Tribute: Link's Awakening (Guest Post by @EricVBailey )

People enjoy stories about likeable protagonists who overcome adversity.

In the face of overwhelming odds our hero manages to triumph, and our sympathetic tension achieves a victorious payoff. One popular framework toward this end is the shipwreck. You have a happy character, on top of the world, enjoying some maritime travel, who is suddenly thrust into harsh conditions. This is quite a dramatic turn, bolstered by historical examples, and works to unfold our fears of an uncertain future.

Castaway is a generally well-received film, with Tom Hanks continuing to stretch his acting range in a challenging role. Robinson Crusoe is regarded as a literary classic. The television series Arrow leaned heavily on a “stranded on a remote island in the Pacific” backstory. Even the Bible heightens its drama with the account of a shipwreck in the book of Acts. And tucked back in the late 20th century, on a humble handheld machine, gaming also has its premiere shipwreck story --

Survival Kids.

… no, wait, sorry, not Survival Kids.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.


On a dark and stormy night...

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a video game that originally released in 1993 for Nintendo’s portable Game Boy system. It is one of my personal favorites, and I believe it is great.

This topdown adventure oozes classic Nintendo appeal and, in my view, sports some brilliant design strokes that perfectly complement a delightful original world. The setting often straddles the line between charming and unnerving, and I found the overall effect intoxicating when I first played the game as a child. Just as a good book is described as something you cannot put down, Link’s Awakening was truly an experience that I was reluctant to let leave my hands; notably, I do not often feel this way about games.

Franchise Legacy

In some ways, Link’s Awakening is a radical departure for the Legend of Zelda franchise: It is the only game to take place on Koholint Island, the first portable Zelda title, and plays extensively with references to other games and media altogether. In other ways, it poses more subtle subversions.

In Ocarina of Time, a girl named Malon teaches Link Epona’s Song for his ocarina. In Link’s Awakening, a girl named Marin teaches Link the Ballad of the Wind Fish for his ocarina. Both of these characters show an affinity for animals.

In Link’s Awakening, using the Bow and a Bomb at the same time results in firing an arrow attached a bomb that explodes on impact. Curiously, this has never been confirmed or denied by the developers as an unintentional glitch. Arrows and bombs could be combined in Twilight Princess, but it was not until Breath of the Wild in 2017 that Bomb Arrows were finally their own full-fledged item.

I feel Link’s Awakening forged new ground for the Zelda series in ways that have been overshadowed by the contributions of other titles, like later games get credit for feats Awakening already achieved, and much of its greatness has been lost in the mix of fondness for some of Link’s other adventures.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has received lots of praise over the years for its melancholy mood and a darker theme. Rightly so! It remains my favorite Zelda game, largely because it is so unusual. However, some may forget that Link’s Awakening has its share of dark imagery as well, as noted by a Twitter friend of mine on a playthrough in 2017.

Link’s Awakening was already exploring the idea of an oncoming world-ending cataclysm in a world entirely separate from Hyrule years before Majora’s Mask would, complete with the necessary epic songs and ventures into added layers of the not-quite-real.

How about cameos? In the 64-bit Zelda titles, you can find little winks to the Super Mario canon, like the Bowser jewelry in Ocarina and the Mario mask in Majora. In Twilight Princess, keen observers may spot a Bullet Bill image. But did you know that in Link’s Awakening you can find Yoshi, Goomba, Pirahna Plants, Cheep Cheep, Bloobers, and a Chain Chomp! Never again would so many Mario characters manage to squeeze into one of Link’s adventures. It’s so strange!

Breath of the Wild is infamous for hiding 900 Korok seeds throughout its world, rewarding completists who will search every blade of grass for hidden treasure. Ocarina had its Skulltulas. But y’know which Zelda game started the trend of having a big fetch quest throughout? Link’s Awakening, with its 26 Secret Seashells, 20 of them standing in the way between Link and his sword upgrade.

It’s A Good Game, Brent

Consider the worst parts of popular Zelda titles.

What’s the one design element you hate from each one? Is it the rain in Breath of the Wild, or how poorly the polygons have aged in the N64 games? Do you despise the endless sailing in Wind Waker, or was it the Triforce shards that drove you to despair? Did you abhor the motion controls of Skyward Sword, or the barren overworld of Twilight Princess?

Link’s Awakening doesn’t have any of these issues.

It’s just a solid, well-rounded game. Like any high-caliber Nintendo fare it has charm, humor, a memorable soundtrack, tight gameplay, and some gorgeous visuals. Your mileage may vary as to its difficulty, but I always thought it hit a great spot between ease and challenge.

Words can hardly encapsulate the experience. Maybe some games can be summarized in a reflection like this, but I think Link’s Awakening truly rewards those who dig into it. I recommend you try it, and I’d love to hear what you think. I have a feeling it’ll be one of my sentimental favorites for as long as I live.

Eric Bailey likes Nintendo games and writing about Nintendo games. You can follow him on Twitter @EricVBailey, check out his new minimalist YouTube series, support him on Patreon, or ignore him altogether.

     Previous Guest Posts by Eric Bailey:
You’re All Idiots, Everything's On Fire, and Nothing Ever Changes: Yet Another Critique of Gaming Culture ] 
Easy-Mode Players Are The Real Gamers ]


Streets of Rage 4 Has Been Officially Revealed!!!

     It's been a long time since the 1994 release of the last new installment in Sega's iconic beat 'em up Streets of Rage series, and today Dotemu, Lizardcube, and Guard Crush Games have announced Streets of Rage 4!

     According to the official site:
After many years, Axel and Blaze are finally picking up the fight where they left. 
Streets of Rage 4 builds upon the classic trilogy’s gameplay with new mechanics, a fresh story and a gauntlet of dangerous stages with a serious crime problem. Streets of Rage 4 recalls classic gameplay but it stands as an entirely original arcade-style romp thanks to the expertise of Guard Crush Games and Dotemu. 
Whether players gang up with a friend or clean up the city solo, Streets of Rage 4 is a skull-bashing, chicken-chomping delight all set to a thumping soundtrack sure to get your blood pumping.
     The reveal trailer shows us some glorious gameplay featuring an older and more grizzled Axel Stone along with long-time bare knuckle companion Blaze Fielding taking on some familiar old enemies in a truly amazing new visual style.  No word yet if other old friends will be playable characters as well like Adam or Eddie "Skate" Hunter, Max Thunder, or possibly even former-enemy-boss-turned-friendly-combatant Shiva.
     I'm also hoping they nail the music for the game, as it played a massive part in setting the tone of the first and second games.

     I've said numerous times before, that Streets of Rage 2 stands as one of the greatest games ever made, and we can only hope this game turns out to not only live up to, but actually improve on that legacy.

     No release date or platforms have been announced yet.

     For more information check out the official site [ Streets4Rage ]

     Source [ Dotemu twitter ]