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The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島

Developer / Publisher: Nintendo
06 June 1993
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening [ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島] - cover art
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4.00 / 5.0
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1,135 Ratings / 2 Reviews
#204 All-time
#2 for 1993
Link becomes stranded on the island of Koholint after his ship is destroyed in a storm out at sea. The only way for him to escape is by acquiring the island's eight magical musical instruments to awaken the Wind Fish, the guardian of Koholint.
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Releases 10
1993 Nintendo  
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JP 4 902370 501667 DMG-ZLJ
1993 Nintendo  
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US 0 45496 73029 1 DMG-ZL-USA
1996 Nintendo  
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XNA 0 45496 73029 1 DMG-ZL-USA-1
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1998 Nintendo  
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JP 4 902370 503852 DMG-AZLJ-JPN
1998 Nintendo  
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XNA 0 45496 73085 7 DMG-AZLE-USA
1999 Nintendo  
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FR 0 45496 46068 6 DMG-AZLF-FRA
1999 Nintendo  
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XEU 0 45496 73085 7 DMG-AZLP-EUR
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It started as a passion side project and developed into an interesting entry within The Legend of Zelda [ゼルダの伝説] franchise. It still followed the 2D formula at the time but had its own very unique twists and turns, some of which were never really seen since. Furthermore, it is the only The Legend of Zelda [ゼルダの伝説] game so far to receive both a definitive edition AND a massive graphical overhaul. This makes me believe that Link's Awakening is regarded as a particularly special game, but does it really earn that or is it "a Zelda game of all time"? Personally, I believe this is a great game with only a few problems that bother me and I now understand why this of all games essentially got a remake.

I'll start with what the game does really well. Most importantly, the game plays honestly very very well. Despite it being on Game Boy and Game Boy Color, the combat feels really fun and pretty fluid all things considered especially with the sword. It's fun charging up a spin attack and roaming around the map as you then unleash a super satisfying powerful swing or use it to poke enemies. It definitely helps that it has very good, possibly disjointed range which makes fighting enemies a lot easier compared to Link's much stubbier sword in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past [ゼルダの伝説 神々のトライフォース]. The other weapons are really fun too and I think this might be the first time in a Zelda game where every weapon feels like it has a fairly significant use case. The pegasus boots and hookshot return and are both very fun to use, and things like the bow, magic rod, and shovel feels much more useful now too. By far my favorite item though is Roc's Feather, because it lets Link jump which is used so creatively and is an integral piece of the game's design especially when it comes to the dungeons and certain bosses. It gives us a lot of small 2D platforming sections which I honestly had a blast going through and I'm so happy that they added these to the game. It's such an amazing mechanic that I wish returned in more Zelda games.

Outside of the 2D sections, the game still has high quality design that I would expect of a Zelda game, especially considering how good The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past [ゼルダの伝説 神々のトライフォース] is in that department. It is a little bit weaker than that game when it comes to secrets and general game progression, with some sections feeling particularly obtuse (I got annoyed when I realized that throwing a pot at a closed door sometimes worked), but otherwise these are some pretty fun dungeons to traverse through in general. Some of my favorites include Key Cavern, Catfish's Maw, Face Shrine, Eagle's Tower, and, the most satisfying one to figure out, Turtle Rock. The overworld is pretty great too, complete with a ton of sub areas with distinct settings and secrets of their own as well as entries into caves, houses, and even a castle at one point. There's a lot of incentive to explore as well which I really like especially when there are Secret Seashells, Heart Pieces, and chests with Rupees around the corner. And if you forget what to do, there are several telephone booths giving hints to help you progress further in the game as well as an always accessible map of the overworld. The game design is generally still very strong and high quality.

Other things that I really like about this game include the setting, story, visuals, and soundtrack. I really do like how alive the island feels and it's populated by all sorts of things, including humans and several species of animals. Shoutouts to the owl, Marin, Crazy Tracy, the cleaning lady whose name I forgot, the rooster, the crocodile that sells bananas, and the ghost that follows you at one point. This also extends to the enemies including a lot of enemies that should be in a Mario game instead of this one but I still quite like their presence here especially the Goombas. I really like the story as well, obviously Link's main motivation is leaving the island and to do that his quest is to wake the Wind Fish but the game gets you to think about what would possibly happen if the Wind Fish is awoken and it does make you consider if you truly want to finish your quest. What ties everything together are of course the visuals, with some beautiful sprite design, and beautiful color usage for the DX version especially, as well as the soundtrack, which is a total bop. Boss themes are all fun, the overworld theme is a classic, and I love how each dungeon pretty much has their own theme. I do have to question why we needed specific themes for the letter person and the letter goat in the animal village since they both only exist for a trading quest, but they're both still quite good so I'm fine with it.

Overall, the game has a lot of positives going for it... though I will say I have some nitpicks and problems that make this more of an 8 instead of a 9 for me. I think the most apparent issue is the dialogue. The dialogue is just really slow to go through and I wish they used the flags for it a lot better. I've been told one too many times that "oh wow this object is so strange, I sure do hope I have a way to get past it" even though I've acquired the item in question at least 3 dungeons ago. Being reminded what a guardian acorn does every time I pick it up is also really annoying. It's a problem with some of the boss dialogue too, which is why the second boss of the game is probably my least favorite. Speaking of the bosses, they are pretty uneven in design. Some are kinda fun, some are pretty damn annoying, and some are very, very easy. Respective examples are the King Stalfos mini-boss, the Evil Eagle, and the Angler Fish. It's a good thing that they ultimately nailed the final boss but the bosses in the game do leave a bit to be desired at times. I think one final issue is that the game does kinda make you backtrack a lot especially if you're going for 100% so that's a bit annoying. I don't want to have to pass Richard's Villa that many times since it's probably the most visually boring area of the game for me.

I think another point of contention that I want to address is the inventory management. Personally, I honestly like it even if selecting these items can get a bit cumbersome at times (especially once you have the Ocarina) considering the game demands you to swap items from one room to the other or across boss patterns on several occasions. I don't think it's otherwise any more tedious than how inventory management is done in the previous games though, and considering there are now two slots to modify instead of one, there's a lot more freedom to be had. I need to jump three spaces? Then give me Roc's Feather in one slot and Pegasus Boots on the other. Need to attack something while airborne? Sword and Roc's Feather. I see why it's hated among some but personally I think it's fine.

Overall, this is a pretty good game. I have some dialogue and related problems and I do feel that it is a weaker game than The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past [ゼルダの伝説 神々のトライフォース] but it does so well in all the other areas and to top it off also has good performance and is a very content-rich adventure.

Also let's not speak of the decision to have a Save alternative where you press all of the buttons, that is probably the dumbest design decision for saving I've ever seen even though it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things.
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Sothras 2024-05-28T16:53:43Z
2024-05-28T16:53:43Z
4.0
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This game's humility is its greatest strength. For all that we give Earthbound credit for, this game originated many of those elements. The surrealism and penchant for silly references and a sobering closer that packs a strong emotional punch while being incredibly simple in its execution - that's all Link's Awakening. Though it lacks some of the finesse of later Oracle games, it more than makes up for it with its engaging world made all the more wonderful by its transient nature. A core part of my childhood.

If I were to make criticisms towards this game, it would be that the bosses are fairly weak and that a select few moments are frustrating to deal with if you lack a guide. This was in the era before the streamlining of Zelda games where you might have had to spend several hours messing around before you got a positive result. Granted, I think the series took a turn into the wrong direction into the new millennium, where everything felt more streamlined than it should've, so a little bit of brow-furrowing is more than welcome even if it becomes excessive sometimes. The bosses are tremendously easy up until the very last part of the game - Angler Fish gets most of the backlash, but the rest of them aren't much better. This is where the "use the item on a boss" formula reached saturation in Zelda, but before the designers thought to change it up by requiring more complex strategies, so a lot of it is just "press A, press B, repeat". It's a shame, since the dungeons in the latter half of the game are significant improvements over those in the first, especially Eagle's Tower which was a series high point at the time.

The main joy of this game is exploring the overworld, which, like with most 2D Zelda games worth their salt, is built like a puzzle in itself, requiring the use of items and planning to traverse. I have to admit that I've always enjoyed the feeling of entering an overworld screen and seeing more than 2 exits into other parts of the map; it always feels like there's something further to explore in each direction, and it's up to my own central planning capacity to thoroughly explore them all. Even the greatest 3D open worlds can't capture the same feeling - it's just as grand there, but it's very, very different.
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darth_tyrannus_rex 2021-11-29T18:43:31Z
2021-11-29T18:43:31Z
4.5
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Link's Awakening was A Link to the Past's slightly more straightforward followup, continuing its meticulous program of cleverly arranged dungeons contained in a gradually unlockable overworld, although it occasionally veers towards cryptic progression. Its transition to portable is hampered a little by the Game Boy's limitations (visually, not the menu system), delivering much less memorable dungeons in the process, even though a few tools and sidescrolling areas nod to both Super Mario and the original LoZ. By far the highlight here is the multi-story labyrinthine Eagle's Tower.
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Blah_Blee 2021-06-30T16:30:59Z
2021-06-30T16:30:59Z
6.5 /10
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Since this game is a bit older, I was expecting to play this and almost immediately get stuck, fail to progress, and give up pretty soon. While I did get stuck for a while at some parts, I was motivated enough by the excellent gameplay, engrossing world, and light but charming story to jump over whatever hurdle I encountered and continue playing. All in all, this is a great game with a lot of secrets, likable characters, and all the tightly-knit gameplay loops that every Zelda fan should come to expect from this era of the series.

Sure, it's bogged down by some poor UI decisions (only having two equip-able slots to choose items from, for example). Sure, things can often feel too vague to figure out how to progress. But these faults are well worth weathering.
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polyestergiant 2021-08-31T00:26:28Z
2021-08-31T00:26:28Z
4.0
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No importa las veces que lo juegue... Ese final siempre me saca una lágrima.
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Canelita20 2021-07-02T18:43:40Z
2021-07-02T18:43:40Z
4.0
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Link's Awakening is a cool evolution to Zelda pre-1993 because it appears to earnestly appreciate the series as a whole and not just the smash SNES hit A Link to the Past. While the control scheme severely limits the functionality of Link's Awakening compared to that title, which fully utilized a 6-button controller, the game taken as a whole evokes more mystery by adopting the wide-open, sink-or-swim world structure of the original NES Legend of Zelda.

The combat is extremely responsive and even with some of the more esoteric subweapons, nothing felt harder to control. Link's sword reach is quite a bit longer than in ALTTP, making routine encounters a bit less tedious. However, the limited button layout of the GBC means that Link's sword and shield will be put away often just to swap to a needed bit of equipment. You'll find yourself pausing multiple times per minute just to equip the right tool for the task at hand. This is the game's biggest issue by a country mile and the fact that it's just a constraint of the hardware makes me quite optimistic for the upcoming remake for the Switch.

The island of Koholint gates itself off into naturally revealed sections as Link's inventory of equipment grows. There are dozens of optional secrets you might miss entirely on a really solid playthrough of the game, and that makes this a game that is both fun to shoot through and spend time in the world. Your general gameplay loop is to find out where the next dungeon is, make your way there and find out what you need to find the key and get to the entrance, complete the dungeon, expanding your inventory with a new key item, and returning back to the fields of Koholint to start again. This is pretty straightforward stuff but you'll be running errands all over the island and its mazelike structure will eventually start to wear on you. Additionally, a few of the "dungeon prep" tasks are completely incoherent and illogical, even with the in-game hint system, which can make a couple sections of the game feel frustrating, like the game doesn't really care if you continue playing. The dungeons themselves are old-school hard and VERY complex towards the end of the game, but the early game has a solid difficulty curve so it's just about always rewarding.

Aesthetically I think Link's Awakening is a definite success for the GameBoy. Link, his friends, common grunts, and especially the bosses are all well-drawn and their weaknesses are communicated really well visually without verbal/written hints. The tone is a bit more whimsical and dreamlike thanks to the frequent cameos of Nintendo characters from other franchises, making it feel like a lighthearted Saturday morning cartoon series or something - He-Man comes to mind as a comparison. The GBC "DX" remake takes it up another level by incorporating a full color palette, which brightens the island and offers a bit more charm with all of its soft greens and sunbaked orange-browns. Occasionally you'll even see some cutscenes which look fantastic and never overstay their welcome. The game has some really solid sound design all around, with some solid musical arrangements (if with the caveat of an unhealthy overuse of the original Zelda 1 theme on the world map).

Link's Awakening is certainly a recommended title for both Zelda fans and people that haven't gotten to it in their GameBoy backlogs, but with the caveat of some guaranteed confusion at certain points, a slightly tedious map layout, and some serious inventory swapping issues. Maybe the island of Koholint will charm you like it did for me.
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the_lockpick 2019-08-14T23:14:12Z
2019-08-14T23:14:12Z
3.5
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ChomskyHonk ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島 2024-06-16T13:23:53Z
2024-06-16T13:23:53Z
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Avirumque ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島 2024-06-15T05:28:31Z
2024-06-15T05:28:31Z
4.5
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Anatomized ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島 2024-06-13T14:00:51Z
2024-06-13T14:00:51Z
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_cojiro ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島 2024-06-13T04:16:13Z
2024-06-13T04:16:13Z
5.0
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lilmattd ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島 2024-06-09T03:32:45Z
2024-06-09T03:32:45Z
4.0
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khm5851 ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島 2024-06-03T16:49:13Z
2024-06-03T16:49:13Z
3.5
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polarbearpatrol The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX 2024-06-03T04:31:12Z
GBC / GB • XNA
2024-06-03T04:31:12Z
4.0
1
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Goldmoon_Dropoffs ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島 2024-06-03T03:21:31Z
2024-06-03T03:21:31Z
4.5
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lauracomfy ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島 2024-06-02T13:04:40Z
2024-06-02T13:04:40Z
9
1
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MaestroOak ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島 2024-06-01T06:40:46Z
2024-06-01T06:40:46Z
3.0
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gl0be ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島 2024-06-01T06:39:55Z
2024-06-01T06:39:55Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
TheChomper ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島 2024-05-30T14:33:19Z
2024-05-30T14:33:19Z
4.0
2
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Player modes
Single-player
Media
1x Cartridge
Franchises
Also known as
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
  • Zelda no Densetsu: Yume o Miru Shima
  • The Legend of Zelda: Dream Island
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX
  • View all [4] Hide

Comments

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  • Previous comments (22) Loading...
  • Gavel 2023-10-18 08:47:03.51929+00
    best 2d zelda easily
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  • unwownd 2023-10-30 16:28:01.821127+00
    one of the best world maps imo
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  • okayfrog 2023-12-18 18:06:19.058055+00
    there's a PC port out that gets rid of single-screen scrolling and allows the player to zoom the map out far enough to see the entire overworld at once. real cool.
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  • asukaFB 2024-01-27 13:09:23.231767+00
    Funniest game ever
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  • ubnubmaster 2024-02-18 15:52:31.082799+00
    It blows my mind to think a game this incredible was released on the gameboy. The fact that this started as a passion project by staff during their off hours shows how much love these guys had for their jobs
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  • MasterOfShaft 2024-04-18 19:36:54.156779+00
    I don't understand how this is rated higher than the remaster. Purists will get angry, but this is clearly dated as fuck from a gameplay perspective (I do prefer the visuals of DX over the remaster though) and a remaster did this a huge service...
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