The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX
3DS (Virtual Console)
Game Boy Color
December 1, 1998 (NA)
December 12, 1998 (JP)
January 1, 1999 (EU)
June 7, 2011 (3DS eShop)
We all know what to expect from a Zelda game. The princess has been kidnapped by an evil dark lord, and you’re the only person that can rescue her from his clutches. To do so, you’ll need to collect seven medallions, each one hidden away in a temple and guarded by an evil monster. Only then can you face the dark lord and save the girl!
Or, in the case of Link’s Awakening, you’ve been shipwrecked on an island with a bunch of quaint, friendly villagers. No one seems to know how they got there in the first place, but everyone’s telling you that you need to wake up a giant fish that sleeps in an egg at the top of a mountain on the island. It’s quite possibly the most unique setting of any Zelda game yet, and while the overall experience isn’t quite as epic as its predecessor A Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening is still one of the most charming, light-hearted entries in the series, though it has plenty of dark undertones as well.
In your quest to wake the Wind Fish from its slumber, you’ll traverse a densely-packed overworld, explore dungeons, gather equipment, solve puzzles, and conquer both familiar and unique bosses in order to collect eight instruments of the Sirens. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Despite the creative setting of Koholint Island and the uniqueness of the plot, the game is still a Zelda game at heart. That’s not a bad thing, of course, since the 2D Zelda games still have incredibly tight gameplay that still holds up today.
The DX version of the game added color graphics and a bonus Color Dungeon, and thankfully this is the version that made it to the 3DS’s eShop. There’s very little to say about the game – if you’ve played a 2D Zelda in the past 25 years then you’ll be instantly familiar with how everything works. The eShop version of the game adds a Restore Point system, by which you can create a save point at any time, similar to the save state systems used by emulators. This eliminates treks through dungeons if you die during a difficult fight or a trip through the overworld if you die away from a save point. This, in combination with the suspend feature which allows you to pause the game at any time by pressing the Home button, add a level of convenience and extended portability that wasn’t present in the original title. For another example, you can also suspend the game, launch the internet browser, and look up an FAQ or walkthrough if you get stuck.
Link’s Awakening DX holds up incredibly well for a 13-year-old remake of an 18-year-old game. It’s not without its issues: the quest isn’t quite as epic as A Link to the Past, and the overworld is a bit smaller. Also, thanks to the GBC’s lack of buttons, you can only assign two items at a time (and that includes your sword and shield), so be prepared to go into the item menu a lot. The soundtrack holds up surprisingly well for being mostly GBC blips and bloops, especially the standout Ballad of the Wind Fish, and you’ll rarely find yourself reaching for the volume controls.
Koholint Island remains one of the most vibrant and colorful worlds in the Zelda universe, and similarly colorful is the cast of characters you’ll encounter. Whereas A Link to the Past had very little character interaction and personality, the world of Link’s Awakening is alive and vibrant. You’ll meet several characters that will aid you on your journey, and each has their own quirks and personalities that run the gamut from solemn and serious to amusing. The game’s lightheartedness carries over into the dungeon and enemy design. Bosses, many with outlandish designs, will taunt you before attacking. There are also many homages to other Nintendo franchises, such as the inclusion of Goombas and Kirbys as enemies and the side-scrolling platforming sections that break up dungeons.
At $5.99, Link’s Awakening DX on the eShop is a steal, especially if you’ve never played it before. The addition of the suspend and restore point features add a level of convenience that wasn’t present in the original cartridge release. Regardless of its age, the game holds up surprisingly well, and you’re getting 15-20 hours of classic Zelda gameplay for just under six bucks – a great value.
Incredibly charming world and characters.
Classic Zelda gameplay.
Unique plot and setting.
Not quite as massive as its predecessor.
GBC button constraints.