(GB / Game Boy)

Game Review

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Corbie Dillard

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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User Comments (75)



Odnetnin said:

Awesome! I wish Nintendo would be able to achieve that with their Mario/Zelda/Metroid/other first tier games nowadays. C'mon already, DSi Virtual Console!



Kirigirisu said:

I remember playing this when it was released in it's Deluxe edition, I was way too young to appreciate just how good it was!



warioswoods said:

Certainly one of my fondest gaming memories the Christmas I got this and became glued to my old yellow-screened Game Boy (yeah, I know I'm a broken record, but I have to keep pointing out how the screenshots in black-and-white do not look anything like the classic games looked on the original system).

I was also quite pleased when 4 Swords Adventures included the Roc's Feather and side-scrolling sequences as a nod to this classic title.



Jazzem said:

Haha yes, a 10 just as hoped!

Brilliant review Corbie, which said everything that needs to be said about such a fine game (though I might have to yield the controversy flag and claim I prefer LA's soundtrack to LttP's).

This is a very nostalgic game for me, having an eerie and epic atmosphere that really drew me in back in my pre-double digit days, though never getting too far. It wasn't until years later that I'd finally finish it, and damn...that ending! I won't spoil it for newcomers, but you might be surprised how much punch the story of an 8-bit Game Boy game can pack...

And that's part of what makes this game such a classic, going against all the odds cruelly set against it to deliver such an amazing experience on hardware that supposedly shouldn't be allowing it. To put it frankly, it's a damn masterpiece! And to this day, my favourite game in the series

Here's hoping for DSi Virtual Handheld eh?




when i was little i would borrow this from my friend and delete his file "accidentally" so i could start from beggining ah...good times, good times



brandonbwii said:

I knew this would get a 10. Gut feeling and well-deserved of such a classic. The color version is slightly better due to a new dungeon, magic armor, and photo op segments, but either way you can't go wrong.



emayer said:

I personally think both of the Oracle games are better than this, but there's no denying how impressive Link's Awakening truly is.



Digiki said:

Yes the Color version is a bit better.

This doesn't feel like a continuation of ALttP though, this is fun to play. I prefer the Oracle games to this.



Corbs said:

I actually don't care much for either Oracle game myself. I beat them both once, but I've never felt the urge to go back to them for some reason.



TourianTourist said:

It was my first Zelda game and it instantly made me into a Zelda fan. It's still one of my favorite games in the series, I'm replaying it every year at least once and I never get tired of it. Excellent quest and dungeon design.



warioswoods said:

I'll never understand the appeal of the Oracle games. Those are the only two Zelda games that I got bored with and never finished, because they felt throughout exactly like what they were: imitations made by an outside developer using the engine / assets from Link's Awakening, but with none of the charm, polish, or originality of that game.



Adam said:

I agree. The Oracle games were decent, I suppose, but they never grabbed me, which is fortunate since it would be highly disturbing if a game cartridge grabbed me.

Link's Awakening was all right, but I think it only gets so much attention because it raised standards for portable adventure games, not because it was a great game in comparison with other Zelda titles. But don't listen to me (not that anyone does); I've always been against lengthy adventure games on tiny, battery-powered screens.



DK_vs_KK said:

Great review, Corbie (is that your real name? I mean, you never know with celebrities and singers adopting screen names, you know.)! I love this game! It's one of the best reasons to own a gameboy, in my opinion.



Corbs said:

If I was going to make up a name for myself, don't you think I'd come up with something better than Corbie?



Noire said:

Hah, one retro GB game I actually have, and now I want to go back and play it. I probably will sometime down the line. It's a masterpiece, to be sure.



Egg_miester said:

this is my second favorite zelda game i must have replayed this one the most out of all the zelda games when i was younger



tkubas1 said:

To be honest I don't care about these old games, you need to review some games we can actually buy.



Tails said:

okay now i'm extremely scyhed to get this in the mail especially since i'm playing Twilight Princess right now i seriously can't wait thanks for suggesting me to get it again Corbie and also the review was kick ass :3



Corbs said:

To be honest I don't care about these old games, you need to review some games we can actually buy.

These games are all as readily available as any at retail.



Alza said:

Great review for one of the best game ever made! I still remember how much hours i spent to find all the chain of the trade side quest...good old days when the only source for going on, if you're blocked, was your friends!



Slapshot said:

Man these Retro Reviews are really making me itch really hard for that DSi VC. Im having a really hard time tracking most all these down that I dont have.



Metang said:

While I wouldn't be quick to call it the pinnacle of GB gaming (this or Pokémon?), this is a wonderfully crafted masterpiece that deserves nothing less than a 10. Great review as always, Corbie



Jazzem said:

Crikey, not agreeing with the Oracle naysaying going on here! Those were superb games, and the linkup feature that let you play the two as one whole game was icing on the cake



Aenaida said:

I loved this game, although the last temple stumped me and I haven't picked it up since then. I should play it again someday.



DK_vs_KK said:


Ha-ha! I guess you're right! No offense, though. Your name is fine. Don't even think about getting a screen name just because of me. lol! That would just be weird.



Useless_Account said:

This game was pretty cool. I think I got stuck in the mountain area... I own the Oracle games as well but they are not as fun I think. And I think they would call the "VC" on the DSi the "Virtual Handheld" or something of that matter. Also I just registered but I come to this site everyday and read.



I once tried to play that game...damn it was hard! o_O but it was very good ^^



apocalypse217 said:

This sure brings back memories. I used to spend all day and night playing this game for weeks at a time. Probably the best GB game I used to have.



odd69 said:

Thanks for this corbie!!!!! Im going to buy the dx version next week, my local gamestop has a copy.I'm glad you noticed my suggestion on the retro thread that's just awesome .There isn't a whole lot reviews for this game either,well professional ones anyway.I love retro reviews because occasionally i only play retro games, nothing else!!



Corbs said:

I have the DX version myself. The color makes it nice, but for the review, I went old school on the old Game Boy system. Still just as good.



Ricardo91 said:

The DX version was my very first Zelda...

This game deserves it's 10/10 and then some. It constantly fights with Pokemon as my all-time favorite GB game. I gotta get it back as soon as I can!



citizenerased said:

Played it for like 8 hours and then my save got deleted =[ haven't touched it since.
It's my least favourite Zelda (apart from Zelda II) though, from the 2/3 that I played anyway. Nintendo references are nice, but looking back there's nothing this one does that Minish Cap or Oracle of Ages/Seasons doesn't do 10 times better. Except maybe humor, but meh.



SwerdMurd said:

Review Dragon Warrior 3 for GBC!!!!!!!! It's the only other gameboy-related game that I feel deserves a 10.

This game was just so insanely good. I'm honestly more compelled to play through this game again than Link to the Past, despite how good it is...the whole Zelda series is just so flippin' radnacious. I wish I could turn 13 again and have 0 responsibilities outside of gaming all day...



JimLad said:

Ah memories of stealing from the old shop keeper, then feeling bad and going to return the item only to have him murder me. Seems fair.

Being called 'THIEF' by everyone sucked though.
This game was awesome, it even has chain chomp.



ToneDeath said:

I remember picking this up at a car-boot sale for less than a fiver, not really knowing what it was. It wasn't until I played OOT that I went back and tried to play LA properly. Unfortunately, towards the end I rendered myself unable to complete the game. I can't remember the details, but I had to trade an item for another, but I wanted the old one back (a shovel, I think). I somehow got it back, but when it came to collecting the next essential item, there was no room in my inventory, and apparently no way of making room. This was at one of the last dungeons, so it was quite frustrating and I haven't been back since. If anybody knows a way to get rid of the shovel a second time, I might give it another shot (if the internal battery hasn't died by now).



Bass_X0 said:

there's nothing this one does that Minish Cap or Oracle of Ages/Seasons doesn't do 10 times better.

Link's Awakening is much more charming than either of those two. You need to go back and play more than eight hours.

This game was awesome, it even has chain chomp.

And Goombas. And Piranha Plants. And Yoshi (doll). Even Kirby makes an appearance as an enemy character.



Eadelsson said:

This is one of the best Zelda games in my opinion! If you don't own the original buy the DX version!



Mayhem said:

Best game on the GB? I'd debate that one. One of the best? Oh most definitively yes! Though the only niggle I had was the limitations of the Gameboy itself with its two buttons; the constant need to hit start to switch over the actions on the A and B buttons as the situation arose.



Nathan said:

The DX version on the Game Boy Color was also my first ever Game Boy game I owned. May as well start with the best, right?

Yeah, good memories of that excellent game.



Sushie said:

This is the best Zelda game ever made. I remember the ending was so heartbreaking for me at the time.



Monkeh said:

10/10 is exactly what I'd have given the game! Brings back memories reading this review.



JonWahlgren said:

Without a doubt fitting of a perfect score. This game was absolutely incredible. I didn't get in on it until the colorized DX release, but oh how I clung to that game.




I think I played the DX version too. Can't remember. I'd give the game a 9 anyway. Brilliant.

Nothing to choose between this and Minish for me.



anthonyb said:

This is one of my favorite Zelda games to date. Thanks for the review, Corbie- I completely agree with your score.



maka said:

Great review.

The DX version was my first Zelda game and my introduction to consoles. Still is one of my favorite games, and I also think it was much better than the Oracle games.



primeris said:

I looooved this game. I actually enjoyed it more than Link to the Past. Before the DX version came out I'd play with the color palettes on the Super Gameboy to make the intro look full color



jhuhn said:

Marin was a great character in the anime drawings in their instruction booklet.



mushroomer said:

Someone above mentioned getting this game for Christmas above.. well, I got Zelda 2:Adventures of Link.. and I think I may be the only one in the world, or my mind was totally impressionable at the time but I loved that game. And my fondest memories for the Zelda franchise is attached to that game.. The music, the Sidescrolling/rpg elements, The palaces and the downthrust attack.. all was introduced via the sidescrolling elements.. In a way, Smash Bros, needs to thank Zelda2 for all the references of side attacks...



Chungii_V said:

Still have the DX version in my top draw shame I don't have an old gameboy to play it on. This and R-type DX are 2 extremely worn cartridges I still have tucked away.



grumblegrumble said:

I totally agree with the review, this was a great game! I bought it when it came out and just loved playing it. To Dragoon's comment up above, if it weren't for the "old" classics, you wouldn't have the crap that you love playing today!



Pupito said:

I received the original version of this game from my fiance as my engagement present...complete with a gold Gameboy Light! What a keeper!



Blink said:

Amazing, absolutely amazing game. I've put so many hours into this game over the years, it just never gets old. Truly a masterpiece.



Var said:

There is no doubt this is one of my favourite Zelda games, I replay it yearly and enjoy it every time!

If you're sitting on the fence as to whether play this game or not, I could not advise it anymore that Corbie already has...but I would advise getting the DX version, the colour makes it that bit more enjoyable!



RallyFTW said:

Wasn't there a production problem with this game, if I can remember?

I mean, I heard that half of the copies were glitched, so that you couldn't turn off your game without your profile being reset.



ilSilvano said:

@dimlylitmonkey: you can find info (and a solution) for the Double Shovel glitch in this website:


where it says:

Having the bow, shovel, and boomerang consumes an extra space in inventory. If Link does this, he will have to exhaust his supply of powder (or possibly bombs or arrows) in order to make space in the inventory. The magic powder is not vital until towards the end of the game, so it is easy to miss the error (which results in the game becoming unbeatable).

If Link goes to the beach and trade back, and if he has bought the shovel since trading his first one for the boomerang(i.e. to unlock the ability to buy the bow), he will now have two shovels.

I hope this solves your problem; I have had a similar problem with the last Zelda game for DS, and I got stuck in a dungeon. THAT WAS BAD, I had to sell the game without seeing the end, after playing more than an half of it...



Ryno said:

Just bought a Gamboy Advance SP and this game (DX version). I had an orignal GB and this back in the day and cannot wait to play it again. I know crazy, 3DS just came out and I am more interested in Gamboy games. Guess that is nostalgia for you

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