Link's Awakening tells the tale of the hero of A Link to the Past from the SNES, who is currently travelling far and wide, sharpening his skills, wits and battle techniques ready for the next major challenge. However, when heading back to the land of Hyrule, crossing the Great Sea in a tiny sailboat proves to be a disastrous decision. A massive storm rises up out of nowhere to smash the craft into tiny pieces, leaving Link bruised, battered, and unconscious until a kind family tends to his wounds, giving him ample time to rest only to awaken and find himself on a strange island called Koholint where there is imminent threat of enemy attack. Link is called into action immediately and must help rid the land of evil and rouse the sleeping Wind Fish so that he can get back to whence he came and return to normality.
When Link's Awakening first arrived on the old Game Boy it was seen as a mini version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the SNES, with the action taking place in the same topdown viewpoint as Link is moved around the world and many of the graphic tiles being shrunk and slightly stripped down to fit on the less powerful hardware. There are two main action buttons to which different pieces of equipment can be attributed, and others being switched in and out via a rudimentary inventory screen that also offers up information on how many key quest items have been accrued so far.
When the Game Boy Color arrived as a stop-gap between the original monochrome Game Boy and the Game Boy Advance that was deemed too powerful at the time, and thus too costly to bring to the market straight away, it needed a killer application to help convince gamers to pick up the moderately tweaked system. Along came Link’s Awakening DX, which had plugged some of the gameplay glitches that allowed for cheating in the original, as well as included a great burst of colour and some extra features. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX is filled with useful goodies to keep Link progressing smoothly through the story. For instance, cutting bushes, dashing into trees, or digging up land with a shovel, can result in Rupees (in-game currency) being uncovered, replenishing hearts appearing, or many other items.
There are also two important items that randomly appear when enemies are slain, Pieces of Power and Guardian Acorns. The resultant effects are to increase Link’s sword strength temporarily and cutting damage to the Hylian Hero by half, respectively. There are also some great additions such as magical powder that has a strange effect on different enemies or simply adds fire to empty lanterns, as well as accessories that can be combined to useful effect, like the running boots and sword, or bombs and arrows.
Mixed in with the standard fare of wandering around the world, encountering numerous characters that point Link in the right direction, whilst sometimes throwing new tasks his way, there are several dungeons to tackle. These are not too dissimilar from those found in previous outings, yet none are as quite as gruesome as those found in later The Legend of Zelda games, like Ocarina of Time or Wind Waker. That is not to say they are in any way inferior, though. They are indeed still cleverly crafted, with plenty of dead ends to be found if you have yet to collect enough small keys or do not have the right equipment to hand at the time (bombs, Pegasus Boots to dash, Roc’s Feather for jumping, and so on), and although there can be a lot of backtracking through dungeons, their compact nature prevents any boredom setting in, and instead each lair becomes an intricate puzzle that players must crack.
There are four key items to collect in each case; the map to show the entire dungeon layout, a stone beak to place inside the appropriate hole of an owl statue that provides useful hints, a compass that resonates a small sound if a small key is present in a room, and the Nightmare Key that opens the final door to the main boss, who is normally defeated using the latest piece of equipment added to Link’s roster. Along the way there are mid-level boss encounters, intriguing puzzles to solve and even some brilliant 2D sections straight out of the Mario world, featuring Goombas, small Thwomps (called Thwimps), Cheep Cheeps in an underwater setting, and many more familiar enemies. The fact that Link can acquire dashing and jumping abilities makes some of the later 2D side-on sections even more satisfying better as well.
For all its glory and the wonderful amount of pleasure brought to anyone who plays the game, there are still a few aspects of Link’s Awakening that can really start to grate on the nerves after a short while, such as the clumsy item-switching via the menu screen that is required far too frequently, or how messages cannot be skipped. The former point is not helped by the Select or Start buttons on 3DS being nowhere near as easy to press as on the original Game Boy Color platform (or the SNES pad for those, like me, who originally played this via the Super Game Boy). As for the latter, any time a rock is approached without the Power Glove set to the ‘A’ or ‘B’ button, a long-winded message appears about how heavy the item is and how it cannot be picked up with bare hands alone. The frustrating thing is how merely passing a rock too closely can instigate said message, meaning it can happen hundreds of times throughout the adventure, every time leading to a frustrating pause whilst the text must be scrolled through, with the same thing happening when other objects later in the game are touched whilst the right accessory is not equipped.
Thankfully, however, with Link’s Awakening DX being such a sublime game overall, with memorable characters, great side missions, as well as stunning presentational values, and some enthralling dungeons, any minor flaws can be swept under the proverbial table. One particular addition stands out; a Camera Shop was included in this spruced up Deluxe Edition of Link’s Awakening. Link can have his portrait snapped in various situations and in the past players were able to print the image using the Game Boy Printer peripheral. Unfortunately, despite no 3DS compatibility with the device, when checking out your shots in the Camera Shop it still gives the option to ‘Print’ despite being unable to select it, which is somewhat of a tease; clearly it was too much hassle for Nintendo to remove. The Camera Shop idea itself is still a really nice little addition, with Link suddenly being switched into a camera pose whilst wandering around the world, with one example being when cutting back through Mabe Village and passing the chained-up Bow-Wow where Link must edge really close to it for the perfect snapshot. Other scenarios only occur when other characters accompany Link for short periods of the adventure, meaning they can be missed entirely if not careful. Another little pleasant touch is how there are cameos from the SimCity-creator Will Wright in the computerised graphical format that appeared in SimCity on the SNES, plus Yoshi and even Princess Peach.
Link’s Awakening is bursting at the seams with smart extras that help to break up the general gameplay and not in some mere pointless manner, but in a highly enjoyable one. For instance, there is a trading sequence that can be commenced by grabbing a Yoshi doll early in the adventure and then finding the right person to pass it on to, which leads to another item being accrued that someone else around Koholint Island requires. The whole saga can be picked up and continued whenever the player feels like, for the most part, with it only being imperative to story progression on a couple of occasions. Another fantastic addition is the Colour Dungeon, which was not present in the original Link’s Awakening. Rather than spoiling the fun, all that will be said is that it is gravely useful to discover its location, and it is strongly recommended that it is conquered as early as possible in the adventure to give an added edge. Sea Shells and Heart Pieces are yet further inclusions for those who love to search every nook and cranny of the videogame world they are in. Slash every bush, dig up suspicious pieces of land, dive underwater in remote locations; the extras that Link’s Awakening DX holds are superb and increase not only the longevity of the game, but the overall enjoyment factor. These are not simple collect-a-thon missions, but truly engaging subsidiary missions. Even in its Virtual Console format now, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX is a sublime adventure that is definitely worth the asking price.