Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gaming Nostalgia - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

     Since I am currently embroiled in a playthrough of Skyward Sword, however halfheartedly, I felt compelled to explore my relationship with the series. I was, after all, the first series I fell in love with and have remained mostly faithful to in my years of playing games.

My experience with the series includes playing Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Twilight Princess, Wind Waker, A Link to the Past, and Link's Awakening to completion, while also playing a bit of original, Minish Cap, Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons.

So I've spent some time with the series in my 21 years of gaming.

I remember sitting for hours on end, Game Boy in hand, hands sweaty from the warmth of the device and the AC adaptor/charger that eliminated the need to fret over batteries so long as you were near an outlet.

Link's Awakening was the first Zelda game I had ever played, and even now I count it as one of my top 3 games in the series. 

As a kid I had no concept or care of the size or scale of a world. I was just amazed that there were people going about their days that I could talk to and help them in some way or glean some other details about the world.

I never understood Grandma Ulrira, who could be found obsessively sweeping outdoors, but it was charming.

Above all, I loved the music in the game. For something as limited sound-wise as the original Game Boy, the soundtrack for Link's Awakening is outstanding.

It makes sense that the music would be great since the primary goal of the game is collect the Eight Instruments of the Sirens to awaken the Wind Fish. Maybe that's just my own connection, but it works.

Even some of the songs were just sped up or slowed down versions of one song pasted to multiple caves or dungeons, it didn't matter. It was practical, and gave each area a distinct feel.

There's something very majestic about the music for Mt. Tamaranch, which is fitting for the game's finale.

Even now, I can listen to the Ballad of the Wind Fish as sung by Marin by the rooster-shaped weather vane in Mabe Village and feel warm and fuzzy inside.

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)
So you're tasked with saving an island that is the product of a dream, but the ultimate goal of that task is to wake the dreamer, which means that the noble act of saving the island will also doom the island.

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.

1 comment:

  1. just played it after a long long time Links awakening was the second zelda i've played (first Zelda was on the nes) back in the old school green screen gameboy time. i guess i was 8 or 9. took me ages to figure it all out. and i still have to agree . one of the best storyline in the series.

    liked your post. every part i feel the same.