missed all the ‘best’ Legend of Zelda games. I’ve never played the original (even though I own it from an NES copy I found in the thrift store) don’t own Link to the Past and still haven’t played the vast majority of Legend of Zelda games. This wasn’t by intention. The problem is that the older Legend of Zelda games are hard to find for a good price, and even the remakes and rereleases tend to have higher markups, and for a gamer with a limited budget who missed the boat on the originals, it makes it hard to stay on top of.

The one that my bf constantly talked about as being one of his favorite games of all time was Link’s Awakening. He would tell me all the time about how the design of the game and the story was what inspired him to be a programmer, and lamented about the fact that he no longer had his Gameboy Color copy to lend me and share in this great game. So when the rerelease was announced for the Switch, he jumped on board the first day. In fact, he beat the game about an hour and a half after buying it, and as such was able to lend the copy to me so I could experience not only one of his favorite games, but what was regarded as one of the crown jewels of the franchise.

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After getting shipwrecked in a storm, Link finds himself on an island called Koholint taken care of by a sweet girl named Marin who dreams of life beyond the island. Her father, Tarin, informs you that there’s no getting off the island unless your wish is granted by the Wind Fish, the island’s patron deity. The problem is the Wind Fish is asleep, and won’t awaken unless you track down eight instruments of the Sirens and play the Wind Fish’s Ballad. The instruments are all guarded by monsters that in no uncertain terms, do not want the Wind Fish awoken. As you find the instruments you discover why and a fairly grim story lies under the cheerful character designs and colorful world.

Since I’ve not played the Gameboy version, or knew anything of the gameplay or story, I can only judge the game based of what I experienced firsthand. And right off the bat I have to say it’s a beautiful game in an interesting style. The cel animated opening and closings were stunning, and the top down adaptation and character models are adorable. The game looks almost like it’s done in claymation. I like that Nintendo is working with both top down and 3rd person Legend of Zelda games, because I also really enjoyed Link Between Worlds. The gameplay is very much traditional Zelda where you go through the dungeon, find the new weapon that will kill the boss and hunt down the keys to get to said boss. The dungeons are more puzzle than reflex based, which I prefer since my reflexes have never been and never will be that great. There are only a few places where good reflexes are really necessary, one of which is against the Knight Armos (which pretty much everyone agrees is a right bastard) and the lava tile machines in the Turtle Cave which require split second responses in order to cover the ground and solve certain puzzles. The lava machines were what I had the hardest time with, and I probably needed to do the one for the boss key about 20 times before my hands the joystick played ball.

The puzzles of the dungeons are pretty clever, and some require quite a bit of thinking to figure out. They also look really cool and have some great music. It’s also really funny to see all the references to the Super Mario franchise. The mini games are mostly fun, such as the trendy claw game and fishing, and the trading quest to get the magnifying glass is actually a lot less annoying than many of the trading quests from other Legend of Zelda games I’ve played.

The one letdown is the majority of the bosses. Most are incredibly easy, such as the Angler Fish, but the final boss is actually pretty tricky, since it requires you to not only use many of the items in your arsenal, but you have to keep on your toes and not every form is obvious of how you defeat it. And since it’s six different forms, it’s a long fight with a lot of room for error. So if boss fights are a highlight for you, you may find the game disappointing. But after playing it I can see why my bf likes it so much and why the game is so beloved by everyone. And with the graphical style and updated music and animation, I really hope that the style will be applied to some of the Legend of Zelda games I have played, the Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages games.

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