What makes me really love this game, and this is more looking back than it is knowledge taken from my first playthrough, is the story.
As the hero, Link, you shipwreck on a mysterious island, Koholint Island, which has seen a rise in monster activity in recent days.
At the highest peak of the island rests the Wind Fish's Egg, which it would appear most of the inhabitants are unaware of.
This ignorance to the Wind Fish's existence is made all the more depressing because it is discovered that the entirety of Koholint Island, the mountains, the desert, the shore, the monsters and the people, are all a product of the Wind Fish's dream.
The recent disturbances are credited to nightmares affecting the Wind Fish's sleep, and it is Link's quest to traverse the land, defeat each monster housed in the eight dungeons in order to acquire the Siren Instruments he will use to wake the Wind Fish and do battle with these nightmares.
|(For the sake of color)|
It's pretty sad, really, especially when you consider the sort of romantic implications the game makes between Link and Marin, who is at one time confused for Zelda when she sings.
Of course at the time of playing the game, all of this went right over my head, but now I get it and it still resonates, and remains one of the more engaging Zelda stories in the series.
For me, it was the perfect introduction to the series even though it didn't take place in Hyrule, Zelda and Ganon are nowhere to be found (save for the Shadow of Ganon nightmare boss at the end), and there is no significance to the Triforce (unless you count the "Piece of Power" item that grants double sword damage and increased speed, as well as a much more violent blowback and explosion when hitting enemies).
It is a game without the mainstays that still remains true to the series, which I have learned in playing Zelda games since then.
It is one of the few series entries that gives the player control of jumping via the Roc's Feather, it established the premise of songs and music that would go on to play a big role in Ocarina of Time, it introduces the trading sequence to the series, as well as the collecting of items to redeem for a prize/upgrade similar to the Golden Skulltulas in Ocarina of Time.
The world may argue that Ocarina of Time is one of the greatest games of all time, and for good reason, but Link's Awakening still remains one of my favorites in the series because of the story, the music and the simple yet satisfying gameplay.