Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (GBC, 3DS VC) Retro Review

It's time for our first Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console game. I did not own a Game Boy Color, so this was my first time playing the colored remake of Link's Awakening. It's none other than The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX. Let's get to it!

Dream A Little Dream With Me

The original Link's Awakening was a vast journey crammed onto a small Game Boy cartridge and even smaller black-and-white Game Boy screen. It followed the adventures of everyone's favorite pointy-eared hero, Link, as he explored a land that wasn't Hyrule for once. Years later with the release of the Game Boy Color, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX was released with new features and bonus content. Even more years later, it returns as one of the first titles available for the Nintendo 3DS's Virtual Console service. With the ability to save and load a save state whenever thanks to the 3DS, this version of Link's Awakening could be the best one yet.

Sailing along a peaceful ocean, our hero, Link, charts a course to who-knows-where. Suddenly the weather turns ugly as a devastating storm rolls in. His boat gets shredded to pieces by the rough waves and tides of Neptune's bounty. Link falls unconscious and winds up on the shore of a mysterious isle. It is here that he is found and taken in by an innocent young girl named Marin. Link wakes up in her house inside Mabel Village. Exploring the island a little, Link meets a wise old owl who informs him that if he wants to leave the island, he'll have to gather eight instruments to wake the Wind Fish that sleeps at the top of Koholint Island. With that our hero has a goal in mind. Meeting characters and monsters alike, Link's Awakening has the player invested in their adventure.

Like many stories this one begins in bed.

For those new to The Legend of Zelda series, the flow of the franchise is as follows. You control Link through the overworld which connects all of the caves, dungeons, castles, and towns of the game. Koholint Island is larger than it looks. There's deserts, tall mountain ranges, odious bogs, mysterious forests, and monster-infested prairies to explore. As Link gets closer to awakening the Wind Fish, these monsters grow even more restless and bloodthirsty. The main task of Link is to head inside the eight dungeons of Koholint Island, obtain the legendary musical instruments inside each, and play them in front of the Wind Fish's egg.

Dungeons are where the action and puzzles take place. Dungeons are where small keys, maps (which shows off rooms Link has and has not yet ventured into), compasses (which show the locations of treasures and has a beacon that goes off in rooms where keys are located as Link enters them), stone beaks (when placed in owl statues reveal hints to dungeon puzzles) and dungeon items. Each dungeon has an item to collect which is essential to completing the dangers hidden inside. There's Roc's Feather which allows Link to leap over holes in the ground, the Running Shoes which enable Link to run through crystals and get past slower hazards quickly, and the Hookshot which gives Link the ability to grab onto and pull himself across large distances without worry-- to name a few. Usually these items are key to tackling the Nightmare (or boss) lurking in the deepest part of the dungeon. One boss has you bombing its face while another has you picking up a genie's bottle and chucking it into a wall to damage it.

This over-sized worm is only defeated
through slashing its tail.

Dungeons require a lot of thinking, quick reflexes, and some good old fashioned ingenuity. Puzzles range from simple block-pushing and defeating enemies in a certain order to more complicated endeavors such as carrying an iron ball around and tossing it at four pillars to bring the top floor crashing down for Link to access it. Some enemies are puzzles in themselves, requiring the player to comprehend their weakness(es) to defeat them. Each dungeon has a mid-boss which when defeated gives Link a continue point. This continue point is a warp point linking the mid-boss room to the start of the dungeon. This is great if the player dies and must begin from the dungeon's entrance. Most dungeons feature 2D side-scrolling parts where careful platforming is key. One might even see the appearance of some Mushroom Kingdom enemies like Goombas, Cheep-Cheeps and Piranha Plants!

Um, waiter, there's some Mario in my Zelda...

Unfortunately with the limited amount of buttons on the original Game Boy and ensuing Game Boy Color, players only have two buttons to assign items to. This means players must constantly switch between the item select screen (the pause menu in other words) and the action. This gets annoying when players must use more than two items at a time. The incessant switching grows tedious at times, but otherwise the button limitations aren't too terribly... well... limiting.

Constantly switching between items on the subscreen can
get annoying, but it's a minor beef I have with this game.

When Link isn't in a dungeon, he'll be doing lots of side stuff. From exploring caves to leading a ghost to its grave, there's plenty of overworld action to be had here. There's also numerous hidden goodies to be found for those bold enough to look for them. The Legend of Zelda veterans know and love Heart Containers. Collecting four of these gives Link an extra heart in his health counter. These are often placed in hard-to-reach and hard-to-find locations such as behind bomb-able walls and given as rewards in mini-games like Mabel Village's fishing game. Additionally there's an assortment of Secret Seashells to gather. These can be under bushes, under rocks, and even buried under the soil. Collecting all of these rewards the player with an upgraded Master Sword. Some of these locations, however, are almost impossible to locate without the assistance of a FAQ or walkthrough. Who would really know to circle the castle moat and dive by the coast to pick up a Heart Container? Not I, for one. Finally, capable and patient players can participate in a long-winded trading sequence to obtain one of the best items in the game.

New additions were added to Link's Awakening DX besides the obvious one: color. An all-new and secret color dungeon has been included. When the player completes it and takes down the boss guarding the treasure, the fairy inside will give the player the choice of boosting offense or defense. The new dungeon itself isn't particularly that long or challenging, but it is cool to have it as a non-mandatory bonus. There's also a new photo mini-game where Link can explore Koholint Island, getting his picture taken at various landmarks and during certain scenarios. Perhaps something cool will happen if you beat the game without ever seeing the game over screen..!

Typically you want to jump OVER these holes.

Link's Awakening DX obviously improves upon the visuals of the original through the addition of color. Everything has its own color palette, so you're not stuck with everything being a shade of green and black or black and white or whatever two color combination you were previously stuck with. The sensational musical score remains unchanged, and that's just fine by me. Some songs might come across as grating, but tracks like Mabel Village, the overworld, and Tal Tal Heights are without a doubt memorable classics that withstand the test of time. Perhaps the only problem I have with the presentation has to do with touching certain objects. Each time you touch an object that you don't have the proper item to take of, a message pops up that slowly scrolls. After the third or so time of "this rock has cracks, maybe you can shatter it somehow", I was getting irritated.

Overall, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX is a terrific start to the hand-held adventures of the boy clad in green, Link. The dungeons are expertly-designed with plenty of hidden secrets, dastardly traps and puzzles, and a living, breathing island full of loveable and interesting characters. The presentation from the simplistic graphics to the classic score is tremendous, and it's terrific to be able to save anywhere you want via the 3DS's save state feature. Link's Awakening DX is a must-have download for any 3DS owner with a proper online connection. If you're looking for a better 3DS download, let's face it-- you're dreaming.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.5/10]

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