*days may or may not be concurrent.
There are a lot of games for the Game Boy, but there is only one best Game Boy game ever made. That game is the game I’m going to cover today for the final game in this little series I've been doing over the last few months. So away with the intro talk strap yourself in cause this is going to be a long one and let’s dive right in.
You turn the game on, you hear the familiar Game Boy “Bing”. You see a scene of a storm over the high seas. A boat comes into frame as lightning cracks in the background. The music playing gives your a sense of dread and foreboding. You see someone holding onto the rigging of the ship, fighting against the storm & then one last big crack of thunder and the screen fades to white. Music starts playing again albeit this time a more calmer and soother melody. You see the image of a beach with palm trees in the background & hear the sound of waves gently reaching the shore. You see a girl walking to the right of the screen, she stops as is she sees something ahead. She now runs and then you can see what it is she spotted. She approaches someone who looks like they have just been washed ashore. She tries to wake them but they seem to be unconscious. The camera then starts to pan upwards as a familiar theme starts to play, we now see an image of a mountain top surrounded with cloud with a giant egg perched ontop and then the games title is shown to us, The Legend of Zelda, Links Awakening.
To say that I love this game is a gross understatement. I still remember when I got this game way back in 1994. It came out about a month or 2 before my birthday. I begged my parents for it every day, I needed this game more then I had needed any other game in the history of needing games. I don't think I would of wanted this game as much as I did had I not already played the hell out of A Link to the Past on SNES, a game that to this day I still class as one of the best games ever made. NMS also helped my need for this game, the preview they ran for it filled my head with visions of the game. Its always funny that when you see images of a game before you've had a chance to play it you piece the world inside the game together into how you think the game will be. The when you finally get the game you realize you were completely wrong and the world is even better then you had imagined.
I did get a chance to play this game once before I finally got my hands on it. When I was younger I was an ADD kid (then again for my age group, wasn't everyone?). Anyway long story short they put me on the wrong meds which really messed me up and instead of doing whatever ADD drugs do to you, just made me really really depressed and there is nothing funny about a depressed 12 year old. So I had to go see this doctor ever 2 weeks I think which was awesome cause it meant I got a day off school every second Friday. We would have to go to another town about 2 hours south of were I lived called Albany. After seeing my doctor we went to do some shopping, one of the shops had a demo Game Boy unit with the game in it. I played it all the way up until after you find the sword. The game was everything I had hoped for and even though I had only had a few minutes with the game I knew it would be awesome.
So my Birthday comes up and I finally got the game. It was just what I had hoped for and more. So for the 2 of you out there who don't know, Links Awakening is the Legend of Zelda debut for the Game Boy, it came out in 1993 in Japan, four years after the systems debut and you can tell. You look at the early games and yes there are some greats there like Mario Land 2, Final Fantasy Adventure, Gargoyles Quest. All amazing long and rewarding adventures but they just lack the polish of Links Awakening. This game is everything you would expect from a game that came out 4 years after launch, it was perfect. The graphics are the best we had seen on the system up until that point. The sound is oh soo amazing, the minute that iconic Zelda theme starts to play in the intro is just soo pleasing to the ears and then you have themes like “Tal Tal Heights “ which is still one of the best tracks in Zelda History. And of course any talk about the music would not be complete without mentioning the “Ballad of the Wind Fish” a theme that starts out simple when you start collecting the musical instruments and just grows in complexity the more instruments you collect.
While on the subject of music this is the first Zelda game where the Ocarina really became a central part of the game. True you did use it prior in Link to the Past, but in Links Awakening it is used for more then just teleporting around the map, you need it to open the entrance to Turtle Rock, to awaken the Flying Rooster in Mabe Village and of course to play the Ballad of the Wind Fish outside the giant egg once you have collected all the instruments in the game. I guess when you look at the Zelda games that came post Links Awakening you can see many elements that have been used from the game. As I said its the first game where the Ocarina was a central element of the game. Also its the first Zelda game to have the trading sequence in it, its the first Zelda game in which you can gain the ability to jump. Its the first one that features the Owl character who has gone on to appear in almost every Zelda game since. Its the first one with a Fishing mini game something people would love Ocarina of Time for. Its amazing just how much this little handheld game has gone on to influence the main series.
Another thing Links Awakening does that is awesome is the Mario cameos. You have the Chain Chomp who you need to borrow in order to get into the second dungeon. The Yoshi doll that starts the trading sequence. Wart from Super Mario Bros 2 who teaches you the Frog Song of Soul. Various Mario enemies such as Goombas, Shy Guys, Piranha Plants and so on who inhabit the side scrolling stages in dungeons. One of the side characters Tarin looks like Mario and even at one point gets turned in a Raccoon while in the Woods. A character called Mr Wright (who looks like Dr Wright from Sim City on the SNES) gets a photo from one of the characters from the Animal Village which is a photo of Princess Peach. I guess all of that was just part of the quirky sense of humor the game has that set it apart from the previous Zelda games of the time. Where Link to the Past was your usual Zelda epic, Links Awakening had a much more lighter tone something that gave it its own unique flavor.
The game is more or less what you would expect from a Zelda game, you go to dungeons solve puzzles, beat bosses, get new items, use new items to unlock new areas in the game continue until well done. This game sacrifices nothing in order to work on a handheld. They could of made this game for the SNES and left it the way it is(well maybe made the graphics 16bit) and it would of worked just as well. This is like all the great handheld games made. It was made for a handheld system but its just as good as any console offering. To this day I would say that this is still the best handheld Zelda game and thats not knocking the Oracle games or The Minish cap or Phantom Hourglass, they are still all amazing games that all should play. But its just that Nintendo struck the ball out of the park with this one and its really hard to top perfection.
So as I said I got this for my 12th birthday I think, I played the hell out of it, finished it several times and got every heart, every seashell. But then one day the game went missing, I had no idea what had happened to it. Alas it seemed the game was gone to me forever. It wasn't till years later that I found it again. We had moved to Perth (where I live now) and I was looking for something among some old bags we used to have. One of my little brothers old Mario bags was there and I unzipped the front zipper and to my amazement I found a whole heap of old Game Boy games that had gone missing and among them was Links Awakening. I then spent the next few days playing through it again, oh happy days. I guess I should mention that the game did get a re-release when the Game Boy Color came out, I never actually played the colourised version of the game, I guess I couldn't justify spending money on a game I already owned even if it had been updated. Well I couldn't justify it back then, these days well lets just say I think I own at least several versions of FF4, Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana.
Everyone who considers themselves a Zelda fan needs to have played this game, it still holds up amazingly to this day and has not aged one bit. It is the defining game of the Game Boy. Its the game that stood up amongst the library of Game Boy games and said I can do anything Console games can do. I could go on for ages about this game, about the towns, the dungeons, the amazing ending. But I think actions speak louder then words and honestly if you haven't played this game then you need to go out there and track it down and play it anyway you can, it is honestly the best game the Game Boy has to offer.
I'll be back tomorrow with one last 20 Game Boy Games in 20 Days post so I'll see you all them. Peace Out.