Dreams of the Wind Fish – My First Playthrough of Link’s Awakening

To the finder…
The Isle of Koholint is but an illusion…
Human, monster, sea, sky…
A scene on the lid of a sleeper’s eye…
Awake the dreamer, and Koholint will vanish
much like a bubble on a needle…
Cast-away, you should know the truth!

These cryptic words are etched into a wall in the back of the Southern Face Shrine. Link, our shipwrecked hero finds them after gaining access to the Face Shrine – one of the latter dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

I will begin by stating my quest was to play through Link’s Awakening for the very first time, which I completed very recently. I sheepishly admit I had never actually played the game even though it had been on my list for quite some time. I am even more ashamed to admit I have only completed a handful of the 16 Legend of Zelda games as I begin far more games than I fully complete(I counted the Oracle games as 1, and am not counting the Phillips CD-i games at all…). I decided to set my sights on Link’s Awakening as I knew very little about this particular Zelda game and also the fact it was recently announced from Nintendo that a remastered version for the Switch will be released in the near future, so it seemed a good place to start. There is also the fact that I have been playing more original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games that I had missed out on. I had played Tetris and few other games on a friend’s Game Boy, but didn’t get a Game Boy Color of my own until after Poke-mania had swept across the country and I begged my parents for one.

I played through the original version on my Game Boy Color, though many prefer the colorized DX version that was released later. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

Link’s Awakening was originally released for the Game Boy in August 1993 and Link’s Awakening DX was released for the Game Boy Color in December 1998. I played through the original version as I haven’t come across many copies of the DX version on the past. The differences in the two versions are minor, the DX version has an extra dungeon – the Color Dungeon which incorporates the fact that it’s….in color as well as the picture mode in the game which you could then use the Game Boy Printer to print out copies of the in game pictures.

The game takes place after the events in A Link to the Past and the opening of the game shows Link sailing over the ocean on a mission to recruit others in the fight against evil but is caught in a fierce storm and ends up shipwrecked on the beach of the strange island of Koholint. Link then comes across a mysterious owl( A different one – Kaepora Gaebora isn’t introduced until Ocarina of Time)who informs him that the island is being terrorized by nightmare creatures and tasks Link with waking the mythical spirit – The Wind Fish who sleeps in a giant egg atop Mt. Tamaranch. The owl tells Link to find the 8 Instruments of the Sirens found in dungeons throughout the island which will wake the Wind Fish and dispel the nightmares from the island. It is in the latter stages of the game you read the above verse and discover that the island itself along with its inhabitants are merely a dream manifested from the Wind Fish’s slumber.

I was impressed with how well the controls worked, given the limitations of the Game Boy(s) having only a D-pad, A, B, Start, and Select buttons. You have an inventory item assigned to each button which can seemingly make for a lot of pressing the Start button to pause the game and assign different items. This can mean switching items over your 2 buttons every few screens. You can have your sword equipped with A and your shield with the B button and go up a screen or two and then will need to press Start to assign bombs or your bow to a different button. There are also items that you can use by pressing A and B simultaneously like the Pegasus Boots and Roc’s Feather which allows you to dash jump over greater distances or if you have your bow and bombs equipped to A and B you can press both at the same time to shoot bomb arrows which I found interesting. The saving mechanic for the game(in the original GB version at least) is….interesting however. You need to press the A and B buttons along with Select and Start at the same time with will prompt you to save and quit the game, this proved the be a minor inconvenience though.

Walking Madame MeowMeow’s “dog” BowWow. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

The items are all the typical items we’ve come to expect to see in a Legend of Zelda game. You find your sword and shield and then will eventually acquire more items like the hookshot and bombs, as well as the wonderfully overpowered boomerang. The game has the distinction of having absolutely no mention of Princess Zelda(other than titular) or image of a Tri-Force. Another anomaly is multiple crossover characters from other Nintendo franchises are present on Koholint Island. There are goombas and bloopers along with a small round enemy that tries to inhale you known as an Anti-Kirby. You come across a Yoshi doll in a multiple item trading sequence through the game, during one of these trades you bring a letter from the character Christine the Goat who is an actual goat to her pen pal Mr Write who then proceeds to show you the enclosed picture of his pen pal which has an image of Princess Peach. My personal favorite though, is the island denizen Madame MeowMeow who asks you to walk her “dog” – a giant chain-chomp named BowWow.

The dungeons I found interesting; each getting less linear and more complex in design as the game progresses, with some having multiple levels to navigate. From the first dungeon, the straight forward Tail Cave to the labryinthian Turtle Rock. Each dungeon has a Nightmare Boss defending one of the 8 Instruments of the Sirens, along with a mini-boss(sometimes two). The final dungeon Turtle Rock was one of the highlights of the game for me. A dungeon of 4 floors culminating with a battle against the Evil Eagle on top of the mountain. After collecting all 8 instruments you play “Ballad of the Wind Fish” on your ocarina(another game mechanic that is further expanded in Ocarina of Time) to break open the giant egg and stumble down into the maze below. You then battle the Shadow Nightmare which takes the shape or shadow, rather of some familiar foes including Moldorm, Agahnim, and Ganon before transforming into the cycloptic creature Dethl, who you must slay in order to wake the Wind Fish.

The boss battle with Evil Eagle at the top of Turtle Rock dungeon was my favorite. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

The game design I found was interesting and really enjoyed the general “strangeness” of this particular Zelda game. This has a more lighthearted, whimsical tone to it, whereas other later entries have a decidedly darker feel. There is however, still a lingering feel of something sinister lurking within the island. Game Director Takashi Tezuka has stated his intent was to create something akin to the tv show Twin Peaks. You are washed ashore on an island with very odd, quirky inhabitants and full of monsters which you are throughout the game questioning what is actually real, if anything at all. The Owl admits during your quest that even he himself didn’t believe you are real at first. After you recover the 8 instruments, you discover the Owl is actually the spirit of the Wind Fish guiding you along. I do very highly recommend this game as it was a great experience. I am now planning on playing through the Oracle game(s) on the Game Boy Color next. I am truly glad I was able to experience this entry into the Legend of Zelda timeline and this makes me EVEN MORE excited to play the remake on the Nintendo Switch…whenever that is.


2 Years of Nintendo Switch – Things I Love and Would Love Nintendo to Change

The Nintendo Switch was released two years ago on March 3 2017 and has been a huge success for Nintendo. The console has sold over 32 million units as of December 2018. Today I am going through some of my favorite things about the Switch as well as some that I really would like Nintendo to correct.

I remember being cautiously optimistic when Nintendo announced their newest console they would be releasing to follow up what most consider one of their biggest failures with the Wii U( the Virtual Boy still tops that list….). I thought the idea of a hybrid portable console sounded like an interesting idea. Nintendo has always had interesting ideas…but they haven’t always been the most practical, something that you would use on a consistent basis. The Wii was a very successful console, that DID have a lot of great games…you just had to sift through all of the games that just cashed in on the gimmick of motion controls. I didn’t mind using the Wii-mote and nunchuk in place of a controller as much as I tired rather quickly of being forced to use motion controls where I would have greatly preferred a conventional controller. The Wii U brought about their Game Pad, complete with a touch screen that you could also use to play games if for example – someone wanted the tv and you wished to remain playing. (Yes, I know……only one tv in the house?) However, the Wii U was yet another system without a very large collection of third-party titles and was generally left for dead. You cannot talk about the Switch and it’s success without pointing out it’s essentially what started out as the Wii U Game Pad. Anyways…..here are some things that I really enjoy about the Switch.

Mario Odyssey is still my favorite Switch game. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

  Games – I’ll start by talking about the games the Switch currently has in its library. I am obligated to begin by mentioning launch title – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While BotW was released on the Wii U as well, the Switch has far, far more people playing it so will forever be known as a Switch title first and foremost. I absolutely LOVE Mario Odyssey as well, playing through Odyssey for me was similar to playing through Super Mario Galaxy . Splatoon 2 expanded on the first game and improved the multiplayer experience. And then there’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which is essentially everything any Super Smash Bros. packed into one game. There are also exclusives that aren’t using their flagship franchises(i.e. Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong) like Octopath Traveler and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Nintendo has been putting an extra effort into getting more third-party support this time around, along with a robust platform for indie games in the digital store.

  Hardware – I try to be as careful as possible with all my consoles but I can say the Switch is a very sturdy little console. I knocked it off a side table(to my utter horror) a couple times and not even a scratch, and have heard stories of much worse from others who have noted how durable it is. I also put a screen protector on to minimize fingerprints and scratches. I actually was pleasantly surprised with the Joy-Con controllers for the Switch after using them for the first few times. I was a bit skeptical at first, they seemed likely to feel anything but durable and having tiny, impossible to use buttons but I have really grown to like using them, even with lobster claws for hands. The HD Rumble feature works remarkably well(I CAN feel those ice cubes in my glass),even though it isn’t something that is utilized to any great extent. Nintendo also tweaked their Pro Controller they launched alongside the Switch, and is a very sound, sturdy controller. There is just enough of a weight to the console and controllers, not enough to make it heavy or cumbersome. The touch screen works as good as anything currently on anyone’s smartphone, even after putting a screen protector over it. The motion controls do work surprisingly well, though I honestly don’t use them much.

Function – The Switch is designed so that you can play it either in handheld mode, or you can place the console in the accompanying cradle to use in docked mode. It performs equally well in both modes, although the video quality isn’t quite as well as you would want for some games. I was surprised at how seamlessly you can be playing in handheld mode and place it onto the dock and your game is on your tv screen, or vice versa. Nintendo is improving their online services, even if it seems to be baby steps. The Switch is a completely enjoyable console to play, I have spent many, many hours playing it either on the tv in my living room or lying in bed, or should I actually venture outside my home and spend any significant amount of hours(not something that happens real often…). I have found myself buying multi-platform games almost entirely because I want to play it on the Switch, yes I bought Skyrim and Final Fantasy IX….but along with many others too.

On the flip side of all that, here are some things I’m not crazy about and wish Nintendo could or would change…

Another console, another release of Skyrim… (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

  Games – I will begin talking about the games. I love many Switch games and have bought titles that are ports or remastered versions and released on the Switch, but it does seem like Nintendo is padding their catalog with games that were Playstation and Xbox titles from previous generations. You can buy versions of Skyrim, Doom, Diablo 3, and a remastered version of Dark Souls. Also, these games are generally more expensive for the Switch than you can currently buy on the PS4 or Xbox one. Nintendo has gone with a physical format for their games by using a proprietary SD card, rather than a standard Blu-Ray disc so that can have an impact on cost. I’m not even going to begin discussing how much the upcoming Resident Evil ports of 0, 1, and 4 are going to cost….<sigh>. Nintendo does also seem rather determined to re-release just about every one of its Wii U exclusives on the Switch like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2, etc. It can seem like they’re simply recycling titles from the previous console…..I mean hardly anyone bought the Wii U and there were good games for it but a lot of them were too little too late as most people had already long passed on ever buying it.

Hardware – The hardware aspect of the Switch has several things I am not real fond of. First, would be a seemingly minor gripe about the Pro Controller d-pad. It has too “soft” of a feel making it easy to rotate 360 degrees if you were for example playing a fighting game like Street Fighter, but it can make it difficult to hit a specific direction. I have been playing a lot of Tetris 99 lately and the d-pad on the Pro controller can cause you to inadvertently hard drop a block when you where simply be moving blocks around. I have heard that the more recently produced Pro Controllers have corrected this issue, in the mean time I have been using the Joy-Cons with the smaller, more accurate d-pad for games like Tetris 99. There is also a number of people that have had problems with the battery of their Switch and the charging dock not working properly. I personally haven’t had any issues with the battery or charging for mine, but the design of the dock could use a revamp if Nintendo does begin to manufacture different versions of the Switch. I do also wish there would be a headphone jack in the controllers, at least in the Pro Controller. Should you ever want to play something in docked mode but want to be able to hear the game more clearly with a good headset you’re out of luck. This is one of the reasons why I am skeptical as to the quality of playing games like Fortnite on the Switch. You would benefit from using a headset but you can only use the headphone jack ON the console itself and are simply unable to enjoy using headphones AND the Pro Controller. The Switch hardware does have its drawbacks and limitations…

The Switch online service is there, but still needs some work if Nintendo wants to compete for online play. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

Function – Here is where I complain about Nintendo’s continuing battle with getting online gaming right. The Switch Online service still needs more to it to make it really worth paying for. There is the Members Only Deal of purchasing a set of wireless NES controllers for your Switch at $59.99. The controllers are impressive, but the fact that you have to subscribe just to be able to purchase something isn’t something I’m really crazy about. I have an NES Classic so I do have the option to play those games currently on the NES Switch Online. I would prefer something more along the lines of Microsoft’s Games Pass. When Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was released a lot of people, including myself had lag issues with the online play, making it feel like you were playing entire matches in slow-mode. The online play for games like Mario Kart 8 have been pretty good, whereas Splatoon 2’s online play is generally good with not a lot of matches getting disconnected. The online infrastructure in general I really really would like Nintendo to improve, this being my biggest wish to Nintendo. However, there are the rumors that Microsoft and Nintendo may be partnering up to bring Xbox live service(or something similar) to the Switch. If true, this could be incredible for Nintendo. Xbox Live has consistently provided the best most stable online gaming network since launching back in 2002. I also wish the Switch was not WiFi only; it would be beneficial to be able to use an ethernet cable for stability. There are some things that I dislike about the Switch versus other consoles, but the things I enjoy about it seem to overwhelmingly make up for a few minor(mostly) gripes. It has been a great success for Nintendo so far…I am truly excited to see what the next few years bring.

Here are a couple Switch news links – https://www.businessinsider.com/nintendo-winning-video-games-fastest-selling-console-2019-3

https://www.gameinformer.com/2019/02/21/rumor-microsoft-bringing-game-pass-and-published-titles-to-switch