Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Rupee For Your Thoughts: Link's Awakening

Kaepora Gaebora is important, Mario eats mushrooms and becomes an evil raccoon, and Zelda actually dates Link. Now I know it's a dream.           

The fourth Legend of Zelda game ever, Link’s Awakening. You would be surprised, but its influence has reached to almost every major Zelda game made since. This isn’t so much a review as a compilation of some interesting points in Link’s Awakening. Let’s get right to it.

So why is LA so great? I mean, there’s a ton of stuff missing. No Hyrule, no Triforce, no Master Sword, no Gorons, no Zoras*, no Ganondorf**, no Princess Zelda***… be honest the only thing Zelda about this Zelda is Link and Rupees, along with all the familiar items like swords and bombs. The game introduces the Mirror Shield, the first Ocarina, Roc’s Feather, and utilizes many familiar Zelda items that will be reincarnated in the following game, Ocarina of Time. 

* = The older versions of Zoras appeared as monsters not as a sentient race as was seen in Ocarina of Time and forward
** = Ganon only appeared as one of the forms of the shape shifting final boss
*** = Marin was a dream girl created by Link’s dreaming mind based on his memories of Zelda and desires for an ideal mate, and he mistakes her for Zelda as the beginning.

For starters, Malon and Talon from Ocarina of Time are assumedly based off of Marin and Tarin. Tarin also eats a strange mushroom and turns into a raccoon, and that (combined with his normal appearance) indicates he was based off of Mario and the raccoon form in Super Mario bros 3. The owl that gives Link advice will later become Kaepora Gaebora, aka annoying owl that won’t shut up until Majora’s Mask. In Wind Waker, Aryll’s obsession with seagulls might be based off of Marin’s wish to become one. Nayru from Oracle of Ages shares Marin’s ability to put animals in a trance with her singing. 

(yeah the raccoon forms totally look alike)

(yeah the raccoon forms totally look alike)

The game also includes several cameos, including Wart, Yoshi, Kirby, and Chain Chomp. 


Animal village might also have some connection to Animal Forest, which later became Animal Crossing. But that might just be because they have similar names.

This is the same Link from Link to the Past, a direct sequel (oh btw ever notice how Zeldas 2-4 all have “Link” in the title to help remind the ignorant adults that the main character is in fact not Zelda but Link? Yeah that worked out.). He has sailed away from Hyrule and I believe it was either for a journey of enlightenment or because he figured as long as he stayed in Hyrule trouble would follow him. You know, just like Goku at the end of Cell Saga. Also like Goku that totally didn’t work at all in the long run. So Link from Link to the Past is sailing when his boat is struck by lightning and he wakes up on an island, where he has been rescued by Marin, who has a striking resemblance to Zelda. 

(just one overused reference. Only one. Let’s get it out of the way….)

(just one overused reference. Only one. Let’s get it out of the way….)

The Wind Fish, a local deity, is sleeping in a Yoshi egg on the highest mountain on the island and waking him up will grant the waker a wish, any wish. Supposedly. To wake him Link must collect the 8 sirens instruments from the 8 dungeons of the island and play them AND an Ocarina SIMULTANEOUSLY. I know this is Zelda and I don’t usually care about this kind of thing but I am totally calling bulls*** on this. One person cannot play a detailed and beautiful song from the mind of Koji Kondo on 9 instruments all at the same time. Even a super-intelligent octopus couldn’t pull this off. 

So unlike every Zelda from Link to the Past and forward, this game is completely minimalist in terms of plot and is very action oriented. That is….until just after the 5th dungeon. To unlock the next dungeon, Link must conquer the mini-dungeon (and by that I mean set of ruins with three rooms and one boss) which I believe is called Southern Face Shrine. After he beats the boss and gets the key, there is actually another room ahead. Inside is a mural that claims: “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!”

Now, every single thing and place that I have seen on the internet claims that this is all a dream of the Wind Fish. Um…… initially I do not believe this at all. Every single aspect of this game builds up to this being Link’s dream, not the Wind Fish’s. The only thing that is evidence this is the Wind Fish’s dream is a line by the owl “as part of the Wind Fish’s spirit I am the guardian of his dream world”. However, the nightmares entered the dream world once and wreaked havoc. The Wind Fish says that he and Link will awaken together. Now let’s think about things that are seen and not talked about, but are within the game. Evidence that this is indeed Link’s dream. 

Number 1: Rupees. While it is universally accepted throughout Zelda as the official currency, this is an island in the middle of nowhere. This works in Wind Waker because of that game’s history. In every game that is in Hyrule the currency is rupees (also, India and Nepal), in Majora’s mask it remains rupees because it is a parallel world to Hyrule, and in Oracle of Seasons/Ages those lands are Hyrule’s neighbors, and its possible they have a universal currency much as the Euro in Europe. But Koholint is a completely 100% isolated island (in theory) and it’s a freaking dream supposedly of the Wind Fish, a mystical whale of sorts. Would a whale really have dreams of Rupees? Would he possibly dream of a game with no currency? And what purpose do rupees serve in this game in particular? Buying items and minigames. That’s pretty much it. The Wind Fish would never make up an item shop and a claw machine minigame on its own. No…..this stuff comes from Link. Because it’s a dream of his. 

Number 2: The Nightmares. I genuinely believe that the nightmares that have haunted the dream world of the Wind Fish are not a random act of evil or magic. No, this is the darkness within Link’s soul or memories. It could possibly be argued that the 8 monsters in the dungeons area original creations of the Wind Fish’s dream. Still, only Link would have a dream where he has to conquer 8 dungeons. The Wind Fish would have no such dream and the nightmare spirits would not decide to split up like so when the Wind Fish is sleeping. With no Link around and the Wind Fish sleeping there’s no one to play the Sirens. Most importantly, the final boss fight is all monsters within Link’s own mind. Okay, the first form of this waddling pile of gel is unique and so is the last form Dethl, but those forms in between are as follows: Agahnim and Ganon, whom Link defeated in his previous adventure of Link to the Past and share their exact moves, Moldorm, the boss from the first dungeon reincarnated as a shadow (again, this is something link already faced), and likewise the miniboss Lanmola from the sand area near the animal village. All of these are monsters Link has already faced, and thus it is his nightmare that he is conquering.

Number 3: The Siren Instruments and the Ocarina. Of all things Link could dream about that potentially save the island and wake the Wind Fish, of all things he dreams of musical instruments. What an odd coincidence. The Wind Fish wouldn’t dream of any instruments. Cuz he’s a fish. What knowledge would he have of drums, cellos, and mini pianos? I can understand the concept of the song Ballad of the Wind Fish waking him up being dreamt by the Wind Fish, but the instruments no. Also, let me remind you this game was pre-ocarina of time. So this was the first ocarina (unless there was one in Link to the Past. I don’t think there was….). 

Number 4: Items from other Zelda games. Face it; the Wind Fish does not have any connection with Hyrule. Therefore, he wouldn’t possibly dream up all these items that are from other Zelda games, including Bombs, Bow and Arrows, Compasses, Dungeon Maps, Boss Keys, Small Keys, Pieces of Heart, Pegasus Boots, Boomerang, and even the bloody Hookshot and Mirror Shield (again, pre-ocarina of time). No f***ing fish can dream up a Hookshot. There is no fish that can think that up or imagine it just because the island needed it, since it was placed in the dream for Link…..and probably by Link and his subconscious. However, it is conceivable that much of the island is created by the Wind Fish as was described. A lot of the people and animals are almost certainly from the Wind Fish because the game tells you this. The Wind Fish has items of its own too, unique to this game and made by it. Like the stone beaks to the owl statues, obviously referencing its owl spirit thing. Or the golden leaves, guardian acorns, and secret seashells. 

Number 5: Marin. It is quite possible that Marin, and probably Tarin for that matter, is a character created by Link’s dreams. Face it, this is the only….THE ONLY Zelda game where Link has a clear girl who acts as a love interest. No version of Princess Zelda acted with any sign of love towards Link, Saria was a childhood friend, he had no actual interest in Ruto even if she wanted to marry him, Midna was just flirting with him and he had no actual reaction, and WW’s Tetra was very young and showed no interest in love. And if you’re trying to count even more minor characters like Malon from Lon Lon Ranch, Impa, or Nabooru you are SERIOUSLY pulling at strings for this one. First, Marin saves his life. Then later on they have a romantic beach scene where she says she’s always imagined something beyond the sea and “When I discovered you, Link, my heart skipped a beat”. It’s so fascinating that it feels like so much more romance is developed during the short time and few scenes and low graphics of this old Gameboy game than in any of the full-blown Zelda games. 

Oh wait… I forgetting Ilia? Well…..I thought that might’ve gone somewhere but at the end of the game Ilia served absolutely no purpose whatsoever and had no resolution to her. She has amnesia and doesn’t even know who Link is for almost the entire game, and he seems to be helping her out of duty to a fellow villager and childhood friend more so than a love interest. He saves her, gets her memory back, and she is completely left out of the game from then forward. At the end of Link’s awakening we see Marin vanish but at the secret ending we’re fortunate enough to see her turn into a seagull and fly away, her own dream fulfilled. So this may sound like a case for Marin more so as a love interest than a dream but when you think about it……of course Link would dream of an ideal love interest. Link wakes up and sees her, calling her Zelda briefly because her appearance is based on an island-dwelling down-to-earth version of Zelda, who might’ve been considered a love interest in previous games but didn’t have it explored much. Zelda has always been attractive so this would be a good base. Zelda is a princess and Link is just a nobody, very blue-collar….er green-collar guy. Marin is totally within Link’s social sphere or class hierarchy. Remember, this is a more medieval setting, a time when people married within their own class, so to speak. Marin sings, which goes great with Link’s love of music (I again cite the Sirens Instruments). She also likes animals, as does Link. She also is curious, wanting to go beyond the island (again just like Link) and find out what’s beyond it. She wants to explore. She wants……..adventure, Link’s favorite word. An attractive female who has Zelda’s general body, is totally Link’s type, sings, likes animals, and also wants to go on adventures? She IS Link’s ideal fantasy dream girl! And only such a girl would exist in Link’s dream, which would be what this game is!

Okay, so the in-game lore I guess might hint that this is the Wind Fish’s dream if you look really close at it. The owl says it’s part of the Wind Fish’s dream world. The mural in the S Face Shrine mentions both a “finder” and a “dreamer”, which may imply that they are two separate beings, Link being the finder and Wind Fish the dreamer by default. The physical evidence and imagery clearly says this is Link’s dream, however.

So I have come to believe the Wind Fish’s final words. “Let us awaken together”. This is both their dreams. The Wind Fish also says “long has been my slumber.” The theory goes as such. Inside his egg or whatever the Wind Fish must’ve been asleep somewhere at sea, perhaps on a submerged and smaller island near where Link crashed his ship. After a long time, Link’s ship is hit by lightning and he loses consciousness. Somehow, the Wind Fish’s mind draws Link into its dream world of Koholint. Now, this is a dream world. It was fashioned together by the mind of the Wind Fish, the dreamer. However, once Link is drawn into it they are now both the dreamers dreaming of the same island, the same dream world. Link’s mind mixes with the Wind Fish’s, and they both pool their dreams together: A Zelda-like adventure taking place on the island of Koholint. Remember, the Wind Fish only dreamed of an island surrounded by water and with humans and animals. No monsters, no technological marvels like the Hookshot, nothing of the sort really. And since they are all imaginary, no one realizes that all of a sudden a bunch of stuff from monsters to Marin have suddenly materialized and just assume it’s like it always has been. The nightmares of the dungeons were manufactured by the Wind Fish’s mind, seeing as they are all unique enemies never in previous Zelda games. The exception is the final boss, the “last Nightmare”, last not in terms of defeat, but in terms of occurrence. This is the most recent nightmare, and therefore the most powerful since it is new, coming from Link’s part of the dream and his memories, taking on the form of familiar boss enemies. It’s developed to incorporate some forms actually encountered by Link over the course of his dream, seeing as these add new memories to his mind. Since their minds are melded and their dreams intertwined, the moment the Wind Fish wakes up, so too does Link. 

The point I’m trying to make? Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is influential on many games to follow, has a unique and thought-provoking twist/premise, as is most certainly worth checking out. Or at least further consideration and being mentioned more in future Zelda games. And I know it has the generic “it was all a dream” endings but the smallest idea such as 'your world is not real' has a big impact when you add the right drama. A simple little thought that changes everything. You're so certain of your world, of what's real. Goes to show that Link is so adventurous that he even has quests in his dreams.

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