Published on November 15th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
Link’s Awakening DX
In the run up to the release of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on 3DS, I decided to play Link’s Awakening DX, not because it came free with my preorder…
The Legend of Zelda was still a young series when their first outing on a handheld, Link’s Awakening first came out in 1993. It originally started as a port of A Link to The Past on the SNES, however it became a fully fledged project when the team wanted to make a Zelda Gameboy title. The DX version was released in 1998 and contains an additional dungeon in colour and a new sidequest involving photographs.
Following in the footsteps of A Link to The Past, the game is a top-down action adventure with an emphasis on a selection of weaponry and traversing dungeons, it has been described by developers as the “quintessential isometric Zelda game”.
The overall look of the game is similar to the SNES game, although plagued by limited hardware, the visuals maintain a similar vibrant and animé appeal, with the edges looking a little rougher and designs for assets such as trees being a little simpler. It can be excused for not looking as great as possible, the console and the fact that colour was added in post-development means that the full potential isn’t yet reached visually.
From the start of the game it is clear that is a Zelda game like no other, a cutscene shows Link on a boat in a storm which strands him on a beach, he is taken by a young girl back to the village and upon awakening, discovers that he is on Koholint Island, home to the sleeping Wind Fish lying dormant on an egg atop a mountain.
The story was a departure for the series, where little to no development appeared in the characters within the world, the character dialogue is inspired chiefly by Twin Peaks, where they wanted the NPCs to appear more ‘suspicious’.
This trend continues in future games such as Ocarina and Windwaker, in fact there are many elements from this game that has heavily informed future titles, such as the various musical instruments and songs, the sidequests and the handheld instalments lack of series defining contents such as Zelda, Hyrule and the Tri-force.
The gameplay has been changed, this is mostly due to the hardware limitations of the Gameboy only having two action buttons, however the developers have used this to innovate the mechanics by making the switching of weapons and items part of the fun. Instead of having many buttons with some that are default set and others are equippable, there are two equippable buttons and the equipped items can be used in conjunction with one another.
The dungeons are plentiful, 8 in total not including the Color Dungeon, each for one of the 8 instruments needed to awaken the Wind Fish, the dungeons seem to vary in difficulty and size throughout the game, however this seems to have little impact on the pacing, which maintains a good tempo and doesn’t frustrate like Link to the Past sometimes does.
The difficulty is much higher in this game in comparison and some of the puzzles and niggledy piggledy parts of the dungeon can be ragesome, but ultimately still very compelling.
The additional quests and features such as the linear item trade quest and the river rapids are great distractions whenever the story quest becomes too much, these also mean that you have another chance to interact with characters in the world, which is one of the game’s greatest attributes.
The music is not as memorable as other Zelda titles, however it is fitting thematically with the island setting. It is rather simplistic and there are a couple of standout tracks such as Tal Tal Heights and the songs which you can play on the Ocarina like the Awakening song or Warp song are a good addition to both the soundtrack and gameplay.
In ways I prefer this to A Link to The Past, as there is a considerably more plot and nuanced characters in Link’s Awakening, and with the interesting game mechanics and the colourful and unique world there are lots of really fun things about it that make it superior to its predecessor. But the lack of grandness and adventure means that Link to The Past just about tops it. Unlike other games, it doesn’t feel like the series has been limited by the move to handhelds, with new and interesting features setting them apart and equal to other instalments.
Link’s Awakening is a worthy sequel to Link to The Past, fun and interesting elements mixed with the traditional puzzles and difficulty make the game a brave step in the right direction for handheld games and a brilliant piece of the series.