My goodness, it certainly has been a while since a spoiler alert was needed. With this, the final post in our Link’s Awakening series, we will take a look at the story of this classic title, particularly the ending of the tale. If you haven’t played Link’s Awakening before, may I suggest you purchase a 3DS, download the game, play it and love it dearly. Or you could just borrow it from a friend. Either way, if you don’t want the game spoiled, do not read ahead. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Traditionally, most Zelda games feature Link against a clear antagonist. Whether it’s saving Hyrule from Ganon, preventing the destruction of Termina at the hands of Skull Kid, or simply protecting Zelda from Moblins; Link is clearly the “good guy” in each of his adventures. In Link’s Awakening however, there is no princess to save or looming threat to the peace of Koholint Island. Link simply wants to return to Hyrule.
Fortunately, our wayward hero meets a sagely owl early in his quest, who informs Link of a rather clear way for him to get home. All he needs to do is collect the eight Siren’s Instruments from their respective dungeons and play them at the Great Egg to wake the Wind Fish from a deep sleep. There is a catch though: by disturbing the Wind Fish’s slumber, Link also interrupts his dreams; which happen to include the entirety of Koholint Island.
Intitally, Link (and hopefully the player) is unaware of the consequences of waking the Wind Fish. The Hylian makes his way through a handful of dungeons; killing monsters, gathering instruments, and generally being a hero. Along the way, he makes many new friends on the island, as well as a potential love interest in the form of a hibiscus wearing cutie named Marin. But with each dungeon boss Link defeats, more and more of the details just don’t add up. Why are monsters referred to as Nightmares? Why is it that no one on the island can remember their past, or the history of Koholint for that matter? The mysteries of this new land only seem to compound with each step.
All of these questions are answered in the Southern Face Shrine, where Link finds a ruin that displays the terrible secret. Koholint Island is nothing more than a dream of the Wind Fish, and will cease to exist once the deity is awakened. Upon exiting the shrine, Link is confronted once more by the owl, who tries to console Link with the hope that only the Wind Fish truly knows the fate of the island. The bird insists that the hero should trust his instincts and forge ahead to the next dungeon.
Naturally, Link does as he is told, collects the rest of the instruments and wakes the Wind Fish. And sure enough, Koholint Island and its inhabitants are wiped from existence. As a final twist, it is actually Link who wakes up in the wreckage of his ship from the opening, to find his entire quest was little more than a dream. Well, maybe. The Wind Fish soars over our hero’s head, so at least he was real.
With all of the “it was only a dream” frustration aside, Link’s Awakening provides the player with a rather dark and complex story. Our hero, who is normally faced with the simple tasks of “slay the bad guy, save the princess/kingdom” is confronted with a major dilemma. He can either wake the Wind Fish, thus damning all of his new friends to oblivion, or let the beast slumber and never return home (by extension, letting Ganon conquer the kingdom of Hyrule). I cannot imagine what I would do, if faced with such a difficult choice (I would probably pick Option C, tacos).
The linear gameplay removes any sort of choice from the player, and forces the tragedy of waking the Wind Fish upon our hero. I am not surprised that Nintendo would prevent a player-chosen ending for their beloved franchise, but just think about the context here. By deciding to wake the Wind Fish, Link completely disregards the many new friends he will destroy in his quest to return home. All of his good deeds to help the people of Koholint with their daily struggles change from charity of a kind heart to attonement for the harbinger of their doom. Then you have Marin, who wants nothing more than to hear about the world outside of her home, and eventually travel abroad to new lands. She obviously fancies our hero, but none of this matters, as Link selfishly strides forward in his quest to return to his beloved Zelda (who never puts out, by the way). The Hero of Time must venture home to fufill his duty as the protector of Hyrule; he simply cannot abandon his true calling for the distraction of an island paradise.
Despite such a drastic change in story, Link’s Awakening still manages to reinforce the idea of a hero who must face his destiny. In every plot of the Zelda series, it seems that Link has little option in his life outside of filling the role of the Hero of Time. There is always some prophecy that has foretold of a young boy growing into a true hero and saving the land from the tyranny of evil men. Even on an island, far removed from the grasp of Ganon, Link’s first priority is to return to Hyrule to protect Zelda, no matter the cost. It would be interesting to have seen what sort of life Link would have if the player had the option to just abandon his quest to wake the Wind Fish, and settled into the comforts of Koholint Island. But this sort of thing would never fly with either Nintendo or the rabid fans of the Zelda series. It must always be Link and Zelda, defeating Ganon and protecting the Triforce, now and forever, amen.
It has been nearly 19 years since I first led Link on his quest through Koholint Island to the Wind Fish’s Egg. Since that time, I have made countless journeys with Link through several different games and consoles, but I keep coming back to the oddball of the group; making new discoveries and falling in love once more. This time around with my portable sweetheart, I made a shocking realization, one that I honestly feel kind of dense for not noticing before. The very title of this gem: Link’s Awakening, spoils the true ending of the game. I will leave you that nugget to ponder. Good night, faithful readers, sleep well and may you dream of great adventures.