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Old 08-04-2012, 06:01 PM   #1 (permalink)
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The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX Review

I originally played through Link's Awakening as a kid shortly after its release on the original GameBoy. I believe I finished it, but I am not positive and ever since then I have not touched the game again. I vaugely remember it being good, "for a GameBoy game". Well, nearly twenty years later I saw the game (in color) for download on my 3DS at a cheap price, and thought I would try it again. It ended up being a great decision.

Link's Awakening is a traditional 2D Zelda game. It was released after A Link to the Past on the Super NES, but being a GameBoy game it was an 8-bit title. Despite that, the game looks almost on par with its 16-bit brother.

Link's Awakening is perhaps the most light-hearted game in the entire franchise. It never takes itself too seriously and often delves into other famous Nintendo frachise worlds. Link will go up against Mario Brother goombas, shy-guys and piranah plants in addition to the traditional cast of Zelda enemies. Inside certain sections of dungeons the game traverses as a 2D side-scrolling game in a form that feels like a combination of Zelda II and Super Mario Bros. You will also see other familiar faces not belonging to the Zelda world including characters and music from the Super NES version of Sim City and a Yoshi doll. The rest of the game plays very familiar to both the original NES Zelda and A Link to the Past.

I wrote a blog about the original Legend of Zelda not long ago as an entry into the six most important games of my life. In that I stated that I considered The Legend of Zelda to be the greatest game of all-time because of how large an impact it had on my life at the time. However, I also admitted it does not withstand the test of time well, and if I had played it for the first time today, I doubt I would enjoy it very much. I would have likely became frustated at the lack of direction the game gave and ended up ruining the experience by referencing a walkthrough every time I got stuck for more than 5 minutes.

I feared Link's Awakening would suffer from the same problems, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that not to be the case. It was not my first time with the game, but I honestly remembered close to nothing about it. I never knew where to go from memory, so it was as if I was playing the game for the very first time.

Old NES adventure and RPG games use to give very cryptic hints on what to do next or where to go, if they gave any hints at all. Today's games mostly go in the other extreme telling you exactly what to do at every moment. Link's Awakening found a great medium. Whenever it isn't clear what you should be doing you can find a phone booth where an NPC gives you a general idea on what direction to head without spelling it out direcly. This still allows you to figure things out on your own, but with enough direction you aren't wandering around aimlessly for hours on end. Inside dungeons it won't always be crystal clear on where to go, what walls to bomb, etc, but there are subtle hints laid throughout to keep you from being stuck too long. You can always poke walls with your sword and listen for the sounds they make to see if they would fall if bombed (and the bombing spot is not always directly in the middle of the wall like in the original game).

The game moves quickly. Dungeons are fairly short and you can likely get through at least a couple in one sitting. Personally, I found this a refreshing change of pace from modern games, the 3D Zelda games inparticular. One of my biggest issues with Ocarina of Time and the 3D Zelda games following it, is that I always wanted to be done with the dungeons before I actually was. Pacing in a lot of modern games is an issue with me. Yeah your game may take 80 hours to complete, but it often feels like a 15 hour game that just drags on way too long just so it claim it gave me "more value". This is a reason why I can still play through old games like Final Fantasy IV, VI and Chrono Trigger and enjoy myself, but am reluctant to devote the time for a replay of The Witcher, Dragon Age or Twlight Princess. Link's Awakening pace is right-on. You'll probably beat it fairly quickly, but chances are you'll find yourself wanting to play it again at some point.

There are a few negative points in the game. Due to being a port of a GameBoy game, you only have two buttons to control all of Link's gadgets and gizmos, including his sword and shield. If you want to have the ability to jump, you have to asign it a slot, which means you'll have to unequip your sword or your shield. Some sections require you to both sprint and jump, which means you won't have a sword or a shield equipped during that time. After the jump you will have to pause the game and re-equip your weapon. You will find yourself constantly pausing the game to switch between different items, weapons and abilities.

The other issue I have with the game is the fact the game pauses to give you the same annoying messages over and over. Enemies will randomly drop power-up items which will either double your attack power or double your defense for a short time. Every time you pick up one of these, and it is often, the game stops, gives you a pop-up message that requires you to hit the button a couple times so it can tell you exactly what the power up is doing. It may sound subtle, but it does get annoying after a bit.

Overall, I was actually shocked just how much I enjoyed this game. In my opinion, Zelda did the 2D adventure genre much better than it ever has the 3D. It plays quick, light-hearted and fun . It may have not taken itself as serious as other Zelda titles, but don't be fooled, for those of us prefering the 2D-style Zelda games, Link's Awakening just might be the best game in the series.

Final Grade: A
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