Not the best Zelda, but still quite good
So I finally got around to playing this! And well, it's pretty good! But it's not super excellent. It's better than the two Zeldas for the NES but not better than any other Zelda I can think of.
This is Zelda, and it plays like Zelda, so I won't talk about the gameplay in detail. There's eight dungeons, at the end of each one there's a relic of some sort that you have to collect, there's an ocarina, a sword, a shield, and a lot of running around finding stuff. Tadaaa! Zelda gameplay!
So what were my disappointments in the game? Well, first off, I really missed the master sword. One of the most badass moment in every Zelda game is when you finally get that sword! I missed it! There's actually a Level 2 sword that you can find, but that's sort of boring. There's also no other suit of clothes except the basic one, there's only one type of arrows..at least there's two shields! And there's less hearts than in the main Zelda game. In some ways, this truly felt like a toned down, handheld version of Zelda...and surprise, that's what it is!
Also, there's a lot more aimless wandering around than in the later Zeldas. It's similar to the first Zelda in a way, where it's not always clear what you should be doing. And I think they knew it, because they have this hint system in the game in the form of some dude you call on a phone, and he always hints at what you should be doing next. Sometimes though it gets pretty rough, like he'd tell you, you have to go to the dungeon at the top of the mountain! So you go there, but once you're there you're stuck, you can't seem to figure out what to do. Well it seems that you need a specific item to be able to advance, and if you go back to the phone guy he'll tell you "Oh you need such and such thing? Go ask that guy!". It's annoying, i'd rather he'd tell me beforehand what I need rather than make me go there, and then come back scratching my head wondering what the hell I'm supposed to do. More than once I was stuck like that and I had to go on gamefaqs, only to realize that I was missing an item and that if I went back to the phone booth NOW he'd be telling me to go get said item. It's a hassle really.
Aside from that, I had a hard time with the 2d-ness of the game. See, the last 2D Zelda I played was LTTP over ten years ago, since then it's only been 3D Zeldas for me. And the adjustment is kinda of hard, because the game seems like it WANTS to be in 3D, a lot of the dungeons are multilayered so that if you fall in a hole on an upper floor, you'll fall at about the same spot on the lower floor. I remember that LTTP also used that technique, but it's hard to pull your head out of the 3D realm of seeing, where you basically see everything. In a 3D zelda, if you're on an upper floor and you look down, you see what's below you can you can think "oh, hey, if I jump down here I'll land there!", but I had a hard time with that same thing in Link's awakening. The game also has a hint system in the dungeons too in the form of the owl statues. Now that I think about it, there's an awful amount of hints in the game aren't there? They probably knew that the game was a bit more random than what people were used to at the time, especially after a Link to the Past which from what I remember is more streamlined than Link's awakening.
Graphically, the game is nice, it does have nice color compared to a lot of Game Boy Color games out there. The music is also nice, except, EXCEPT, for that song that plays when you get a powerup. And you get those powerups OFTEN, let me tell you, you'll want to tear your speakers apart after only one hour of playing. This is one of the rare games where I actually lowered the sound to keep from annoying everyone in the house, including me!
Still, this is a very good game. The story is very sweet, at two occasions I felt my heart tighten a bit...or maybe I was having a heart attack. No honestly, it's a sweet, simple story, and the ending is somewhat sad. All in call, I'd recommend this game!