The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening | Game Boy (1993) | GBC (1998)
The first handheld Zelda also manages to be one of the most bizarre in the series. Did it really happen or was it all a dream?
The legend: Link, possibly from the previous game, is shipwrecked on Koholint Island. To escape, he has to awaken the Wind Fish from its tormented slumber. After collecting a series of magical instruments, Link plays a serenading tune for the fish, battles its final nightmare and finally pulls it out of its coma. Link wakes up soon after this, drifting in the sea, with the island nowhere in sight.
Master swords: If there's one item people remember from this monochromatic dream world, it's the Roc Feather. With it, Link can - gasp - jump over holes and enemies, a first for the overhead games. This ability carried over into underground side-scrolling areas that played a lot like Mario titles. Link's Awakening also let you assign any item to either button, so you could actually walk around without a sword if you so chose.
Best moment: The Nintendo references are cool, but the biggest surprise came at the end. Did this legend even take place?
I AM ERROR: It doesn't seem right to call a game "The Legend of Zelda" when the title character barely makes an appearance. There's nary a mention of the Triforce, Ganon or Hyrule either. Initial complaints about the drab graphics were addressed in 1998 with Link's Awakening DX, so we can't really lay any blame there.
It's a secret to everybody: It's suggested that this game's a dream. The island disappears at the end as Link floats away from the very spot he passed out in the beginning. The rope's even still tied around his arm. But then you see the Wind Fish fly overhead, so who knows - This dream world is inhabited by various Nintendo references, Mario-esque characters, Yoshi dolls and Princess Peach photos - Link's Awakening is heavily based upon Japan-only title "For the Frog the Bell Tolls" - As bad as some Zelda commercials have been, this one's the worst.
Hero of time? Despite being a rock-solid RPG by any criteria, the not-really-Zelda theme keeps it from being the best Zelda title. But it's still better than the vast majority of other Game Boy games. 8/10