Review by EJRICH

Reviewed: 08/01/07 | Updated: 12/23/09

I don't like fish. But I do like shrimp.

I don’t like fish. I never have liked fish. And I probably will never like fish. There’s just something about that slimy, scaly, creepy appearance that always throws me off when I try to muster the strength to eat one. I do like shrimp, though. They’re good. Why do I like shrimp over fish? Because shrimp don’t have eyes that gawk at you as you go to take the fork to their insides. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to have something watching me while I’m eating it. Then again, some people take joy out of it. Freaks.

Unfortunately for me, Nintendo decided to make a game in their Legend of Zelda franchise that has Link saving one of these overgrown monstrosities. Now, since it’s usually a given that any game in the Legend of the Zelda franchise will be something of quality, giving this game a try was definitely on my hot list. But a fish? Come on, Nintendo. You can do better then that. Much better. Next thing we know they’ll be making a game starring a gigantic manatee. No offense to you manatee lovers, of course. But enough’s enough…anyway, here we go again with The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX.

In case you in some way or form missed my conveniently placed hints leading up to this paragraph concerning the story, here’s a basic rundown. Link’s sailing along one day on a raft. That raft is rickety, unstable, and basically a hazard as a boat. He’s still sailing on it, however. Common sense says that if you run into a storm on this little raft, you’re going to be in a bit of problem. Since Link thinks he’s some sort of god, though, he still does it anyway. Real smart, boy. I knew that green hat was tied too tight to your head. Link eventually does run into an opportunely placed storm, which totals his raft. He then wakes up on some island, with nothing to his name but the clothes on his back. After being saved by a villager who just happens (cough) to be walking along the beach, Link is introduced to the island, where villagers walk along their normal lives without a care in the world. Like most sea-born islands, there’s also a mountain on top.

Unlike most mountains where you can get a scenic view or some other beautiful scene, this mountain is a bit different. There’s a giant egg on top. How it got there is beyond me, but one thing’s for sure: it would take a big chicken to lay an egg that big. It basically clogs the volcano. Instead of the inhabitant being a chicken, however, it’s a fish. This fish happens to be the Wind Fish, a fish of legend that sails the dreamy skies and has been forced into an eternal slumber unless some brave, bashing, daring hero can take up the burden of awakening it by collecting a large number of musical instruments. Being as though Link is that hero from the legend – and what else would you expect from a game starring him – Link has to collect those instruments, free the gigantic fish, and get himself off this god-forsaken piece of land that he can’t escape due to him being trapped in a dream. Fun.

Fortunately for most players, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX is definitely a fun experience. The game manages to do an excellent job of reintroducing players to that classic, Zelda experience that very few competing games can offer, and you can tell that it’s definitely miles ahead in terms of overall complexity. From stomping down dungeons to taking out baddies, Link is going to have his hands full.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, let’s take a step back and examine Link’s new stomping grounds. It’s obviously an island, I’ve probably confirmed that at least 500 times already, but unlike most islands that take up about two inches of sea water, this one is actually pretty big. And although it isn’t anywhere near the size of some of Link’s other endeavors (A Link to the Past being the greatest example, some people go to the lengths of considering Zelda II for it, but that’s up for debate), it manages to give a long experience that picks you up and never fails to let you go. From mountainous plains to swirling vortexes of water, this island means business.

As much as its great to talk about gigantic islands with a big fillet on top, players come to the Legend of Zelda series for one reason and one reason alone – the dungeons. Few other games can manage to match that flawless presentation, aggravating puzzles, and combat that makes these games as fun as they are, and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX manages to copy that tried and true formula almost perfectly. To those of you not in the know as to how Zelda dungeons work, the dungeons of the Zelda franchise usually follow a very simple formula that works extremely well. Link enters said dungeon, completes a puzzle or two, and finds a key. He then takes that key, unlocks a door, and goes on to the next room, where he fights a mini-boss. After killing the boss, he collects a weapon. After collecting said weapon, he then completes more puzzles involving said weapon, at which point after some exploration he’ll get a big key. That key opens the door to the boss room, where Link will square off with a cleverly crafted boss that usually has a weakness only to the weapon you received in the dungeon.

The above paragraph was a very simply put explanation of what you can expect to encounter when you venture into one of the dungeons located in this game. Sure, it may have been crude, not very conclusive, and probably missing a key or two, but I’m sure you get the gist of what I was trying to say. The dungeons rock. Right from the beginning to the end they bombard you with mind-bending puzzles that require you to really think outside the box in order to accomplish. For example, one puzzle earlier in the game revolves around you lighting a bunch of torches in order to make a chest appear. There’s a small problem, however. Unlike some other games that make you just light the couple of torches and be done with it, you have to light them in a certain order otherwise the chest won’t appear. Things like that just tip the iceberg of what the game has to offer. Some dungeons require you to take a certain path, or possibly leap across a vast networking of holes in order to clear a bottomless pit.

Sure, puzzles make up a large part of the Zelda experience, but you also can’t forget about the combat that’s present. It’s practically the crutch on which the puzzles rest. After receiving your shield from the local yodels at the beginning of the game, Link sets out to find his sword. At first, all you’ll be able to do is block the burly pigs who come out to destroy you. After finding you sword, though, the fun really starts. Using either the A or B button to wield it, you have the ability to lash out with classic Zelda swipes, chopping that swine into overgrown pork and getting a bit of revenge for all that they put you through before you had your new pointy object. It doesn’t just stop there, however. Since Link is given multiple weapon slots to make use of, the combinations of which you can arrange his weapons are only as endless as you want them to be. For example, if you wish to put your sword on the A button and block with your shield on the B button, you can. You can even switch that order around. As the game progresses and you get new tools, such as the boomerang and bow, you can arrange the slots as you like.

Probably one of the most defining experiences that the Zelda franchise offers to its players is the use of multiple weapons. As the game goes on and you start pounding the baddies to the dirt around you, you’ll collect a couple of new toys to play with. These toys serve many purposes, from beating enemies to completing the puzzles around you. For instance, the bow gives you the ability to hit specially colored targets. The shield allows you to reflect things and possibly bounce enemies around in order to get them to a certain spot (classic puzzle vice, right there). Things like that make the game fun, and what’s even more fun is getting to use those new weapons throughout the game. Unlike some other games that make you ditch the weapons in your box after finishing a particular dungeon, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX reinforces each weapon’s use as you go throughout the game. You’ll never have to worry about misplacing your favorite weapon, as a boss down the road my just be weak against it after all. What would you do then if you left it?

Among other things that the game offers to its players is the ability to do a particularly long side quest, enter a secret dungeon, collect pieces of heart, and even take pictures with certain characters for the Gameboy Camera. By far the most prevalent, though, is the heart binging. At the beginning of the game Link will have but a meager three hearts to his name. Enemies obviously won’t have the ability to kill you off very easily, but the fact that you have only a bit to your name means you have to find a way to increase that bar. By collecting pieces of heart, you can. Aside from the freebies that you get after killing the main boss of each dungeon, Link will have to find each and every last heart if he wants to expand his heart count. Pieces of heart are located in some of the most dastardly places ever to grace a Zelda game, and some are particularly annoying to get.

For those of you who are willing to put up with it, you have my best wishes. Something else that really sets this game apart is the graphics. Although they are nowhere near as good as the graphics of some other Zelda titles, they still are quite nice to look at on the portable’s screen. Colors are blended decently, Link looks like he should, albeit a bit more pointed then most people would expect, while most villagers all have that particular scheme to each of their pixels. Even the local pig looks like a pig for once instead of an overgrown ham. To top off an already well done package, the developers decided to include several tracks from the original Zelda games. Classics tunes such as the “dun dun, dun dun dun dun dun, dun dun dun dun dun, dun dun dun, dun dun dun, dun dun dun…five years later”. Jokes aside, they really are great, and they have that certain pixel sound to them that can only come from an older game.

My only big beef with this title is the fact that it’s far too short for its own good. Most of the main game can be blown through within 10 hours of your starting of it, and that’s nothing really that long considering that the experience could have been greatly expanded. Sure, the world is large, but it’s just not large enough to truly warrant anything more then ten hours. If you’re willing to be a perfectionist and collect all of the heart pieces, you’re looking at possibly 15 hours if you’re a moderately skilled player.

As I’ve said in the past, The Legend of Zelda franchise is definitely a franchise that people will be remembering for a long time. Everything fits in so perfectly, so magically that few other games really have the ability to match it. And you know, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX is a game that although doesn’t compare very well to the originals, still has plenty of running power in its own right. The game is really fun, and the island is truly a blast to play through. With an experience like this, you may very well be saving that fish for a long time. Even if I don’t like to eat them. I do like shrimp, though.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (US, 12/31/98)

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