Published on March 17th, 2017 | by Jonathan Beck3
KBMOD Staff’s Best Game Ever: Hexidecimal – The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
I am in the 5th grade. I am sitting in the gymnasium of my elementary school, next to a friend, because it is too cold for recess to be outside today.
I’m fortunate because today I remembered to bring my GameBoy with me. Sitting in the corner of this gymnasium, while other kids shoot basketballs and play Red Rover, I am enamored by a fictional world portrayed to me through a strange greenish yellow screen. My friend Eric shows me how to solve the door puzzle to get the Roc’s Feather from the first dungeon in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I am immediately stunned by how simple the solution was, and how dumb I was for not thinking of it myself.
My brothers and I have been stumped by the simple action of pushing a block, a mechanic the game never explicitly tells you is possible. We have been stumped to the extent that at one point, we traded one of our school friends our copy of Link’s Awakening for their copy of Game and Watch Gallery.
The school is now closed because of asbestos in the insulation, but my memories of Link’s Awakening ring clear. I am now also concerned that maybe that insulation is the reason I was sick for so long…
Link’s Awakening will forever be the best Zelda game to me. Not because it did anything particularly groundbreaking, it used a borrowed game engine in an attempt to be a mobile port of the SNES classic A Link to the Past, but because of what it meant to me at the time.
This game is what I consider to be one of the cornerstones of why I still play video games. It showed me a world that I was free to explore (though I had to do it in a specific order). It showed me a story of someone who has lost their way, and is trying to make sense of things in a world that is completely unfamiliar. It told a story that made you question if what you were doing was real, or only a dream. It had one of the best game soundtracks of all time, google around, you’re going to find a number of re-imaginations and reinventions. It was the game that defined my adolescence.
The sound of Link’s sword charging for a spin attack is currently my text notification noise. The Tal Tal Heights theme is my current ring tone. I’ve listened to more renditions of The Ballad of the Windfish than I’m comfortable admitting. Jeremiah Sun’s rendition of the sound track are to this day still a normal rotation in my Google Play Music library.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is absolutely my favorite game of all time. I have a tattoo planned for my left arm that is essentially just concept art from the game, I’d just have to save the money and find the artist to do it the right way.
There was something about that game, and that time period of my life that just rang through to this day. You have to understand, I can’t remember things from that time period as clearly as I do this game. I remember getting into a fight with someone in 6th grade. I remember the layout of the playground. I remember the woods surrounding the school, but most vividly I remember the time I spent dialed into Link’s Awakening.
My brothers and I wandered around that world until my friend finally showed me how to beat the first dungeon, and claim its reward. That simple act opened up the rest of the game and an entire new world to me.
Everything from the trading game (go get that Yoshi Doll at the Mabe Village chance game, you are absolutely going to need it) to the design of the dungeons, the layout of the over world, the raft ride down to the Catfish Maw… all of it is masterfully crafted to keep you guessing and engaged, but makes the act of progressing excellent.
What makes this game the most important to me though, is the fact I played it at a time that I had no other concerns. It was an anchor that tied me and my brothers together. It was a world to explore when I wasn’t happy with the world around me. It was an adventure I could never actually have in real life. From Mabe Village to the Tal Tal Heights, there was something new to explore and discover.
If you haven’t played Link’s Awakening, you can emulate it on basically any device at this point. I actually completed it once on a Treo 700WX many, many moons before real smartphones were a thing, but I’d recommend hunting down a cheap GameBoy Color and a cart. Nothing feels as good as playing it on the original hardware, the way it was intended.
This game will forever be my favorite of all time, and I hope anyone reading this will take the time to give it a look. You can grab it on the 3DS shop.