Happy Zelda Day!
December 26, 2013 5:43 AM   Subscribe

A Japanese commercial for the Gameboy video game The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. With puppets. Here's a traditional speedrun that finishes in a little under one-and-a-half hours. Here's a tool-assisted speedrun that wins the game in less than six minutes. (Most of the video is the game's ending.) A manga was released in Japan detailing the events of the game's story. A fan translation of it can be read, in its entirety, here. Also....

The first two games Nintendo produced in the Legend of Zelda series were for the NES, the third was for the SNES, but for the fourth, instead of releasing it on their top-of-the-line console, they made it for the Gameboy, a monochrome platform arguably weaker than the NES. And yet, the result is much more sophisticated game than any of the previous versions. The resulting game, Link's Awakening, is notable for many reasons, being the game that cemented many things about the series going forward, contained better characterization than previous games, had some of the best dungeons in the series, and contained many Nintendo references and in-jokes.
  • It is the first Zelda game that doesn't take place in Hyrule, has nothing to do with triforces, and contains no character named Zelda or Ganon.
  • It is the first overhead-view Zelda game that lets Link jump, when he has the right item equipped.
  • In Japan versions of Link's Awakening, the Hammer item is actually called the M.C. Hammer.
  • Nintendo's secondary mascot Kirby is provided as an enemy later in the game. When he inhales, he even makes the Kirby Noise. Mario's Goombas are also enemies, can be killed by jumping on them, and they can be found in underground passages that resembles Mario's underground pipe world.
  • Dr. Wright, from SNES SimCity, cameos as "Mr. Write" in one room. Dr. Wright's character was inspired by Will Wright, creator of SimCity and The Sims.
  • Two notable edits for content were made for the US version. 1: a scene where a hippopotamus covers up when you enter the room because she's posing for a nude painting. This was handled oddly, by removing the sheet she uses to cover, since, as an animal, the only thing objectionable about the animation's presence in the game is the notion that she's posing nude! Second, a necklace you must find and return to a mermaid was, in the Japanese version, actually her seashell bra.
  • It's the first game in the series that lets you freely equip items to more than one button -- even letting you put away your sword if you want. Further, if you equip the Bow on one button and Bombs on the other, then press both buttons at once, you can fire explosive arrows!
  • It's the first Zelda game that automaps the overworld for you, in addition to the dungeons.
  • It was the first Zelda game to be remade, rereleased a few years later as Link's Awakening DX for the Gameboy Color, with improved graphics, an extra dungeon, and Gameboy Printer support. You can also collect cartoon photographs of some scenes in the game to print out on sticker paper. Here's a video showing them off.
  • Perhaps taking a cue from other certain other RPGs, it is possible to steal from its shop! Go in pick up an item, then walk out the door -- if you can get outside without the shopkeeper looking at you, you get to keep it for free. The Bow costs 980 rupees, making it a tempting target for such larceny, but if you do it 1. the game permanently changes your character's name to THIEF, and 2. the next time you return to the shop, the shopkeeper will murder you with lightning, increasing your death count.
  • Here's a video of the trick, and its consequences, in action.
  • It remains the only Zelda game to slightly change the ending if you win without dying (with a death count of 000).
  • The original release of the game contains a notable bug that allows the player to get to weird places. Walk off the screen so it scrolls, but just before the scrolling happens, press Select to bring up the map. Press Select again to clear the map, and you'll be on the new screen, but in the same place you were on the old screen. This can get the player stuck in walls and force him to have to quit, but used properly, large sections of the game can be skipped. This also works in rooms and caves, which are stored internally as sections on a large map. It can also result in save file erasure; refer to here for more information.
  • Here's a graphic of all the overworld screens stitched together.
  • And here's a version in color, that you can click on to see cave and room contents and dungeon maps.
  • And here's a video of the map recreated in Minecraft.
  • And here's a giant PNG of a 3D-rendered version of the map.
  • Is Link's Awakening really the most mature game in the series? (Ending spoilers.)
  • The ever-productive guys at OCRemix have made an entire fan album of remixed songs from Link's Awakening, Threshold Of A Dream.
  • Link's Awakening could be regarded as a spiritual successor to a Japan-only game called " Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru," or, "For The Frog The Bell Tolls." Prince Richard from that game cameos as a quest giver in Awakening. A translation patch for the game exists.
Zelda Day Extra #1: Zelda Classic
Last posted in 2005, fan-made Zelda adventure engine and editor Zelda Classic still exists. While the current version, 2.50, was finished in 2009, people continue to create adventures for it, and it's capable of creating games based off the original NES game and SNES sequel. Many can be downloaded from its website.

Zelda Day Extra #2: ROM Hacks
Here is a handful of notable Zelda hacks (you'll need a copy of the ROM and probably an IPS patcher to apply them) --
The Legend of Zelda (#1, NES): Zelda II (#2, NES, all of these by the_icepenguin): A Link to the Past (#3, SNES):
  • Wish the game had a day/night system? There you go.
  • Parallel Worlds is a notoriously tricky new quest hack, but it has a reputation for quality.
  • Parallel Remodel is a hack-of-a-hack, that makes Parallel Worlds a bit fairer.
Link's Awakening (#4, GB/GBC):
posted by JHarris (34 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's a Boxing Day miracle!
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:56 AM on December 26, 2013


Link's Awakening was the second video game I ever played, the first Zelda game I ever played, and still to this day one of my favorites. I'm working through my quasi-annual re-play through right now. Great post.
posted by Itaxpica at 6:06 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Awesome! Link's Awakening is the (classic) Zelda game I know the least about and I'm gonna be digging through these links forever.
posted by griphus at 6:30 AM on December 26, 2013


I think I can hear the game engine crying out in pain during that tool-assisted Link's Awakening run.
posted by Riki tiki at 6:34 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Link's Awakening is my favorite Zelda game, and this thread is the best thing to wake up to.
posted by byanyothername at 7:10 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Link's Awakening is my first and favorite Zelda game. Joy!
posted by Mister Cheese at 7:21 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


And, I do think Link's Awakening may be the most mature Zelda, but it's not a "dark," morose or creepy maturity. It's the mystical Zelda. We are all the Wind Fish dreaming.

The Wind Fish in name only,
for it is neither.
posted by byanyothername at 7:26 AM on December 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


LAST ALSO: but it may be worth mentioning that Captain Rainbow has a similar premise re: washed up on an unknown island full of washed up obscure old Nintendo characters.
posted by byanyothername at 7:41 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


For those lost on this Zelda Day thing, it goes back to 2010, when there were 4 Zelda-related posts:

1. Ganondorf has a simple request for Christmas
2. "This is a full recreation of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past using Minecraft."
3. Merry Christmas from lostlevels.org: An unreleased beta of The Legend of Zelda! Herein The Whelk proclaimed "LONG LIVE ZELDA DAY!"
4. For your listening pleasure, I present to you the Zelda Rag, and three more ragtime renditions of video game songs.

Since then, JHarris has been celebrating Zelda Day.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:44 AM on December 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


Link's awakening was the first game I ever spent more time glitching than playing.

The original gameboy release had a bug where if you brought up the map while switching screens, you could skip across the map (it would place you in the place on the map where you brought up the menu, so you'd be in the same relative place even though the map changed.)

I discovered this by accident. Good times.
posted by Veritron at 7:46 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Link's Awakening wasn't the first Zelda I played, but I actually think it's still the best one. There's a real air of mystery and enchantment to it that I don't think the earlier games were even trying for, and the later ones never quite replicated. When I replay it, I actually prefer to play the original black and white version because something about that makes the world seem more eerie and dreamlike, instead of the simple mundane color of the waking world.

I was aware of the Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru reference (from being told after the fact, of course, since how would some American kid get a reference an old Japanese-only Game Boy game), but I've never played it, so I'm really eager to check out that translation link.

Thanks! This is a great post!
posted by branduno at 7:53 AM on December 26, 2013


This is an excellent post. I'm going to break some stranger's pots.

Also, I'm really glad there's a self created Zelda day.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:37 AM on December 26, 2013


Link's Awakening was the first Zelda game I ever played. Back in middle school, I remember reading a blurb about it somewhere that touted it as "the biggest Game Boy cart to date!" Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to buy this biggest-ever cartridge, but when I opened it I saw that the physical size of the game was exactly the same as all the others -- they had been talking about the amount of data it held.

I felt like the queen of idiots.

But then I started playing, and it didn't take long for me to realize I had just made the best dumb mistake ever. The game is charming as hell and I love it...even though it took me 10+ years to muster up the patience to finish it (the ball/pillar puzzle in Eagle's Tower ruined me until I finally sat down and retraced my steps through that dungeon with a walkthrough).

Because Link's Awakening was my first Zelda game, all the series' normal trappings -- Zelda, Hyrule, Triforces, Gorons, etc -- feel so foreign. I've since completed Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, and while they're both great games, something about them just feels wrong to me. (Link to the Past felt less wrong thanks to the map's similarities to Link's Awakening.) I'm currently about 1/4 through Oracle of Ages, and it feels a little more right thanks to the reused assets and recycled music. I may just be biased toward top-down Zelda on a Game Boy screen because Link's Awakening was my first love -- but, considering it's been 5 months since I've played Oracle of Ages because I once again got myself stuck in a dungeon, I think I just missed having a charming Zelda game to carry me through the next decade. If only Link's Awakening could be new to me again; I am deeply envious of anyone who has yet to play it.
posted by phatkitten at 10:04 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Great post. Love seeing the huge video game maps.


I want to play more Zelda. I have A link to the past on GBA. I've never played it seriously.
I'd like to get the original Legend of Zelda ported to the GBA.
Would playing the original game be a waste of time? Would it be too grindy or tedious?
I want that experience of finding all the secrets and wandering around the map.

Help me make the most of my Zelda Day.

(sorry if too much of a derail.)
posted by hot_monster at 10:21 AM on December 26, 2013


Link's Awakening is my favorite Zelda game (for the reasons described in the "mature" link) and the last one I ever played (not counting the remake of A Link to the Past for GBA). Apparently the Zeldaverse has changed in a bunch of ways since then. I prefer not to learn about them, though... I don't want to forget Marin.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:54 AM on December 26, 2013


I highly recommend Link's Awakening if you enjoy Zeldas but have never played through it. It feels like the fun, loose, after-hours project that it was.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 11:00 AM on December 26, 2013


Would playing the original game be a waste of time? Would it be too grindy or tedious?

If you didn't enjoy Link to the Past, I can't imagine you'll enjoy Legend of Zelda. It's a classic, but it can be absolutely tedious and opaque in the way many such NES games were.
posted by griphus at 11:04 AM on December 26, 2013


Two notable edits for content were made for the US version. 1: a scene where a hippopotamus covers up when you enter the room because she's posing for a nude painting. This was handled oddly, by removing the sheet she uses to cover, since, as an animal, the only thing objectionable about the animation's presence in the game is the notion that she's posing nude!

This move's ingenuity tickles me.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:05 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's MeccaPrime's play-through of Link's Awakening where he breaks the game over his knee and plays the broken game with absolutely straight commentary as the rules of reality break down around him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3uzz1xlaqU&feature=share&list=PL1479B8D9B9D9F9A3
posted by kzin602 at 12:17 PM on December 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


If you didn't enjoy Link to the Past, I can't imagine you'll enjoy Legend of Zelda. It's a classic, but it can be absolutely tedious and opaque in the way many such NES games were.

I disagree, but you do have to be willing to explore undirected and find things for yourself. I find that refreshing, since exploring the game world is a lot faster and involved than your stand first-person game, but you do have to be motivated.
posted by JHarris at 1:50 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Link's Awakening DX (I think the original too) is a hilariously broken game (hilarity starts about 2 minutes into the run and doesn't let up from there).
posted by sparkletone at 1:51 PM on December 26, 2013


There's MeccaPrime's play-through of Link's Awakening where he breaks the game over his knee and plays the broken game with absolutely straight commentary as the rules of reality break down around him.

Haha. This is the original game, rather than the DX run I posted and is amazing.
posted by sparkletone at 2:08 PM on December 26, 2013


Veritron: The original gameboy release had a bug where if you brought up the map while switching screens, you could skip across the map (it would place you in the place on the map where you brought up the menu, so you'd be in the same relative place even though the map changed.

Whaa! Now I have to go try this.
posted by MsDaniB at 2:51 PM on December 26, 2013


hot_monster, I love the original Zelda, and think it's a much more interesting game than Link To The Past. There's no attempt to set mood, there's little tedious dialogue, you go into a cave, you get your first sword, and you go. Unlike later games, you can explore nearly the entire world from the start. There's lots of secret stuff (really, an amazing amount!) to find but it's all optional. If you don't go to FAQs or walkthroughs then your first playthrough will probably take you weeks, but it's fun all that time, because the enemies are challenging. If you die don't sweat it, the only penalty is it puts you back at the start and increases a number. It's my favorite game in the series.

I'd suggest keeping note paper available when you play it. If you casually find the entrance to Level 3 as you roam around, it's nice to have a note of where it is for when you're ready for it. And if you want a little advice, try to buy the candle as soon as you can, and use it on random trees in the world. You don't have to do that, but eventually, you'll find some nice things....
posted by JHarris at 2:56 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, also:

I'd like to get the original Legend of Zelda ported to the GBA.

You don't have to. Nintendo released the game for GBA themselves as part of their NES Classics series. If you look around for it, I'd think it wouldn't be too expensive.
posted by JHarris at 3:00 PM on December 26, 2013


Well, maybe I was wrong, on Amazon it costs $17.50 used. Not huge, but not as cheap as I thought it'd be. (And new? $80!)
posted by JHarris at 3:02 PM on December 26, 2013


Here's a bit from an interview with the people who made Link's Awakening where they talk about the influence of Twin Peaks, of all things. Original Japanese here.
posted by 23 at 5:18 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm currently about 1/4 through Oracle of Ages, and it feels a little more right thanks to the reused assets and recycled music.

I had low expectations for Oracle of Ages/Seasons due to them being developed by a third party, but oh man, I was wrong and glad to be wrong. Those games are great. The Minish Cap was pretty good too, Capcom did good by the series.

For the 3d games, nothing's grabbed me really hard since Wind Waker. Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask are still incredible (and personally, MM edges out OoT), Wind Waker tops them both, and then Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword were both... pretty good. Not bad, but they felt a lot like treading water even with all the new things they brought to the table, though there were moments of absolute brilliance in both. Skyward Sword suffered a bit with the swordplay, imo - a bit of "be careful what you wish for" for me, because I'd always wanted a Zelda game with direct wiimote sword control, but it never quite felt right when I played it. Too finicky. But Wind Waker, man. That was just about a perfect game. I didn't even mind the Triforce fetch quest, though I won't miss it when I finally get a chance to play the HD version where they cut it down. That moment when the black and white Hyrule Castle comes alive in full color... wow.

And A Link Between Worlds is the Zelda game I've been wanting for aaaages. It's one of the best of the top-down games, I think it edges out ALttP. So good. Now if they increase the size of the world and make the exploration as opaque as the original Legend of Zelda, it would be the perfect game. I miss that feeling of being alone in a big, mysterious world that the original had. That was a big part of the appeal of Wind Waker for me, actually. That open ocean felt like endless possibility when you first got the sail and control of the winds. ALBW got it partway right by letting you do dungeons out of order if you wanted, but they still item-gated access to different parts of the world too much, which has always felt like getting a little too much Metroid in my Zelda (not to say that I don't love me some Metroid because daaang I love me some Metroid).
posted by jason_steakums at 8:31 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've got the Wind Waker HD remake, and the message-in-a-bottle feature really is a stroke of genius. It makes the big optional subquest to collect all the figurines a lot easier by letting you use photographs found in bottles for it! Also, sometimes you'll find someone who's used it to leave a funny message for people to find, like a note from someone on a stereotypical desert isle. (I myself hand-drew a picture of Cthulhu smiling in front of monoliths with the message GREETINGS FROM R'LYEH.)
posted by JHarris at 9:37 PM on December 26, 2013


I longed for a Super NES as a young man but never got one during its prime. Once I was 14 I had a paper route and picked up a GameBoy that came with this fucking game because it was cheap and portable and half the cost of an SNES and I had an extra copy of Tetris going unused for some reason. I then realized with the Zelda title that the Gameboy was basically being used like a mini-SNES platform and the caliber of the newer games was quite high, matching the SNES rather than the standard NES. Some games fell flat on that effort but this one was the bee's knees and I felt like I cracked some secret mystery in obtaining an advanced gaming system on the cheap.
posted by lordaych at 12:45 AM on December 27, 2013


About the original zelda vs a link to the past, they're such different games -on topic for a moment, links awakening (also my favourite zelda) is much closer to original zelda than link to the past, imho, despite being around the same era as the latter.
posted by jaymzjulian at 3:50 AM on December 27, 2013


The Minish Cap was pretty good too

If you like side-quests, TMC was a worthy addition to the series. If not, it can feel a bit meandering (personally, I liked it). Also, you can jump, which reminded me of Link's Awakening.
posted by ersatz at 5:43 PM on December 30, 2013


Well, that's another Zelda Day. No The Whelk this time though. Next time, hmm, I'll probably tackle Wind Waker or Majora's Mask.

Hey, I've got to start planning these things early.
posted by JHarris at 11:03 PM on January 3, 2014


Speaking of Link's Awakening, DX will be run tonight along with Link To The Past and Twilight Princess as part of AGDQ, a week-long speedrunning marathon to raise money for an anti-cancer charity. Later in the week, one of the final runs will be of Wind Waker HD. Lots of other cool stuff on the schedule as well.
posted by sparkletone at 11:26 AM on January 7, 2014


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