Zelda 64 has been rightly heralded as one of the greatest action/adventure/RPG/puzzle/fishing games of all time. Some gaming sites have even gone as far as to label the title "perfect!" We at the GIA scoff at such ridiculous hyperbole. Off the top of my head, at least one major flaw springs immediately to mind: Zelda 64 is big. Zelda 64 requires a large 256 megabit cart, a larger Nintendo 64 system, huge speakers and a gargantuan television to fully appreciate its splendor. These items are difficult, for example, to fit on an airplane (even if you ignore the suffocating cries of your neighboring passengers). The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, however, is available for the compact and fully portable Game Boy system; much more ideal for air flight. Zelda: LA, in fact, is the only truly perfect Zelda game. Both Zelda: LA and Zelda 64 offer flawless Zelda gameplay, but while Zelda 64 can only be played under certain circumstances, Zelda: LA can be played anywhere, anytime. Clearly, omnipresent perfection beats spatially limited perfection any day of the week. Q.E.D.

Color, glorious

   Nintendo recently re-released Zelda: LA as Zelda DX, enhanced for the Gameboy Color. Graphically speaking, the world of Koholint Island has never looked better. This is undoubtedly the machine's flagship title and the first to truly benefit from Nintendo's "color re-release" program. Sprites and backgrounds are crisp, clear, and colorful, free of their former four-color blur and murkiness. The graphics clearly surpass the original NES and rival (at inspired moments) those of the Super Nintendo. The music, sadly, is still limited to the four-channel stereo boops of Gameboy yore. Nevertheless, Zelda DX features some of the most wonderfully orchestrated boops the sound chip has ever produced.

   Gameplay is where this game, like every Zelda title, truly shines. The overworld is filled with shops and houses, charming characters, and fierce enemies in tricky environments. Warps and secret passageways await the thorough adventurer -- as do the highly-collectable Secret Seashells. Familiar items such as the bomb, power bracelet, dash boots, and hookshot open up new vistas to explore. Less familiar ones such as the feather (jump!), magic powder, and Flying Rooster also help Link's quest. Link traipses around the overworld quite a bit in search of the ingeniously laid-out dungeons and their secrets. Each dungeon provides a linear set of goals while permitting non-linear exploration. It's difficult to explain, but it's the Miyamoto way; the game always nudges you down the correct path without actually nudging, as the design itself provides inherent clues and direction. The tone of Zelda DX is much lighter than that of the other games. There is no Princess to rescue, only a mystery to uncover. The enemies are often a riotous "who's-who" of Nintendo's other franchises, with Goombas, Piranha Plants, and even Kirby making cameo appearances.

Album snapshots

   The quest is long and challenging, filled with subquests and adventures far beyond the eight main dungeons. The classic Zelda gameplay never gets old, so the title will always fill the hours on those long, boring trips. Nintendo has added a few new features to the color version. Most immediately, a new dungeon awaits, its puzzles based on color. The dungeon, while enjoyable, is neither reason enough to buy the game nor a blemish on the original's excellence. Link can now gain a Blue or Red Tunic to increase either his Defense or Offense. Nintendo has also hidden 12 "pictures" throughout the game. Perform a photoworthy action (play with the Chomp Chomp, let Marin fall on your head, etc.), and a mouse will run out and "capture" your picture in the form of a detailed cartoon graphic. These pictures can be collected in a photo album and printed with the Game Boy Printer. In the end, however, the new features can't compare with the title's stunning colorization. And color is more than a sufficient reason to give this excellent title another look.

   If you love adventure titles of any sort and can play this game, you should have picked it up already. If you haven't yet, you should be blugeoned until you do. There is simply no better portable adventure available -- and few better ones on the "big machines," either. Don't be lulled into viewing Zelda DX as a dummied-down "portable" Zelda; this game more than lives up to the pedigree of its bigger brothers.

Review by Andrew Vestal.
Zelda DX
Developer Nintendo
Publisher Nintendo
Genre Action RPG
Medium Cartridge
Platform Game Boy Color
Release Date  12.15.98
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