Name: The legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening Format: Nintendo Game Boy Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo Year: 1993

The fourth game in the long running Zelda Action RPG series. Like Zelda 1 and Zelda 3 before it, it used an overhead perspective for gameplay.

This was the first game in the series developed for a handheld machine. While the previous game had become one of the SNES's most popular games, now the developers were faced with the challenge of making a game that was as good as the last, if not better, on a machine with about half the power of a SNES, and a black and white screen. Luckily, Nintendo's top developers, along with genius Shigeru Miyamoto ended up creating what is widely regarded as the best game on the Game Boy.

The game is set after the end of Zelda 3, with Link (the hero of the series) going on a along voyage after defeating Ganon. While returning back to Hyrule, the boat that Link was travelling in is struck by lightning, and Link is washed up on a beach in a strange place he has never heard of: Koholint Island. The island is made up of many different areas, all looked down upon by the egg of the Wind Fish, high on top of the mountain above.

After Link regains his basic equipment of sword and shield, (which were luckily washed up with him), he meets Marin, a girl who plays an interesting part as the Princess Zelda substitute in this game. Soon he is exploring, and meets an owl, who tells him that the only way he can leave the Island is to awaken the wind fish. No-one on the island has a boat, because to them, there is nothing else in the world, except the island. Link is told that the Wind Fish will wake up if eight mystical instruments are played in front of his egg - each of the instruments is found at the end of a huge dungeon - guarded by a Nightmare, the game's name for a boss. Dungeons were handled in the usual Zelda style, some having more than one level, and including elements never before seen, such as underground passages played in a Super Mario Bros. style 2D viewpoint, having to use a huge wrecking ball to knock down four pillars, which totally changed the shape of the dungeon. The usual mini bosses and warp points combined with the trademark Zelda fiendish puzzlestm make for a decent challenge. The overworld is huge, with a number of interesting things to find, such as the obligatory heart pieces which have featured in all the Zelda games since Zelda 3 - collecting four adds a new heart containter to your bar.

The usual items all return for Link to collect and use, including:

    Sword, which can be upgraded to level 2 if enough secrets are found. The level 2 version fires energy bolts if the player has full hearts.
  • Shield, an upgraded version of which is found in one of the last dungeons.
  • Power Bracelet, allowing Link to lift heavy objects and pull switches on walls. Also upgradeable to level 2, which allows the player to lift even heavier things.
  • Magic Powder which can be sprinkled on torches to light them, or to solve other puzzles.
  • Sleepy Mushroom which is found in the forest. This should be given to the witch, who makes it into Magic Powder. There is no other use, as far as I know, because there is only one, and it gets used up in the aforementioned process.
  • Roc's Feather - this feather allows you to jump over small gaps in the ground (a first in the series), and can be combined with the Pegasus boots for a very long jump.
  • Hook shot - this spring loaded hook on a chain can be used to either pull items towards link, or pull link across gaps etc. depending on what it is fired at.
  • Magic Rod - this rod allows you to fire a magical fireball to kill enemies, and it can also be used to melt ice blocks.
  • Shovel - this allows you to dig in any areas which have soft ground. You might find rupees, hearts, or even Secret Seashells. Needed for a certain puzzle.
  • Bow - if you have any arrows, you can fire this to destroy enemies. Seen (as far as I know) in every Zelda game, or all the good ones at least. Can be fired at the same time as the bomb for explosive arrows.
  • Bomb - causes damage to enemies, blows up weakened walls. Needed for most of the game.
  • Ocarina - 3 different melodies can be learnt, each with different effects.
  • Pegasus Boots - allow you to get a burst of speed to ram walls. If used with the sword, you run with it in front of you, and can damage enemies. Can also be used with the Roc's Feather for jumping large gaps.
Unfortunately, due to the control constraints of the game boy (only two main buttons, aside from the D-pad) only two items could be equipped at once - so if you needed to jump a huge gap with the Roc's feather and the Pegasus boots, you had to unequip your sword, leaving you defenceless. However, this rarely happened, so usually you could keep your sword equipped at all times.

The game consisted of a huge overworld with 8 dungeons of increasing difficulty, followed by a final boss showdown in the Wind Fish's egg. This comprises of 5 bosses in a row, and is one of the hardest parts of the game.

Aside from the heart pieces to collect, the other set of secrets was the Secret Seashells. These could be found more or less anywhere, in and out of dungeons. There were locations for somewhere over 20 of them, but once you had 20 all the others changed into rupees instead. The seashells could be taken to seashell house, and exchanged for prizes. Gettin 20 got you the level 2 sword, which really helped to make the game easier. Because, like all Zelda games, it is fiendishly difficult. Sometimes the puzzles seem simply impossible, sometimes it's a boss that just won't die, or a set of enemies who take you out every time. Either way, if you persevere, you will complete the game, because I did, and I'm not that good at it.

The overall "feel" of the game is very different from any of the others in the series - it is the first to be set anywhere except Hyrule, and it has an almost dreamlike quality about it. The design of enemies is sometimes the norm, but enemies which resembles Goombas from Super Mario Bros. and enemies that act like Kirby are included. Enemies wearing Mexican hats pop out of the floor and fire energy waves at Link. Some enemies do not attack, but instead walk the same way as Link does. Even weirder are the references to other Nintendo Games. There is an item trading sequence necessary to get a magnifying glass, which is used to read a very important book. The trading item sequence bizarrely begins with a Yoshi doll, and part way through, when you are asked to deliver a letter from "Mr Write", you find out that (from a photo) the person sending him letters is Princess Peach (?!?), and finally, there is a very wise man on the island, but he cannot be talked to, and you must ring him from one of many telephone booths. Yes. Quite.

However, if you stop looking for the Zelda aspects, and look at the game as an original (which it is, really), you will enjoy one of the best, if not the best games on the Game Boy - this game is frequently ranked above the other heavy weights of Tetris and the Pokémon series.

Recently the game was updated for the Game Boy Color to The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX.

Thanks go to Servo5678 who helped me with this writeup.

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