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

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4 mins read

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

This is the bio under which all legacy DigitallyDownloaded.net articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

  • Their is nothing wrong with the Zeldas of today. The good thing abiut Zelda is that each brings its own unique flavor. Its fine if you prefer the classics but don't be so close minded as to regard the other zeldas as mere "gimmicks". I always hate when people use that word negativley as it siply means that a series uses a new feature to get people to play it. Are you saing you don't want the new games to innovate? becuase it sure seems like you want the year to be 1998 forever.

  • Their is nothing wrong with the Zeldas of today. The good thing abiut Zelda is that each brings its own unique flavor. Its fine if you prefer the classics but don't be so close minded as to regard the other zeldas as mere "gimmicks". I always hate when people use that word negativley as it siply means that a series uses a new feature to get people to play it. Are you saing you don't want the new games to innovate? becuase it sure seems like you want the year to be 1998 forever.

  • Hi Anonymous,

    Modern Zelda games don't innovate in any way. They feature the same gameplay each and every time. Those additions are gimmicks because they don't add anything to the game.

    The train? Did nothing. Neither did the boat. Remove those elements, and you have exactly the same game you've played a bunch of times before.

    That's the very definition of gimmick.

    If a Zelda game did something genuinely new, and broke away from this established formula completely, then I'd be all over it.

  • Hi Anonymous,

    Modern Zelda games don't innovate in any way. They feature the same gameplay each and every time. Those additions are gimmicks because they don't add anything to the game.

    The train? Did nothing. Neither did the boat. Remove those elements, and you have exactly the same game you've played a bunch of times before.

    That's the very definition of gimmick.

    If a Zelda game did something genuinely new, and broke away from this established formula completely, then I'd be all over it.

  • Wow, theres a few people who toot the same defensive horn under the brave banner of anonymous. The type of people who offer uncritical fawning with loving adulation are not the only type of fans.

    Innovation is not the same thing as offering a boat to play on – that is a gimmick. For mine, an enjoyable gimmick but its prescence does not change the basic premise and methods of achieving goals.

    I will buy Zelda game at, or near, its release due to the fact that a) I like shiny new things and b) there are no other games like it, except for the previous Zelda's. There is nothing wrong with it. That being said, maybe my eyes are nostalgia tinted (or maybe I'm realistic) but I dont consider a Zelda game to have improved (except in graphics) since OOT.

    Also, 1998 isnt so bad. Good Olympics to look forward to, airline travel was far more enjoyable, no economic crisis.

  • Wow, theres a few people who toot the same defensive horn under the brave banner of anonymous. The type of people who offer uncritical fawning with loving adulation are not the only type of fans.

    Innovation is not the same thing as offering a boat to play on – that is a gimmick. For mine, an enjoyable gimmick but its prescence does not change the basic premise and methods of achieving goals.

    I will buy Zelda game at, or near, its release due to the fact that a) I like shiny new things and b) there are no other games like it, except for the previous Zelda's. There is nothing wrong with it. That being said, maybe my eyes are nostalgia tinted (or maybe I'm realistic) but I dont consider a Zelda game to have improved (except in graphics) since OOT.

    Also, 1998 isnt so bad. Good Olympics to look forward to, airline travel was far more enjoyable, no economic crisis.

  • I agree with you in principle but Majora's mask is definitely innovative (in fact more so than oot because it has an entirely unique and original structure). Agree that WW and TP are not innovative, though playing a beautifully realised cartoon (WW) had immense appeal to me. However Phantom hourglass is definitely innovative due to it's touch screen control interface… it made that game a lot of fun (to me). It is not only the content that can be innovative, how it is played is an important factor…. SS has this nailed and why it is in the same league as the much vaunted OOT

  • I agree with you in principle but Majora's mask is definitely innovative (in fact more so than oot because it has an entirely unique and original structure). Agree that WW and TP are not innovative, though playing a beautifully realised cartoon (WW) had immense appeal to me. However Phantom hourglass is definitely innovative due to it's touch screen control interface… it made that game a lot of fun (to me). It is not only the content that can be innovative, how it is played is an important factor…. SS has this nailed and why it is in the same league as the much vaunted OOT

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