I have a weird history with The Legend of Zelda series. I've played a lot of the “main” Zelda games, but I never beat any of them. I know it's weird, but I never fell in love with the series like so many people, and I've probably put more time into Landstalker and Alundra than the Zelda series as a whole, though I never finished those games either. My group of friends and I recently played through The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures on a ridiculous 4 Gamecube, 1 Wii, 4 Game Boy Player, 5 television setup, but that's a story for another day. I'll just say that I'm pretty sure it was the first Zelda game that I'd ever beaten, and that's kind of sad.
Anyway, I played a bit of original release of The Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening on a friend's Game Boy when I was young, and with the release of Link's Awakening DX, the Game Boy Color update, on the Nintendo 3DS's new virtual console, I figured it was a good place to start. While it is mechanically a lot like A Link to the Past, in that it pretty strictly adheres to the Zelda formula that was cemented with that game, it does depart with an unusual story about Link waking up on an island and discovering its secrets by going through the dungeons. It may be a graphical step down from A Link to the Past, but it is mechanically just as good. I've really been enjoying the game, and I've only got a couple more dungeons before I'm done with it.
And with the magic of time travel and edits, I have now beat the game. I think that in a lot of ways, Link's Awakening strikes the perfect balance for me in many aspects. The setting of may be offputting to people who expect to play in Hyrule, but Koholint Island is the perfect size. It is quite large, but there is no wasted space, as there is no wasted space with secret caves and dungeons all over the place. The pace at which you are given new items is slow enough to give you the time to learn how to effectively use each as you move on. My only complaint is that you need to frequently change your equipment, but I guess that's a common issue with Zelda that is exacerbated by the Game Boy's limited number of buttons. Generally I didn't have any problem remembering things that I saw places earlier that were needed after getting items later, but there were a few sticking points. Particularly, the part where you need to read a specific book before the final dungeon.
I never paid much attention to the story in Zelda games because they seem rather hit or miss to me. The two elements that I see as the most important to a Zelda story are the iconic heroic tale, and the whimsical tone. This game relies much less than normal on the former, and a bit heavier than normal on the latter. Thankfully, it is also a one of the games that doesn't beat you over the head with text. Basically, Link is in a shipwreck, he's stranded on an island, and he has to discover the secrets of the island by adventuring into its depths. The departure from the general story of Link saving Zelda from Ganon is what makes it interesting to me. I sort of like the fact Zelda and Ganon aren't actually part of the story at all. The big twist of Link's Awakening, while sort of predictable, is kind of neat and kind of depressing.
I'm glad that I've been playing it on the 3DS Virtual Console for a couple of reasons. Obviously, as this is Poverty Game Night, the six dollar price tag is a decent amount cheaper than buying the actual cart. The 3DS has the advantage of a backlight, though I suppose I could play it on a GBA SP and get that as well. The most convenient part is the save state system, which is pleasantly improved over the Wii's system of only saving your state when you exit the game. At any time you can tap the bottom screen and save or load state. I suppose playing it on emulator would also be a good option, but the feel of playing on an actual portable system with regular buttons can't be beat.
The 3DS's system update has actually been pretty beneficial overall. The eShop is really nice and allows you to download videos of upcoming games allow you to see what they'll actually look like on the device, and ,as you might be able to tell from my tone, the Virtual Console is solid. The addition of the web browser is something that I've actually used quite a bit more than I expected. There is something nice about being able to suspend your game and go check GameFaqs from the same device your playing the game on. It actually keeps your place on the last page you visited, so referring to it is quick and easy. This and the ability to write game notes are pretty useful for someone as forgetful as I am.