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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (3DS Virtual Console)

I’ve said in the past that I consider The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to be the high point for the series. Since then, we’ve seen a slow degration of quality and soul in the series, and it’s now a shadow of its former self, relying on silly gimmicks to keep it afloat.

So it brings great joy to be able to download and play the second best Zelda game of all time. Link’s Awakening is a true highlight for the series, cramming a hell of a lot of invention, dungeon hacking and an entire new world to explore into a single Game Boy Color cartridge (or in this case, tiny download file). This is the game that kicks off the 3DS Virtual Console experience, and actually manages to be the closest to an ‘everyone must have this’ title on the console to date.

That raccoon is still annoying, even after all these years


The quest starts off with Link in bed. That’s not unusual for this series of course, but this bed is in a different world entirely. There’s no Zelda. There’s no Hyrule. This is an inescapable island, and rather than take on Ganon, here Link needs to find some musical instruments and wake the Wind Fish.

The story is told through very simple sequences, and dialogue doesn’t do much more than direct you to the next location, but the overarching mystery is compelling, even after you’ve experienced the ending.




It’s helped by some very cheerful remixes of Zelda music and vibrant visuals. As a Game Boy Color game, Link’s Awakening pushed the console to its limits. Sprites are chunky and well animated. Colours and aesthetics are pleasant. It’s a good thing Nintendo decided to release this version on to the Virtual Console, rather than the original black and white Game Boy version, because the visuals do help make the game engaging.

There’s nothing in the game that a Zelda fan hasn’t already experienced – this one follows the same formula: go to a dungeon, get a new item, use said item to defeat the boss, move to the next dungeon. There’s a little in the way of side quests and hidden bonuses to track down, but for the most part this is a very linear game. Most of the puzzles are straightforward and similar in style to other Zelda games, but there’s enough in there to get you thinking as well.

Heh. Messing with the chickens is still fun


What’s astounding though is the sheer quantity of content. There are no fewer than eight dungeons in the main game. There are multiple environments, two towns to visit and a host of friendly and angry characters to meet. Though the game can fly by (the story pacing is a bit off for a series that is renouned for being epic), it’s immensely enjoyable to fly through it.

This is one of the few games that is still worth the premium price Nintendo asks for its virtual console games. You’re going to get a lot of play out of it, and you’ll probably want to come back again every once in a while to remember the good times when a Zelda game didn’t need trains, boats or other gimmicks to offer a good time. 

- Matt S


Review: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (3DS Virtual Console)
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