Why Is "The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening" SO Genius?

Updated on December 27, 2019
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I like old things—from music and instruments to movies and video games.

"The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening" Released for the Nintendo GameBoy
"The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening" Released for the Nintendo GameBoy

This Entire Game Was a Showcase for GameBoy

This game had everything you could ask for on a system driving a monochromatic display—not even 50 shades of gray, more like 4. Everything from the music to the layout of this game was very well done, the entire concept of the story is interesting to me even. Link's Awakening was a wonderful adventure game that had just the right hints of RPG elements to keep it evolving from start to finish. The trade sequence that seems to go on endlessly, the surprisingly interesting weaponry and inventory, there are a few noteworthy characters you encounter throughout your journey as well.

Trendy Game
Trendy Game

Link’s Awakening is one of those old games that I can still enjoy playing today (laugh if you want) and every time I do I remember more and more just what it is that I love about this game. The little things they added like the fishing game or even the "Trendy Game." The crooked timing of that claw really made things crazy, don’t forget to release early! The music in that place is just simply too much. To this day, I still laugh at the Yoshi doll when it pops up.

Absolutely Treacherous

"Link's Awakening" Opening
"Link's Awakening" Opening


Who knew that GameBoy games could have such quality cinematic properties? Link's Awakening starts out with some very intense music, it genuinely sounds like something is wrong and things are treacherous. On the screen is a ship being tossed about the waves in a pretty violent storm. Lightning cracks and thunder clashes, as they show Link holding on for dear life. The music quickens in pace as things get more intense and the perilous storm intensifies. As the intensity and volume increase along with the drama onscreen, a final crash of thunder sounds and the screen goes white with a flash of lightning. Marin is shown on the beach sometime after the storm that set Link adrift.

Link battling the waves during a terrible storm.
Link battling the waves during a terrible storm.

Now you are almost ready for some actual gameplay. Once you select a file and start the game, Link wakes up in a strange house to find two people watching over him. It is quickly explained that he washed up on the beach and that the two people Marin and Tarin were concerned for his wellbeing. After some quick conversation, you are on your way out the door when Marin stops you to let you know that he recovered your shield for you. Once you are reunited with your beloved shield, you are on your way. Once you hit the door everything about the game lets you know that the search is on.

Link waking up in Marin's home.
Link waking up in Marin's home.

Sword Search

When you hit the open world for the first time, it is made clear that you must find your sword at the beach. The level designers were incredibly clever about the setup for this, no matter where you go if you keep exploring eventually you will get there. You can't go North to the Mysterious Forest without a sword to cut down that bush that is in the way. You can't go East without the power bracelet which you can't get without getting BowWow, which can't happen without getting the sword. There is nowhere else to go except South and that is where you need to go anyway. You'll get there sooner or later.

My favorite thing about this part of the game is the music. The song that plays is like the rest of the music in Link's Awakening, it is interesting and catchy. I always end up humming along with the music in Zelda games, this one in particular. The best thing about the music is that it really helps to set a mood or feeling of what is going on. When you are looking for your sword at the start of the game, it really sounds like a pre-quest, like everything in the world is on pause until something happens and it's up to you alone. Once you do find your sword it is like the game is made whole again, the music changes all over and you never hear that song again (like the game doesn't get worried again after you get your sword). The Mysterious Forest has the coolest music, I think.

Getting the sword!
Getting the sword!

And We're Off!

So you got your sword, you learned that Owls can talk, you're on an island, and there is a forest that is apparently mysterious. A bush-whack later, you’re in the Mysterious Forest, listening to some of the coolest music to ever grace anything Nintendo. What do you do in a forest? You walk around, that's what. Eventually, you come up to a talking raccoon and realize that maybe drugs really are bad so you go the other way. You stay onward only to hear an odd noise and find yourself turned around. The forest likes to play tricks on you because normally when you go back a screen you go back where you came from not somewhere else.

So maybe you get used to where not to go but how do you get by that friggin acid trip of a raccoon? The Mysterious Forest is a pretty decent little puzzle all the way up to the point that you find that Toadstool. I guess the guy decided to snort mushroom spores like blow, because he literally thought he was a raccoon so hard that he became one. Once you figure out the mystery of the forest, you're on your way to the next dungeon to inch closer to where you need to be. The only problem at this point is the deadly arrangement of flowers that stand in front of Level -2, Bottle Grotto.

Cocaine is one hell of a drug.
Cocaine is one hell of a drug.

That is a Mighty Fine Pickin and Grinnin

The entire concept of the game is fantastic and simple; you must gather all of the instruments scattered throughout Koholint Island. Once you have all of the instruments you must play to wake the Windfish to free yourself from the dream world. The island that the game takes place on is only real in the dream realm, basically, Link is in a coma. The game tells you from the start and it is in the name. It isn't the most revolutionary concept for a story to be a dream but the music.

That is the best part of the game for me, everything revolves around music. I don't simply mean that I enjoy the soundtrack and hooray for it, it is a part of the game. Not only does the game require you to play these instruments according to the story but there are other uses for music as well. You get an Ocarina and learn different songs to teleport to certain places. At one point, you play a song to get a bird that flies you over certain obstacles. When you have Marin following you, you have to have her sing for a walrus that is sleeping in your path. The music isn't just in the game, the music is an integral part of the game, even down to the story.

Even the dog is jamming out.
Even the dog is jamming out.

I'm Having Too Much Fun

I love a game with humor. Sometimes the best humor is unintentional but sometimes the best humor is simply well placed. I'll start light as this probably isn't much of a joke. I laugh at the thought of being called a Thief the whole game, all due to 1 poor decision to steal something. There are three things that make me laugh when you steal from the store:

• You got it for free, do you feel good about yourself?
• You get called a Thief for the entirety of the game as a result
• When you return to the store, there is HELL to pay (the ultimate price)

The Ultimate Price
The Ultimate Price

Alright, another one that probably was not intended to be as funny as I find it is the rooster that carries you around. I think it is hilarious to throw the chickens with the power bracelet let alone pick up a rooster and float around with it. Which leads me to the biggest laugh in the game for me, can anyone honestly say that they NEVER repeatedly attacked a chicken? The chickens are just funny by themselves but to pick one up and throw it was funny to me (I shouldn't admit that) but when they have had enough abuse they call in reinforcements. Go ahead and smack that chicken with your sword over and over, they only die if you torch them anyway. I have never laughed as hard at anything as I did a swarm of chickens after me harder than Kaz looking for revenge.

Smack a chicken 35 times.
Smack a chicken 35 times.

Surely I'm Not Alone

Did you ever piss off the chickens in "Link's Awakening"?

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You're Smart, I Don't Care What They Say

This game is incredibly clever. They knew how to throw the right amount of collector type objectives to make good use of the available map. Not only do you have to gather eight instruments but you also get an Ocarina that you can learn several songs on to help navigate the island. The player is also presented with the option to collect seashells that pay off later, you get a badass sword if you collect enough but the sword is not mandatory. In order to get the key to one of the dungeons, you must collect a set of golden leaves for a guy offering to trade for them. One of my favorite little clever ideas in the level design was the maze comprised of bushes covering hidden pits in the ground.

Bushes Turn to Holes

A Bush Maze
A Bush Maze

They did a great job of keeping the player on track as far as getting each instrument or getting what you need to be on your way to the next instrument. You can't get to level 2 until you rescue BowWow, you can't rescue BowWow until you finish level 1, you can't finish level 1 without finding the sword, and so on. The hearts hidden throughout the island was a pretty good way to encourage the player to explore the entire world, great for completionists.

Bow Wow Wow Yippie Yo Yippie Yay

You Saved BowWow!
You Saved BowWow!

Boss Battle

Every boss in this game requires you to evolve as a player. It's kind of a standard concept now but this is back around 1993 when games didn't even have tutorials. Zelda was able to keep the game interesting by introducing new items or weapons and new ways to implement certain attacks or moves. Everything about this game evolves as you progress and that goes double for the boss fights, even the mini bosses scattered throughout. Every boss needs you to have a new skill from the last. It is useful to hold your sword button to charge a spin attack but if you can't reach your opponent that will do you no good.

Not the kind of boss fight we're talking about

Fight Club is one of those movies that is better the second time around.
Fight Club is one of those movies that is better the second time around.

Maybe you need to get a bomb in your opponents mouth to make it explode from inside, maybe you need to ram the wall to make them fall from the ceiling, maybe you need to launch a bomb on an arrow in order to reach the enemy. Each enemy is a test for the final boss, the mini bosses keep you on your toes too. Usually you get a teleporter for a lot of the mini bosses that pop up in dungeons but as far as the final boss you'll need every skill you can get. If you have the secret of the egg figured out then you are ready for the most intense fight in the game. You'll have to contend with a shape shifting nightmare that changes everything about its approach and attack as you fight.

Snake, get that bomb out of your s#*t!
Snake, get that bomb out of your s#*t!

Marsha, Marsha, MARSHA!

So I'll say this, I think it is pretty cool to have a game named for a character within a story (for the franchise) and not include this character in one of the title releases within that franchise. What I'm saying is that the game is named Zelda: Link's Awakening, that is, "Zelda," and Princess Zelda is only mentioned one time. The one and only time (that I know of) you’ll even see Zelda given mention is at the very beginning of the game, just after waking up. Apparently, while speaking with Marin, Link mistakenly calls her Zelda.

The ONLY reference to Zelda in Link's Awakening.
The ONLY reference to Zelda in Link's Awakening.

Which brings me to another point, Zelda isn't the character you play as, in most Zelda games. I can recall a good many Zelda games where you play as one form of Link or another; Zelda for NES, Zelda II, A Link to the Past, Majora's Mask, Ocarina of Time, Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages, The Minish Cap. The norm for Zelda games is for them to be about Link, so shouldn't it be more like "The Adventures of Link" or "The Legend of Link's Awakening" or something?


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