About twenty years ago, I embarked on a riveting island adventure that I could carry with me in my pocket. My neon green GameBoy Color was among my favorite means of entertainment back then, and one of the first legit handheld games my parents bought for me was The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.
At the time, a miniature colorized pixel revolution was taking place, as the GameBoy Color’s hardware allowed developers to program their games in stunning color! The days of blobby black, white, and green visuals were coming to a close, but I wasn’t yet aware of this – my version of Link’s Awakening was one of the original cartridges, made for the OG GameBoy and therefore made without varied colors. Link’s Awakening DX, the updated, colorful version, was a relatively new thing then, but I didn’t know this; I was just happy to have a big island to explore, a bunch of puzzles to solve, and some bad folks to stop.
So I played the heck out of Link’s Awakening, using my oodles of free time to find every part of The Ballad of the Wind Fish, so I could put an end to the nightmares and leave the sleeping world behind. The game had a pervasive melancholy undertone that I didn’t appreciate consciously as a child, but it strikes me now as an adult. The same sort of subtle sadness permeates Majora’s Mask as well, and this may explain why these two rank among my top five Zelda games.
Another thing Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask have in common is their separation from the usual Legend of Zelda setting of Hyrule; instead of traversing Zelda’s kingdom, these games pit Link against environments and forces that lie outside his homeland. While many of the faces in these games look familiar (for compelling reasons, in my opinion) they are not quite the people Link knows back home. The disengaged familiarity pushes a sense of the uncanny upon the player, as they are made to say “Wait, I remember you!” even as the vaguely familiar character introduces themselves to Link as though they’ve just met. Talk about a strange experience.
But oh, it’s a great experience. So great, in fact, that I eventually took advantage of the 3DS’s virtual console feature to download Link’s Awakening DX. This was probably a bit more than a dozen years after I first played Link’s Awakening, maybe even fifteen years … still, I hadn’t experienced the adventure in its remastered, colorful glory, and I was itching to revisit the island of Koholint.
I ended up blasting through the game rather fast, faster than I did when I was a kid; I had years of Zelda experience by this point, and I knew most of the tropes. To my surprise, by the end of everything, I only fell in battle once. The counter for character deaths had only reached 1, and I felt simultaneous pangs of pride and disappointment as I realized that I kicked Moblin ass, while I also realized that I could have finished the game without dying. I was that good, and I was so close to being perfect.
Still, the fun is in the adventure, not the results screen, and I loved every moment of my re-Awakening. Will I play it again? Well, fuck yeah. A Link’s Awakening remake has been announced for the Nintendo Switch, and I’m ready to relive the dreamy trials and tribulations of Koholint Island with brand new visuals and a tried-and-true console controller setup. Handheld consoles are wonderfully compact and convenient, but sometimes it just feels good to have a solid, standalone video game controller in my hand while I direct Link’s actions. I want to feel that control as I traverse the island for a third time and do my best to reach the Wind Fish without falling in battle.
The Legend of Zelda is one of my favorite video game series, and I’ll throw down as many rupees, er, dollars as it takes to get the latest installment of Link’s adventures. Okay, I won’t overpay, that’s just silly … but I’ll pay the going price for a Nintendo Switch game in order to set sail for fun once again. Put me on that boat and hand me a lightning rod, ’cause I’m pretty damn sure that lightning will strike a third time … luckily, this lightning leads to dreams and discovery!