The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

Wow! This looks pretty heavy!

Zelda on the Game Boy, you say? That should probably be pretty good, shouldn't it? Cramming an entire adventure into a Game Boy cartridge shouldn't be too big an ask, but there's bound to be some expectations thanks to a certain Link to the Past...

Enough beating around the bush, let's slash the sword with our name on it through all the vegetation in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Is it a spin-off? A side story? Alternate universe? Inspired by? I don't know, but it is different.

Fun Times

The heroic Link is caught in a storm, washed ashore and saved by a local lady by the name of Marin, and then all hell breaks lose. Sort of. Monsters seem to follow all the heroes of role-playing games, and Link is no different. Ever since turning up in town, things have not been what they once were.

The music and visuals on show are about as Zelda-y as you can get for this period in time, on this mighty piece of portable hardware. If all you wanted was Zelda on the move, you've got it: A quest that has you seeking out numerous musical instruments in order to wake up a fish will see you crawling through dungeons, swapping out items and even venturing into side-scrolling platform sections - Link's Awakening is Zelda, but not quite as you know it.

Link's actions are as you'd expect, and are mapped to the only two buttons you've got available to you. Assign an item to a button and then that button does it all. Press it to swing a sword or drop a bomb, hold it to charge up a powerful spin attack or push enemies from behind the safety of your shield.

It all makes sense and the game doesn't ask you to do too much - if any - time sensitive juggling with inventory items. It allows you to just explore as much as you can before exhausting all avenues of exploration and getting stumped.


I don't know if I had a(nother) moment of dumb or not, but I had some annoying moments with Link's Awakening. Notable amongst them is that it took me fooooreeeever to realise that I could push things out of the way - but not everything, of course, because then some of the puzzles wouldn't be puzzles, and there are plenty of familiar puzzles here.

Each block that you can't quite push yet also brings up a few sentences of text to remind you that you can do what you want to do, just not right now, so remember that and come back later. It, like the rest of the text in the game, can scroll by a little slowly, especially if you've seen it ten times in succession and are getting mighty tired of it...

That block pushing skill should be just obvious by now, but nope, I was too focused on navigating Koholint Island via hedge trimming, assuming boulder movement to be item related, and the item to be somewhere behind a bush...

As such, there were plenty of moments where the words "Oh, yes, of course, why didn't I do that ten minutes ago?" emerged from my mouth, as I slowly expanded my knowledge of both the game and the map.

Though I have no idea how I got into this predicament. I was not too pleased...

Final Word

Once I smartened up a little bit, though, and journeyed further into the plot, I found that I wasn't as interested in Link's Awakening as I was with A Link to the Past.

It could be the lack of colour and pop, but I have since watched the Game Boy Color re-release, Link's Awakening DX, and I'm still not enthralled by this adventure. It's big and welcoming and will keep you busy for a while, but it doesn't quite sit right and as such, I don't quite feel like trying to play it again anytime soon.

The second person you see who isn't Link looks like Mario of Mario fame. On the second screen of the village, assuming you follow the path, you see a Chain Chomp of Mario fame. Somewhere is a mother whose child wants a Yoshi doll of Mario fame. There's nothing wrong with nods and in-jokes to other franchises, but the references in Link's Awakening seem a little too on the nose, and it sucks me out of the game.

You might be able to see past all of that, and love hunting down musical instruments in classic Zelda dungeons, full of iconic monsters and boss fights (or boss fight strategies, at least), but I think I'll pass.

It is a successful squashing of a Zelda adventure into a Game Boy cartridge, introducing plenty of features and gameplay, and is well worth playing, but I've played enough of it for now, and I'm nowhere close to finishing.

Fun Facts

The game spawned from various members of the development team experimenting with the Game Boy development kits outside of work hours, in order to see how capable the handheld console was.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, developed by Nintendo EAD, first released in 1993.
Version played: Game Boy, 1993, via emulation.
Version watched: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX, Game Boy Color, 1998 (Zelda Dungeon-Informer)