Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Link's Awakening vs. Link's Awakening DX

While replaying the DX version of Link's Awakening yesterday, I actually prefer the original monochrome version, which might seem unusual to most people. The DX version has color, a new dungeon, a new sidequest and more to offer, so why would anyone prefer the original?

It might be a little bit similar to Majora's Mask 3D, but there I feel like the 3DS version is certainly superior, they simply changed some things to the worse like the swimming, the ice arrows and some of the bosses, but overall it's the better version. With Link's Awakening it has to do a lot with the German localization, which lost some of its fun and charm in the DX version, but also with the improvements not being good enough.

The Colors

At the time reliving the experience in color on the GameBoy Color system was the big selling point of the DX version. I even sold my first copy of Link's Awakening, so I could afford the DX version for my new GameBoy Color at the time, only to regret the decision later and even re-buying the original version for my collection years later.

The coloring is not bad, I especially like these green areas, which they had added to the ground and which make the overworld look more lush and green. So, they didn't just simply colorize everything, they also added some texture. But still the colorization looks like an afterthought, which it is, especially when compared to how beautiful Oracle of Ages & Seasons look on the GameBoy Color. The visuals of Link's Awakening had been more optimized for these two games and as a result the overworld in Link's Awakening looks a little bit too unnatural and dark in comparison.

On the other hand they made the dark rooms, which appear in Level 2 and Level 8, too bright. In the original you had to light the torches to see the abysses, but in the DX version you can see everything just fine without the light, which makes these rooms easier than they should be.

And the dungeons in general don't have the best coloring. Turtle Rock looks really awesome in color, I give them that, and some other dungeons like the Key Cavern are certainly okay. But who thought it to be a good idea to have pink dungeon walls? It just looks weird. I guess, it's kind of similar to reading a book and then being disappointed by the movie, because it didn't match your imaginations. The original Link's Awakening has stirred my imaginations more than any other game, since I spent a lot of time with this game as a kid and imagined how Koholinth would look like in real. And then suddenly having purple walls in the dungeons kind of broke the immersion.

The Color Dungeon

Probably the biggest reason to get and prefer the DX version was the new Color Dungeon, which came with new puzzles, enemy types, bosses and more. And it's certainly not a bad addition, especially the Red and Blue Tunics giving you the effects of the Piece of Power and Guardian Acorn permanently were a smart choice for a reward. The remixed classic NES dungeon music is great and the otherwise almost empty graveyard was the perfect spot for its location. Only the boss in the dungeon is very annoying with his constant text interruptions.

But while the dungeon certainly is a nice addition, I don't really miss it on playthroughs of the original version. The game is easy enough as it is, so you don't really need the tunics, they might even make the game too easy, though I really enjoy having the powerful blasts of the Red Tunic.

Also, the dungeon itself is rather uninteresting. It's called "Level 0" and in terms of complexity I would even rank it as such. It just doesn't have as much replay value as almost all the other dungeons of Link's Awakening. Still, a nice addition, which is more than what can be said about the photo quest.

Photo Quest

A good game can get worse by adding new content, if the content is not good enough. This might seem weird at first, but take Hyrule Warriors for example. The original game with the Master Quest DLC felt perfect to me, an overall very enjoyable experience. But starting with the Twilight Princess DLC they made questionable choices and the game turned more and more into a massive, never-ending grind fest.

Well, it might be not as bad with the photo quest in Link's Awakening DX, but it's a quirky addition at best. It was designed to sell the rather odd GameBoy Printer hardware, so it's not exactly a timeless feature. It also introduced missable elements to the game, since four photos become unobtainable after certain events. The original game only had three Secret Seashells, which you could miss, but you only needed 20 out of 26 seashells anyway, so it was not an issue.

I also don't like, how one of the photos requires you to steal from the shop, because for me this screws up a savegame. You can't die, if you want to see the best ending, so you can't re-enter the shop ever. And everyone calls you "THIEF", which might not be what you want. So, you have two goals conflicting with each other and because of this I deliberately chose not to get this photo for my savegames. If I want to look at all photos, I simply go to the shop and steal something without saving the game afterwards. But at the same time I keep my name and my 000 death counter stays safe.

Also, the photo events feel out of place in the game and not only because of the chibi artwork. For example with Prince Richard the event at the castle gate triggers, even if you haven't actually visited him before. The whole dialogue is out of context in this case and doesn't make sense. Or the photo with Tarin happens, after he got attacked by bees and is actually sleeping at home. It just doesn't add up.

A problem with the German version here is also that the dialogues seem rather weird, sometimes even broken. They were not on par with the rest of the game, which leads me to another important point...


This is specific to the German version and some other European versions of the game. But if you live in the U.S. you probably can't relate to this, because you've only ever known the safe and kid friendly version of the game.

The Japanese version is the uncensored one and in Europe there is the special case, where the original monochrome version was based on the uncensored Japanese release and the DX version then got based on the censored U.S. release. So, basically the DX version got censored in our region.

You can find all changes in detail here, but the uncensored version of the game has some lewd humor in two occasions. One was the hippo girl at the painter, who is performing a nude portrait. In the original she actually has little pixel breasts and covers them with a sheet, as soon as Link enters the house. She feels ashamed with his presence and turns away from him, when he goes near her, but this whole situation got lost in the censored releases.

A little bit more interesting was the mermaid, who has lost her bikini top. If you dive in front of her, she gets upset and swims away. And when she gives you one of her scales, it gets implied that Link (accidentally) touches her breasts instead. For the U.S. she lost her pearl necklace and there's nothing lewd in the dialogue or anything that could make Link look like a pervert. Safe, but boring.

Some of the lewdness was also thanks to the loose German translation of Claude M. Moyse, who added quite some humor to the game. For example when you sprinkled the Buzz Blobs with Magic Powder, they said things like "Give me your juice, I give you mine" and "Never without a condom".

In the DX version this then got replaced with some hints and I do understand that Nintendo wanted to change this, but I always remember the fun we had as kids, when we shared our discoveries of these "adult" parts of the game. Well, these Buzz Blobs looks like walking condoms anyway.

Claude M. Moyse doesn't work for Nintendo anymore and still today they keep changing his original texts: for the Virtual Console they had to change the name of some characters like the Chain Chomp ("Struppi" turned into "Komet"), because of some maybe outdated references. But I do enjoy the quirky humor of the original, which is partly why I still prefer playing it over the DX version.

Other Changes

They replaced the Stone Slab and Fragment with the Owl Statue and Beak in dungeons, so they could offer multiple hints in one dungeon, instead of just one. It was a unique feature anyway, no other Zelda game has this, where you actually have to find something first each time you needed a hint. Either the hints are put there directly, where you need them, or you have some companion telling you the solutions.

In some cases it was actually necessary to get the hint, it acted as a key for a puzzle, where otherwise the solution would be too hard to figure out. Especially in Level 2, the Bottle Grotto, you could only figure things out by luck with the order of the enemies to get the Nightmare Key. Otherwise you need to find the Stone Slab first, so it wasn't really just a simple hint system. It was another key in the dungeon, which you can skip on later playthroughs. But in other cases you could argue that finding the Stone Slab is even more difficult than solving the real puzzle, which is probably why they re-arranged the content of the chests in some dungeons, so it's easier to find the Owl Beak.

But in the DX version they simply use the Owl Statues for every little puzzle that might not seem intuitive, like the chest with the Nightmare Key in Level 6 or even moving blocks to open a door... It's lame, really. You might as well not have the puzzles at all, if you feel the need to put a solution right next to them.

Also, in some cases you can also find an Elixir instead of Rupees, which I actually prefer, because you get more Rupees than you need anyway.

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