Link's Awakening has never, and will never, be anything other then one of the greatest video games of all time.
Link's Awakening was released as a sequel to the Super Nintendo epic A Link to the Past, but Link's Awakening was vastly different to any other Zelda game before it. The game wasn't set in Hyrule and it didn't include Zelda, Ganon or the Triforce; instead the game was set on Koholint Island.
Having saved Hyrule from imminent destruction in A Link to the Past, Link left his beloved land on a personal journey in order to train and hone his abilities in case evil ever threatened his home land again. After been away for months Link heads back to Hyrule on his boat, when all of a sudden he gets caught in a storm at sea, which destroys his boat and shipwrecks him on the mysterious island. When Link comes round he awakens in a house in Mabe Village owned by Marin and her father Tarin. Marin tells Link a tale of how she found him washed ashore unconscious after he was shipwrecked. After hearing this Link sets out to the shore, but when he gets there he encounters an owl who informs him that it will be impossible for him to ever leave the island unless he collects eight instruments so he can awaken the Wind Fish… and this starts Link's quest.
When you first start playing Link's Awakening you'll instantly notice how similar the game is to A Link to the Past and also how in depth the game is. People were right to question Nintendo releasing a Zelda title for the Game Boy after Super Mario Land and Metroid II failed to live up to their console counterparts, but Link's Awakening got it pitch perfect.
The game plays very similarly to A Link to the Past, but it had to be changed a
little to accommodate the Game Boy's limitations. As it was a Game Boy title you could only play it in black and white graphics, which made it hard to see certain things on the screen, and the limitations of the GameBoy meant that you had to use your sword and shield, as well as all the other items, just using the 'A' and 'B' buttons. Some people had a few problems adjusting to the limited control method, and some people thought the game could have done with colour visuals. I'll admit that at some points in the game the limited buttons got a little annoying because you'll sometimes find yourself constantly going to the menu to swap items around, but for the most Nintendo near flawlessly transferring Zelda to the Game Boy without losing the great gameplay the series was renowned for. The game play is that good that you could easily zone out and even forget you're playing the game on the Game Boy.
Also, despite the fact that it is portable, Link's Awakening doesn't let up on difficulty. While Super Mario Land and Metroid II were both easier then their console counterparts Link's Awakening was one of the hardest games in the Zelda series upon release. I was quite surprised about this when I first played Link's Awakening. Some of the enemies could easily kill you quite early in the game, and it took me by quite a surprise. I can say that I was fully satisfied with the difficulty of the game, and the game gets gradually harder as you progress, which keeps the game flowing nicely.
A Link to the Past had a great music score (it is actually one of my all time favourite video game scores) and Link's Awakening had a lot to live up to if it wanted to sound anywhere near as good, and for the most Link's Awakening did live up to it. Now again music was something the limitations of the Game Boy did again effect, because the music is mainly bleeps (as you'd expect from an 8-bit game), but Link's Awakening manages to sound fantastic despite this. Yes it doesn't sound as crisp as A Link to the Past, but considering the limitations that makes Link's Awakening's score a much bigger achievement.
Visually, like I stated earlier, because it was a Game Boy game Link's Awakening was in black and white, but if you look past this you'll see that all the games sprites are well animated and are actually quite pleasant to look at. The game looks great.
In 1998, following the release of the GameBoy Colour, Nintendo re-released Link's Awakening so the game could support full colour under the title Link's Awakening DX. There is no difference at all in the adventure between the two games, but Link's Awakening DX generally gets more praise because the colour graphics made the game look better and there was an added optional dungeon based on colour that only owners of the GameBoy Colour could do, which if you did rewarded you with a rather nice surprise. If you're to ask me which of the two versions I'd recommend, I'd opt for the DX version, simply because the colour adds more atmosphere to the game.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening as a class act. There was no other game for the Game Boy as in depth as it, and even latter hand held games were less in depth. Yes there's a few niggly problems with the game, but these problems stem from the limitations of the Game Boy, not from the game itself. Link's Awakening has never, and will never, be anything other then one of the greatest video games of all time.
Review by: James Widdowson