Released on the Game Boy two years after the Super Nintendo masterpiece that was ‘A Link to the past’, ‘Links Awakening’ was the first time our intrepid hero had dared to cross onto the handheld games scene. With the Game Boy not being able to able to handle anything the size of ‘A Link to Past’ Nintendo set Link in a whole new world, far away from Hyrule.
The story goes that while Link is sailing back to Hyrule from a far off land his ship encounters a huge storm. During the storm Link is thrown overboard, awakening on the beach of Koholint island. He soon learns he must find the eight instruments of the ‘Sirens’ in order to wake up the legendary ‘Wind Fish’ in order to return to his homeland. Well, it was obvious wasn’t it!
Surprisingly enough these eight instruments are located around the island in eight dungeons, all of which must be searched and explored to succeed in your task. Then once the eight instruments have been collected they must be played in front of a big spotted egg on a hill where the ‘Wind Fish’ resides in order to wake it.
Graphically the game is excellent, especially considering the limitations of the Game Boy with great detail to found, such as small cracks in the floor and well-animated characters throughout. Though the game is not in colour everything is crystal clear and large on the screen meaning you never get hit by a monster you could not see, or fall down a hole you did not know was their until the last minute. Different areas of the game also succeed in looking different enough from other areas with mountains, woods, swamps and graveyards all meaning you never get bored with your surroundings
Like all Zelda games though the gameplay is where the game really shines. As always the dungeons are excellently laid out needing clever thinking and good swordsmanship to complete. Also two things have been added since ‘A Link to the Past’, the ‘Roc’s feather’ and a new way of using the shield in order to block attacks. Showing while the game cannot hope for the scale of its Super Nintendo counterpart there is some progression and development in terms of gameplay.
If there is one problem apparent it is with the difficulty of the game. While Zelda fans will no doubt not struggle very often with the enemies and puzzles they come across, any newcomer to the series may well find it well beyond their gaming skills. Some puzzles truly are bizarre and require lateral thinking to a ridiculous extreme. And while early dungeons are fairly balanced, by the time you reach the later ones even getting through the first few rooms requires heroic effort.
This however is only a minor gripe, as the game has clearly been thought about and developed by people who care about what they are doing. This coupled with the odd reference to other Nintendo games such as the Yoshi doll and the pet chomp on a chain all help to add just a little more magic each time you encounter something.
When all is said and done its clear to see ‘Links Awakening’ has quality coming out of all areas. It dose not live up to ‘A Link to the Past’ but a gold bar with a fly on it is still a gold bar at the end of the day. An excellent adventure for Link and one every Game Boy owner should be hunting around trying to find, just don’t expect it to be easy to finish.