Pocket Power: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Though today you can stuff stereoscopic 3D and console-quality graphics into your backpack, that once seemed inconceivable. Handhelds have evolved quickly, but we shouldn’t forget the games that made them great in the first place. Though these games lack raw processing muscle, they have a power all their own.

If you’ve played any Legend of Zelda games, you already know the enduring charm of their simple, whimsical stories. Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy has that charm in spades. For fans who grew up on the NES original and fell in love with Link to the Past, this game provided a bit of closure on the traditional design of Zelda before the series shifted to full 3D for Ocarina of Time.

laeggAs the game opens, an unconscious Link washes up on the beach of Koholint Island after a nasty storm. Much to his surprise the woman who saves him, Marin, looks exactly like princess Zekla. However, it quickly becomes clear that Koholint is nothing like Hyrule, and that strange, mystical forces are at work behind its pleasant facade. In order to return home Link will need to use eight magical instruments to wake the legendary Wind Fish that slumbers atop Koholint’s highest peak.

Dungeons, weapons and a variety of regions give this handheld game as much content as your average console adventure. It marks the first appearance of many concepts and items that have become mainstays in the series, including Roc’s Feather, which allows Link to jump in both top-down and side-scrolling areas. Though he’s not OOT’s infamously loquacious Kaepora Gaebora, an owl even appears to give Link advice during his travels. It also marks Zelda’s first fishing minigame, as well as the series’ first item-trading sidequest. It even features the series’ first fire level, and it’s the first Zelda game to take place outside of Hyrule, beating the abysmal CDi games to store shelves by several months.

links_awakeningLink’s Awakening is one of the biggest games on the Game Boy, with a long main quest line and a tonne of side content to boot. Koholint has a lot of nooks and crannies to explore, with plenty of rewards like weapon and item upgrades for dedicated explorers. A wild cast of characters appears in the game – literally wild, in the case of the various talking animals. Other Nintendo icons make cameo appearances to keep the tone light.

The action and combat is revoultionary as well – this is the first game in the series to allow use of two items at once. You can throw your boomerang and fly on a Cucco at the same time, or perform jumping attacks using Roc’s feather and any other item that might strike your fancy.

Not only is Link’s Awakening one of the best selling Game Boy games, it’s one of the best games in the entire venerated franchise. Link’s Awakening received so much acclaim, in fact, that Nintendo released a “Director’s Cut” version with exclusive Game Boy Color content – one of gaming’s earliest remasters. It proves beyond a doubt that you don’t need a big screen to play a long, involving game, and is a must-play for any Game Boy enthusiast