I’ve returned from a nice five day jaunt to the Windy City, and everything went off without a hitch. It was a completely relaxing experience, probably thanks largely to flying into Midway – pretty much the mirror opposite of every stop in O’Hare I’ve ever had, not to mention Parish’s recent visit. It was also my first real experience with winter – and while it’s an interesting concept, I can’t say I don’t prefer San Francisco’s wind breaker-optional version better.
[[image: ar_021009_la_01.jpg:Sometimes, when you're out numbered, the best option is to leaf. Yeah.:right:0]]The trip came at an inconvenient time, games-wise, because the only thing portable I had to play was Dragon Quest IV, which is entirely too long to start with Retro Game Challenge and Dragon Quest V (the one I’ve been waiting for) right around the corner. Instead, I opted to get acquainted with an old friend: Link’s Awakening. A few very minor quibbles aside (I seem to spend more time in the menu switching items than I remember), it’s everything it was the first time I played it. Considering how old it is now – can you believe it came out fifteen years ago? – I’m astonished. I wasn’t expecting it to be simplistic, necessarily; rather, I had suspected nostalgia to smooth over some rough spots I’d forgiven in the name of portability, in the same way I can still enjoy Mario Land side-by-side with its superior brothers. That it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of the series to this day is ridiculous.
One asset that’s often overlooked about Link’s Awakening is how perfectly it embodies the ideal “portable Zelda”. Like every other Zelda on a handheld, I played Link’s Awakening the day it came out by sitting on our couch under a lamp, playing in long sessions until it was complete, and every replay since has been in a similar fashion. This time around, I played it between several distractions on the plane – naps, games of Fluxx – or whenever I had ten minutes to kill in those odd times between events that occur during vacation. To my surprise, finishing a dungeon (assuming I didn’t get stuck) wasn’t an impossible feat within those 15 minutes, and the “start from the last doorway you entered” save system was a great approximation (some might even call it a fun twist) of the “save anywhere” system that should be in every portable game. Couple that with the smart, very condensed world map, and you have a very bite-sized game, perfect for its platform, without compromising a single thing that makes it a proper Zelda game.
[[image: ar_021009_la_02.jpg:Play it again, Link.:left:0]]I’ll need to consult the other games next time I take a trip, but I don’t remember any being quite as portable-friendly as this game. Certainly Phantom Hourglass (the only other one I’ve played in recent memory) wasn’t; it felt more like the Gameboy Advance port of A Link to the Past, in that it was a full-fledged Zelda adventure and was smooshed onto the DS, only considering the platform as an after thought (kind of ironic, really, since that was Phantom Hourglass’ M.O.). I don’t necessarily mean to pan any other handheld entry; rather, I’m simply expressing how perfect the balance between “portable” and “Zelda” Nintendo’s initial attempt was. If nothing else, this really highlights the fact that Gameboy games need to be made available in an updated format, whether it be Dsiware or Virtual Console or whathaveyou. There’s a reason I still own a system to play these on.