Zelda: Link's Awakening

14 Feb 2017

Zelda has a tradition of having a main game followed by a weird offshoot. The main game will talk about the Triforce, defeating Ganon, et cetera. The weird offshoot generally does whatever it likes. Link’s Awakening is the first weird offshoot in the series.

Unless you count Zelda II, which is more bad than weird.

Link’s Awakening actually has an interesting plot, for one. You collect the macguffins, you beat the final boss. But everything has this dreamy, surreal Twin Peaks vibe. There’s a dungeon themed around a face (?!). There’s an existential plot twist. There are.. Mario references everywhere.

(on a side note, lots of Gameboy games of this era seem to have this surreal feel that I can’t quantify. Mario Land and Warioland: Mario Land 3 are the same. Nothing about it seems to gel with the Mario universe I know)

Nintendo developed Link’s Awakening on the LTTP engine, scaled down for the Gameboy. As such, combat feels slower and stiffer than LTTP - which can feel airy in comparison. The limitations of the portable format mean there are only two action buttons. You have to swap items in and out, including your sword and shield. This annoyed me no end - and you spend considerable amounts of time doing this.

Oh, and for the first time, there’s a trading sequence. Whilst a nice idea, it is mandatory for certain points at the game for you to have advanced it. There is little signposting for that, which is a dick move. The trading sequences in Ocarina of Time are non mandatory and have two pretty sweet rewards at the end.

I enjoyed Link’s Awakening a lot, but it isn’t as good as LTTP. That said, if you loved LTTP, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t also like this. It’s another solid 2D Zelda.