I know the following statement can be made for just about every Nintendo game. But considering how numb I’ve become to that over the years of playing their games, I feel that it should say something that I need to reiterate.
What a fucking weird game.
Coming off of the trails to the masterful Link to the Past, a game that is still considered to be one of the best ever made to this day, Nintendo had a lot to live up to. If they wanted to top that, they’d have to bring their A game nearly twenty times over. So what did they do?
Make a portable game on the Gameboy. Hm.
While most people agree that it’s not as good as the game that came before it, it is also agreed that this game is still an incredible classic. For Zelda’s first outing on a portable system, Nintendo managed to knock yet another ball out of the park. Though they didn’t manage to knock it out of the solar system.
According to popular opinion, it’s the next game that did that.
Plot: So You Thought You Had Weird Fever Dreams?
After saving Hyrule in Link to the Past, our hero heads out to sea for yet another adventure. His voyage is about as successful as J.K. Rowling’s attempts to seem more inclusive, and he ends up washed ashore on a strange island. Here, he is quickly set on a quest: awaken the Wind Fish, guardian of Koholint Island, where he’s arrived. To do so, he must become a one-man band with eight magic instruments, climb the tower, and free the creature from the egg atop the island.
I mean… fish do come from eggs, so I guess it kind of makes sense. But I’m pretty sure that fish eggs don’t look like it’s going to pop out a friendly dinosaur friend whom I can knock into a pit for extra air.
On the surface, it’s your typical Zelda plot. Simple and weird. But then, for reasons completely beyond me, they decide to pull a Mario 2 (or Doki Doki Panic, if you want to be the worst) and drop a twist that makes the whole thing pointless. IT WAS ALL JUST A DREAM!! Yeah! Our dude Link is so addicted to adventure that he goes on whole quests in his sleep! Did you think you were dedicated to your career?!
As bizarre as this plot is, it’s far from bad. Sure, it’s as predictable as any other Zelda or child’s game out there. But it does plenty that I enjoy. Most importantly: the main villain isn’t Ganon (though he does take the form of our familiar piggy enemy), and Zelda is only passingly mentioned! It stands completely on it’s own, forging it’s own identity as a Zelda game!
And a Mario game. And sort of a a Kirby game. Yeah, this shit is really weird.
Presentation: Good Ol’ Gameboy Charm
People will say that the visuals of the Gameboy have aged for the worse. I disagree with this sentiment. They, just like the NES visuals, have a special rustic-like charm in my heart. One which I’ll never get sick of.
If you’re familiar with the Gameboy, you already know what this game looks like. The color pallet consists of black and green/ black and white (though there is a little more color if you play the DX version on the GB Color). The sprites are simple, lightly detailed, and oddly adorable. The music has that classic digital, highly compressed sound that made early video games. It’s all just so damn charming through and through.
Though it does sort of leave me scrounging for anything more to say. So I’m just going to move on to the next segment now.
Gameplay: Mario, Meet Link, and Vice Versa
If you’ve played a top-town Zelda game, then you know how most of this game is played. You run around, gather items and abilities, make your way through dungeons, solve puzzles, slay monsters and bosses, and repeat the process until the game is over. You gather Rupees to buy stuff, heart pieces to increase your health, and so on.
But this game does a few things to change things up. For one, there are now side-scrolling screens (or the Triple S’s, as I like to call them) where Link must jump his way through obstacles. Such obstacles include, and for those who haven’t played this game please be aware that I’m not joking, Goomba’s, Piranha Plants, and the occasional Chain-Chomp, though you’ll find them outside the SSS’s most of the time.
Despite this odd choice, the gameplay is still as excellent as ever. The controls are tight and highly responsive, making it super easy to play, as you’d expect from a Nintendo game. Exploring, while more limited than it was on the console games, is still addictive and fun. The dungeons are still challenging, and the enemies within them don’t mess around. It’s far from the hardest game in the series, but it’s still a decent challenge.
Unless you’re like my dear little brother, who has played enough Zelda to make an average man sick. Or hung over your shoulder while you yourself played them. Quite literally over the shoulder, might I add.
Love you, bro.
In short: this game is fucking strange. It’s great, but it’s odd. There is no doubt that it’s a classic, and it deserves the remake treatment.
Which I am very much looking forward to. Mainly because it just looks SO FUCKING CUTE!!