The start of the affair: Link’s Awakening

[Editor’s note: Zulu takes a look back at Link’s Awakening for his Monthly Musing contribution. — CTZ]

Long before Link’s Awakening was ever conceived in the mind of Mr. Miyamoto, I was already into videogames. I started out with my first game being Pong on 2600, and years later I would finally find my first genuinely loved game: Super Mario Bros. I decided not to write about either one of those cherished classics though.

When it comes down to the nitty gritty, Link’s Awakening was and will always be the first game that really brought me in and enveloped me into a different world. I played all of the previous Zelda titles off and on through the acts of renting and borrowing up to that point. This one however really stuck with me and pulled me in like no other game has ever done before. Nore after the jump.

In 1995, by some act of God, I ended up owning this game. One of my friends at the time just received a used Game Boy with a handful of games. I was pretty interested in his small piece of good fortune. Seeing as I was quite the Game Boy connoisseur at the time, I asked him what games he had for it. He went on to explain that he had 2 games; one being Mario Land, and the other being “some crappy game with some guy and a sword”. I just went along with him; nodded my head, and asked if I could borrow Mario Land.

After thoroughly completing the entire game, I came back to him a couple weeks later. I asked him if I could borrow that “crappy game with some guy and a sword”. Without hesitation, he let me borrow it. When I seen the game’s label for the first time, I was quite surprised at his repugnant attitude towards it. This was a Zelda game. How could anybody hate a Zelda game? It was totally unheard of back then. I instinctively recognized it as something great.

Like I said before, I played all of the Zelda games up to that point in time; although, I never did actually get to experience one to it’s fullest extent. My cousin however, owned A Link To The Past, and Link’s Awakening. Judging by how much he raved about them, I knew going in that this game would be fun. I borrowed the game, and about two weeks later my friend brought back the game I let him borrow as collateral. I asked him if I could have more time with his game, and he just told me to keep it, so I kept it. To this day, receiving Link’s Awakening has truthfully been one of the best gifts I have ever been given; despite the evidently clear ignorance of the giver.

I guess you can say that Link’s Awakening hit me hard at just the right time. I was entering into middle school. I would encounter new friends, enemies, and crushes. I would face the educational adversities given by my new grades academic standards, and I would have to try my hardest to survive and find my place in that mess of a jungle. Looking back, the change seemed colossal. I got through it fine, but things were easier for me because of Link’s Awakening. It was my way of escaping reality. To a point, I think this is why I may have felt so fondly attached to it.

This game was the first to really bring me into another world. Initially, I reacquainted myself with the usual Zelda pattern of retrieving weapons, defeating foes, and solving puzzles. I followed the game and it’s plot quite casually at first. Nevertheless as my days on Koholint Island multiplied, my overall fondness did as well.

To an extent I felt like I was literally there. All of the weight was on my shoulders. It was up to me to find my own way home. The only way I could do this though, was to uncover the enigmatic mysteries surrounding this one mystical wind fish. As my adventure continued, I soon learned that I needed to acquire 8 special instruments to awake this wind fish. Each instrument was located in a different dungeon. As I moved ahead, I had to gain new abilities, tools, and relationships to accomplish what I had set out to do.

I met new and interesting people on my pursuit to attain these 8 mystical instruments. Some of them helped me understand the folklore and history behind the island, others laid out clues and suggestions to overcome present and future problems, and some just were there to help keep my sanity with either camaraderie or humor.

Overall, I really felt attached to a lot of these characters. If I had to pinpoint the reasons behind my fond regards, I would say that most of them stemmed from the different interactions and scenarios I shared with them. Whether these scenarios be the humorous off shoot ventures of Tarin, the soft heart felt acts of kindness given by Marin, or just stepping foot in as the main character, Link; a young boy trying to find his way home, deserted in a strange remote world.

Not only did Link’s Awakening open me up to setting foot in and attaching myself to an interactive world, but it also helped introduce me to music. As each new instrument came into my possession, my outlook and overall perspective of music began to change. Back in 1995, I was barely into music whatsoever. I had no clue what anything was on the radio. I didn’t know any of the artists or bands at the time. I honestly was a very clueless and ignorant person back then in context to the world of music.

From the strange quirky village sounds, to the dark desolate dungeon music, to the illustriously beautiful ballad of the wind fish, Link’s Awakening took a very strong stand in musical presentation. All of the compositions where perfectly merged in with the intended emotions, surroundings, and feel of their specific moments in the game. This attention to detail in the music, as well as the composer’s overall conscience outlook for the end product really helped make the whole experience a richer and fuller one. Link’s Awakening really opened my eyes to the strange and interesting power of music. Even though this was only just a game, it really brought a lot more to the table for me then just any other game.

So, from a broader perspective, what exactly did I get out of this game? Link’s Awakening showed me that videogames not only could be entertaining, but they could be engrossing and fulfilling. Just playing through the game and experiencing everything that it had to offer was a thrill. It didn’t matter to me to get through this game from beginning to end like most other games I enjoyed at the time. I just had fun sitting down and experiencing the entire world of Koholint island first hand.

This game grounded me into appreciating and truly respecting videogames as a beautiful medium. I’m not going to go as far as calling games art or anything, because I’m extremely apathetic towards any subject pertaining art classification. I will say though, that after playing this game, I felt that videogames as a whole had the ability to touch people emotionally much like movies, books, or music.

To this day I thank Links Awakening for showing me the wonders that only videogames can posses. Since my involvement with this game, I have looked more towards fulfilling experiences through games, then just looking for entertainment. I’m not bagging on games based primarily on entertainment at all. I still like games like Mario Kart, Smash Bros, and Team Fortress 2. What really drives me though as a gamer is that search for the next great experience and adventure that I can confidently invest my feelings, emotions, and time into.

I cite this game as my gateway into RPGs. Not that I thought Link’s Awakening was an RPG or anything like that. It just had those strong elements that I fondly loved that mutually worked well within the RPG realm. After completing Link’s Awakening, I very clearly remember buying into this new fangled Pokemon propaganda Nintendo was behind. The reason I bought into it was because they were marketing it as an experience and adventure. This would not only have been my first purchase under the direct influence of Link’s Awakening, but it would also mark the beginning of my changed actions taken root directly from my new outlook towards videogames.

Link’s Awakening was a turning point for me as a player, enthusiast, consumer, and as cheesy as it sounds; a person. I hold a special place in my heart for this game. It may not have been the greatest game ever created, but I still hold it in high regards to this day as a true masterpiece in the world of videogames.