Review: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (GB)

A treasured classic and the absolute pinnacle of Game Boy gaming.

There were initially some concerns that the gameplay experiences on the Game Boy system might end up being a bit too shallow. Fortunately, that notion was put to rest early on with some of the outstanding releases for the system. Of course no title would shatter that misconception like the release of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Not only did the game offer up a lengthy and rewarding adventure, but it also did so with all the charm and flare of the console releases. But considering how much the portable Zelda releases have advanced over the years, is this once stunning Game Boy release still as viable today as it was when it first made its debut on the system?

For Link's Awakening Nintendo decided to stick with the overall look and feel of their massively popular Super Nintendo release The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. In fact, at times it feels like a continuation of Link to the Past in terms of overall gameplay execution. You play the game in the standard overhead perspective, although the developers have tossed in a few side-scrolling sections here and there to liven things up a bit. You'll initially be restricted as to how far around the world map you can venture, but as you find new items and unlock new puzzles, you'll be able to access more and more of the area around you.

You're main goal in Link's Awakening is to traverse the 8 dungeons strung around the world map. This will mean locating keys to gain access to the dungeons, not to mention making your way through all of the tricky labyrinths that are full of tricky puzzles and traps. You'll eventually meet up with the boss of each dungeon and if you can defeat them, you'll be rewarded with the various musical instruments you'll need in order to complete your quest.

If you thought Link to the Past was a joy to play, then you're in for a real treat with this Game Boy release. Not only is it easily one of the most playable Zelda titles to date, but all of the puzzle solving that's made the Zelda titles such a beloved series is intact and in full force in this release.

The quest itself is epic in size and each and every dungeon is brimming with all of the block pushing puzzles we've come to expect from the series, not to mention enough sword swinging goodness to keep even the most ardent Zelda fan happy. Any doubts as to how well this Zelda title would be able to be executed on the portable Game Boy system were absolutely shattered with this finished product. It's easily one of the best Zelda releases in the series from a gameplay standpoint.

As if the brilliant gameplay designs weren't enough, the developers even managed to find time to create a beautifully crafted Zelda universe to go along with it. The game might be of a monochrome dynamic, but it certainly doesn't make it any less visually appealing when you see it in action. Much of the unique and detailed visual stylings of the SNES Zelda release have been captured and used in this portable rendition. Every area you visit looks equally impressive and the dungeons in the game are absolutely stunning. It's clear from the moment you fire this title up that great attention to detail was paid when it came to the visual touches used throughout the game.

Anyone that's ever played a Zelda title can easily hum the theme music on command. The musical scores of the series have become legendary and the soundtrack in Link's Awakening is certainly no exception. Many of the classic Zelda tunes sound absolutely fantastic, even on the Game Boy's limited sound hardware, and the original tunes created for this release are no less catchy. It might not be quite as good as the musical score from Link to the Past, but when you take into account the dip in sound capabilities of the Game Boy system, it actually makes what the developers were able to accomplish even more impressive. Much like every other facet of the game, the audio presentation is absolutely top shelf.


It would be difficult to argue against The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening being the pinnacle of gaming on the Game Boy system. The developers at Nintendo able to squeeze an extremely lengthy quest into the package, and were able to push just about every facet of the Game Boy's hardware to its limit. Not only is Link's Awakening not the dumbed-down Zelda adventure many initially feared it would be, but it turned out to be one of the best releases in the series and one that is generally beloved among Zelda fans the world over. If you want to experience the very best of what the Game Boy system has to offer, do yourself a favor and pick up Link's Awakening. Not only is it the best game available for the Game Boy system, but it's also one of the best games available for any game system period.

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