Link's Awakening

Thumbnail Source: Zelda Universe

Link’s Awakening is easily the quirkiest Zelda game. There’s all sorts of random dialogue, goofy tunes, and strange characters that you won’t find anywhere else in the series. Take this lady named Crazy Tracy, for example – every time Link drops by her house, she offers him a “little secret” to heal him to full capacity. If Link accepts she’ll say, “All right, come here and I’ll rub it on you!” If that isn’t weird and slightly concerning, I don’t know what is.

But aside from its signature wackiness, Awakening also approaches traditional Zelda world and puzzle design differently. For example, it was the only top-down Zelda game to have a jump-action for the longest time. This played into puzzles more heavily than almost any other item in the game, making Zelda feeling more like Mario than it had since Zelda II.

There’s one quest in Link’s Awakening that really stands out: the Trading Sequence, which turns Link into a merchant of sorts. He starts off with an important item to barter with an NPC for another important item, which he turns around and trades with another NPC, eventually leading to the most important tool in the game. It’s a mission that spans the story’s entire length, even though most of it is technically optional.

The Trading Sequence exists to make the player more familiar with the world and characters by encouraging the player to explore. It’s a pivotal factor in Link’s Awakening’s legacy, and it’d be a shame if it weren’t in the upcoming remake. So I’d like to make a step-by-step breakdown of this trading mission and analyze why it’s so effective.

Link's Awakening
Source: Zelda Dungeon

Trader’s Beginnings

Link begins in Mabe Village, a town on the west side of Koholint Island. As the player, you’re trapped in this portion for the first few hours, forbidden from exploring the rest of the island before you become acquainted with the game’s basic combat and puzzle design. But hey, while you’re trapped, you can find the first three items right here in this village. These first items establish the side quest’s pacing, as well as teaching you how to identify potential trades.

A woman in a house to the north mentions her daughter wanting a Yoshi doll (the Mario character). If you wander into the Trendy Game store you’ll see that very doll sitting in the center with a bunch of other prizes rotating around it. Beat the Trendy Game to win the doll, gift it to the woman, and you’ll receive her daughter’s hair ribbon, marking your very first trade in Awakening. If you explore a little more, you’ll find a small Chain Chomp (another Mario character) that’s obsessed with fashion. It’s not hard to guess that she would like the ribbon – give it to her, and she’ll reciprocate with a can of dog food. Thanks?

These two transactions set you off on your Trading Sequence journey, and from here on out, every trade is spread across Koholint Island. Eventually, you’ll even have to start straying from the beaten path if you want to continue the quest line.

Link's Awakening
Source: Zelda Dungeon

Venturing Forth

So what can you do with a can of dog food? At some point, you would have gone a few screens to the south beach to retrieve your Master Sword, and you might remember a small shack nearby. Inside is Sale the Alligator, a banana-selling reptile who, conveniently enough, mentioned something about dog food. Give that to him, and he’ll thank you with a bunch of bananas.

If you did talk to Sale before, this banana barter teaches you another valuable lesson: pay attention to conversation. During the Trading Sequence you’ll often have to keep character’s requests in the back of your mind to remember when you can make a valuable trade with them. The trade quest trains you to be curious about everyone, a helpful trait for nearly any Zelda game.

Ok, you complete the first and second dungeons and get the Power Bracelet, the one tool that will let you push into the rest of the island. If you keep following the main path, you’ll bump into a castle. But the gates are closed – instead, you’ll have to hop over to the east a bit and find a monkey named Kiki, who says she’s hungry. So you do the only nice thing you can: give her the bananas. She’ll build a bridge to the castle, leaving behind the next trading item: a stick.

From here, the trade mission strays from the main path drastically, but you have the tools and you know how the system works. Now it’s your responsibility to go out there and find the remaining traders. If you poke around long enough, chances are you’ll find everyone you need to finish this quest, though it will probably take you the rest of the game.

Link's Awakening
Source: Zelda Dungeon

Completing the Trading Sequence

From Kiki the Monkey, you’ll find a honeycomb, pineapple, hibiscus flower, letter, broom, fishing hook, necklace (actually a bra in the Japanese version), mermaid scale, and finally a magnifying glass. You can use this glass to find the easiest route to the game’s final boss, as well as to make one final trade for a boomerang.

For most, the Trading Sequence will last the entire game, played in rhythm with the main story. It encourages you to explore and memorize more about the game than you would have otherwise. Plus, you get to meet some of the game’s coolest characters, like the SimCity-inspired Mr. Write and the uptight goat, Christine. The Trading Sequence brings you closer to the world of Awakening – and in the end, isn’t that what a good side quest should do?


What are your fondest memories of Link’s Awakening? Do you plan on playing the remake? We sure do!

For more on the Link’s Awakening remake, Nintendo, and everything else video games, stay tuned to Culture of Gaming.

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