I entered the Legend of Zelda series late, with Wind Waker. It was fantastic, and I enjoyed the later Zelda games I played, but I never actually completed one of the older ones despite repeated attempts.
Link’s Awakening was the fourth game released in the series. It was re-released as Link’s Awakening DX a few years later for the Game Boy Color, and that version is available on the 3DS Virtual Console. I got the Virtual Console version from Club Nintendo and decided to try it. (And that’s your best bet if you want to play it, for obvious reasons.)
Maybe there’s a reason I enjoyed this game even though I’ve never been able to finish the original Legend of Zelda or even the much-praised A Link to the Past. It didn’t feel like the other classic games. First, it’s sort of a sequel, set after Ganon’s defeat. Second, despite being The Legend of Zelda, Zelda herself isn’t in the game at all and it doesn’t feature a rescue-the-princess plot.
Third, Link’s Awakening laid groundwork for future games in the series, like Ocarina of Time. Since I like the later Zelda games, that might be why I also liked Link’s Awakening.
Fourth, it’s just strange. The inhabitants of the island setting are even quirkier than usual for the series, enemies from the Mario games appear, and it’s full of shout-outs… even to James Cagney, of all people.
Even its gameplay mixes things up a little. Each piece of equipment can be set to the A or B button… including your sword and shield. They’re treated no differently than other items. While I liked to have my sword equipped regardless, I sometimes had to switch it out–for example, to use the Pegasus Boots and Roc’s Feather in combination so I could jump a large gap.
For the most part, though, it plays like you’d expect from a Zelda game. It also has the semi-linear structure I enjoy, with a clear path, optional activities, and incentive to explore and open new areas.
But perhaps what stood out to me about Link’s Awakening the most is that I’ve never felt such moral ambiguity in a Zelda game before. A Link Between Worlds sort of had ambiguity, but since it saved it all for the end of the game, it didn’t really work. Link’s Awakening, however, built it gradually to great effect.
Some fans may disagree, but I don’t think of The Legend of Zelda as a plot-driven series. The games have stories, yes, but they aren’t the most compelling. This might be the first time I’ve left a Zelda game wanting to talk about its plot.
My feelings toward A Link Between Worlds were mixed, and I’m not enthusiastic about the upcoming Wii U Zelda game, but as for Link’s Awakening… I’m glad I played it.
What do you think about The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening? Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts on its moral ambiguity? Let me know in the comments!
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