|Honestly, I almost wish I could play the original.|
So, Link decides to go treasure hunting or save his sister or something on the high seas, but while he's traveling, a huge storm brews and sinks his ship, causing him to drift to a strange island called Koholint. While there, Link learns about the Wind Fish, a mysterious creature that has some sort of power over the island, but is currently in a deep sleep caused by darkness. So, Link gets his stuff together and goes off to awaken the mystic creature.
Basics of the story. I must say, even if Link's Awakening is a Game Boy game, its story is surprisingly shallow for Zelda and features Link acting pretty weirdly. I mean, Marin is clearly hitting on him so hardcore throughout the whole game and when he finds out that the Wind Fish awakening could pretty much destroy everything, there's no conflict. The game just kinda throws that out there and expects the player to be okay with it. With Koholint being a thriving, character-rich place, it made me wFary of progressing through the game knowing I'd also be ruining everything. But again, this was not a "cinematic" Zelda, so to speak, and if Link did have conflict with what was occurring they couldn't have really done anything to show it. At the same time, a number of characters are pretty straightforward about existence to them- they've been there since the Wind Fish has been asleep- there's no changing that, and there's no changing that the Wind Fish needs to be awakened. More on that later, though.
The game was originally an attempt to see if they could port the SNES classic A Link to the Past to a handheld, and it worked so well that they decided to make a new game out of it. Graphically, it's pretty good for a GB game, especially an early one, although some sprites are a bit difficult to discern. For the most part, however, it's a varied environment with a lot of different flavors- and I think the GBC color palette only enhances it. It's a nice looking game- clean, and not too cluttered. Some of the sprites are especially weird and I think some character models were put in because of a lack of originality (I mean, the Mario baddies are just bizarre...), but it doesn't break the game because it's all very cutesy and small in the first place.
The music is actually great in this game. While the overworld theme is repetitive, it's core differences from the ALttP theme make it stand out, and the variations on the theme within the different locales keep that same melody stuck in your head but with a number of cool variations. The dungeon theme is okay, and the ballads and special songs learned on the Ocarina are quite memorable. I could see how the music would stick in someone's head.
Gameplay is, again, much like its SNES big brother, with a number of weapons and tools appearing from the previous game. There's like, one or two new tools in this game with odd features- the reliance on Magic Powder is probably the weirdest part of the game. I honestly didn't play it for such a long time because I forgot what I was supposed to do if I ran low on the stuff. But it doesn't hurt the game that much. The only real thing that irks me is that it's a very ambiguous game- coming from a more modern Zelda perspective (partially) where things are at least a little more straightforward (kinda), I was a little disappointed by the ridiculous hidden bomb entrances. Well, I've never really been a fan of hidden bomb entrances in general, but this game abuses them a lot, making you stare at the map, puzzled, for a really long time asking why there's a portion of the dungeon you can't get to. I mean, if I had been playing this game nonstop (which, for a while towards the end- AFTER the overuse of bomb walls had passed- I actually had been doing so), I probably would have picked it up faster, but... I don't see why you need to have a hidden bomb wall. It's just an additional five seconds of time and it's just... a way to get to another room. It's an attempt to give bombs a purpose, when they have very little purpose aside from remote destruction... and hidden areas. I dunno, I feel like bombs should be a late-game addition, especially with how many hidden areas there are that aren't accessible unless you have them. However, it's kinda dumb if you have a hidden bomb wall in an area that's only accessible via hookshot, right? If you got bombs after you got the hookshot, you'd have more exploring to do because the hookshot is generally a late-game item. But, I digress.
Really, the dungeon layouts were really good. This game is very much like A Link to the Past because it's pretty tough when it wants to be- the enemies are tough to deal with in tight rooms because they're so big, and the screen's pretty small. The enemies also do an atrocious amount of damage and their hitboxes are pretty large- this goes for bosses too- and there's a few minibosses that are just downright ridiculous. Maneuvering through the dungeons is a lot of fun even if it does feel like a series of tunnels. The puzzles in the game are fantastic though- I mean, I loved the final dungeon in particular because of its weird, but very cool floor-building mechanic. Some other dungeon mechanics, I wasn't so fond of... but for the most part, I enjoyed them all very much. Plus, the 2D portions you'll just randomly enter? Pure genius, even if they're so much like Mario it hurts- they're Mario... as LINK. The color dungeon was actually the weakest, in my opinion, but that's what you get with "ADDED FEATURES FOR THE GAME BOY COLOR!"
I mean, to me, this is a great portable game. Different enough from its successors and small enough to be on a handheld, but still providing a load of content. I clocked eighteen hours into this game before beating the main story, and it's currently the fourth highest game in my play log. That's in comparison with current 3DS games, too. It's really a nice, meaty title that has a really fair length. Despite the gripes I do have, they're so minor in comparison to how wonderfully complete and charming this game is. In short, this game, though graphically dated, stays even with other games I'm playing. As I said in the image caption, I really almost wish I played the original game sans color- I'm sure having the expanse Koholint on a portable system for the original Game Boy owners was absolutely incredible and I think channeling those feelings would have been cooler than playing in color.
I never played Link's Awakening when it first came out, but I'm honestly glad that I have finally. It's a gem in the Zelda series that has all of this bizarre, interesting stuff going on. It's not my favorite in the series, but it might just be my favorite Zelda handheld game, and this is after I've said that Minish Cap is like, one of my favorite titles. Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass have nothing on this game because they're shorter and aren't as crazy and charming as it. I was skeptical going in, but I was rewarded with a great experience.