One of the strangest Zelda titles to date.
I am absolutely terrible at Zelda games. I like them, certainly, but for better or worse, that does little to make me any better at them. That said, I did my best to finish this game in a timely manner, despite the occasional frustration at a puzzle that just wouldn't let me solve it.
But I digress. Truly, I'm glad I made the effort; Link's Awakening was a particularly memorable game, and even if it isn't my favorite Zelda game by a stretch, I'm glad I gave it a go. Of all the games in the series I've played through thus far, this one easily has the strangest premise and story, and I found myself intrigued throughout the game by the mystery of the Wind Fish and his home, Koholint Island. This feeling was especially well cultivated by the inhabitants of the island themselves, none of who seem even capable of imagining a world or life beyond the ones they're already on the island. It's partly this setup that lends the game a darker tone, despite the cheery art-style and music that pervade much of the game. Many players may also be surprised by the way citizens of the game world act and talk as you come closer to the ending the game and defeating all the nightmares. Without saying too much, I do encourage anyone who plays to make an effort to speak to the various citizens of Koholint throughout the game as they progress, especially Marin (the girl who rescues Link at the start).
Speaking of Koholint, just taking your time to explore the island can be quite fun as well. Like most Zelda games, players will gradually acquire new weapons and gadgets to use for combat and exploration. After each dungeon, one can typically use the new weapon they've acquired to explore a new portion of the island, meaning the game always has something new ready for the player after conquering each dungeon. That said, players might find themselves getting tired of the constant moving back and forth across the region after a time. While traversing the land can be fun at first, it does get a bit irritating to have to repeatedly swap out items in order to move across the island. While there are warp points and a song you learn to bring you to specific points throughout the islands, you only unlock the song near the end of the game, and even with the warp points, travel can sometimes be cumbersome. Due to button constraints on the original Gameboy at the time, on may only carry two different weapons at a time, meaning you often have to switch between items on the map in order to get past the various obstacles scattered about Koholint. At the time this game was made, that made complete sense, but it can become very irritating while playing on the 3DS, knowing you have several extra buttons to spare and nothing putting them to use.
Furthermore, you may find yourself traveling back and forth throughout the island several times in order to progress through the game. While finding the locations of each dungeon is fairly straightforward, as it often requires you to simply go to the next available point on the map, actually figuring out how to enter can be extremely vague at certain points in the game due to an ongoing fetch quest that must be completed before one beats the game. Nevertheless, if one is well and truly stuck, it is possible to use the in-game guide provided, so referred to as "Ulrira," a man you call through any house with a phone icon on the roof. This helpful character will give you hints about which part of the island you need to visit next in order to progress in the game, and for the most part, this will be enough to get anyone unstuck. Nevertheless, there are times when even he is unable to help, and players will find themselves aimlessly wandering about the island in search of places they hadn't been able to visit before.
It's at times like these that simply experimenting with the new items you have to explore different parts of the island becomes your best bet. As I mentioned before, Link gets a new item during each dungeon with which to explore the game world and combat its various enemies. While your sword is often all you need for normal enemies, the items you obtain can make certain enemies easier, and they also allow for several interesting boss fights, as almost every boss requires you to use its' dungeon's new item to defeat it in some way. Even if most players will find just about any boss after the first one or two fairly simple, they manage to remain fun encounters thanks to the design that went into creating the methods to combat each one.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the game's music as well. Overall, I found it very creative, even the simple rendition of the over world never became too tiring as I played through, and I loved the sped up version employed in later parts of the game as you traverse Koholint Island's Tal Tal Heights. That said, my personal favorite had to be the song used in the final dungeon. Despite the level of power handhelds at the time of this game's original release had, the game does an excellent job of making the dungeon look as dark and foreboding as possible. This effect is accentuated by the sinister music that plays throughout, and I urge all players to play with the volume turned up when working through any of the dungeons, but the especially the final area, so that they might fully appreciate all that the game has to offer.
Link's Awakening is a very unique game as far as the Zelda series goes. You'll never find another game in the series with a premise and world quite like it. While the dungeon structure and method of progression are all done in a manner Zelda fans have come to expect, the presentation of the story via the mysterious owl and even the nightmares themselves is a much different experience. While it's not a perfect experience by any means, it is certainly a fun and absorbing game, and especially to Zelda fans, I recommend giving it a try at least once, and seeing if you too can't wake the Wind Fish.