But Where’s the Dream Filling?

January 27th, 2006 at 2:05 am by The Missing Link

Link’s Awakening managed to do something that I didn’t think was at all possible. It managed to be one of the most well-loved Zelda titles despite having a feature that ordinarily would have players throwing down their controllers… er… Game Boys in disgust. Let me relate this feature to you in terms of a true story.

A group of six friends and I were doing a creative exercise (which happens to be a great party game, incidentally). Everyone starts with a piece of paper with two sentences—one at the top and one at the bottom—and fourteen numbered lines between them. The first sentence was “A dog ate a chocolate cake that I had baked,” and the bottom one read, “But I still want to know, was it a daisy or a rose?” The goal was to create a cohesive story, one sentence at a time, that managed to link the first and last sentences of the story… but there was a twist. Once you wrote the next line of the story, you passed your paper to your left, and then you took the piece of paper from the person on your right, and wrote the next sentence to their story. In effect, you would write two sentences, nonconsecutive, in each of the seven stories.

Now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with Link’s Awakening. Hold on. I’m getting there.

The person to my right was… a clever guy. He had a witty sense of humour like I had, almost pervertedly so. The game proceeded normally at first, but around sentence eight, I read through the story to find that the line he had just added was, and I quote, “And then I woke up.” I was simply flabbergasted by this as he had effectively killed the entire first part of the story and told me to start over from scratch. I was amused by this at first, and I gleefully continued on with the story, still having half the story left to make it all work. But then it happened again on a different story, this time on sentence 10. And then once more on another, sentence 13 this time… leaving me a single sentence to merge an imaginary dream which vaguely mentioned daisies and roses into the final question. Needless to say, I was not amused.

Link’s Awakening, for those of you who don’t know the story, begins with Link waking up upon an island in the middle of the sea, his ship lost in the storm and nowhere to be found. He proceeds throughout the island, going through dungeons and getting items just as any normal Zelda would proceed. Yet as you go through the game, clues start to emerge that everything is not as it seems. Once you reach the Face Shrine, the three-quarters marker of the game, you know that Koholint Island is a complete fantasy… Link’s very own dream, one that he cannot escape from. His goal to awaken the Wind Fish becomes something entirely beyond helping Link leave Koholint; it is to destroy the dream world, everything Link has come to know… including one red-haired lyrist and songstress. In the end, you awaken the Wind Fish, and Koholint disappears; Link wakes up and finds himself floating on a piece of wood, presumably from his boat, and we realise that nothing that happened in the story really happened.

Compare this plot to the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 (taken from the Japanese game Doki Doki Panic) and see if you can determine the difference here. Mario, Luigi, Toad, and the Princess wander through this land where eating your greens is not only good for your health but bad for your enemies. You immediately get the idea that this is not your typical Mario game, what with the lack of Fire Flowers and breakable bricks. You side-scroll through the various stages until you get to 7-2, where you face the biggest glutton there ever was as a final boss, King Wart. Six vegetables sends His Royal Watiness off the screen, and then you are hailed as heroes of Subcon… until Mario wakes up, dispelling your belief that what you had done was real… and telling you that the entire game was an outright sham.

Personally, I felt cheated by Mario 2’s ending. My controller was let go from my hands, and my jaw hit the ground. “What is this?” I remember saying. Sure, I got to see what all the enemies were named at the end, but there was snoring Mario, conking Zs harder than my father. I turned the game off, wrapped up my controller, and never sat through the ending again. Sure, I played, but I just would not… could not believe that all I had done disappeared in the blink of an eye. Yet the feeling was not there in Link’s Awakening. Even with the final punctuation mark on the line, “And then I woke up,” Link’s Awakening had touched me in ways I didn’t think possible. Marin’s character had grown on me quite heavily, and as several of the eccentric characters disappeared—Mrs. Bow-wow, the Animal Village, mushroom-loving Tarin, even Mr. Write, I felt my heartstrings pulled as they vanished into nothingness. Something was missing from that world we called Hyrule the moment Koholint disappeared, something that it will never have again.

Very few games have dared to tread the subject of dreams, and fewer still have managed to excel when doing it. Why did Awakening succeed where Mario 2 failed? We could attribute this to just being a Zelda title, but I don’t think so. Zelda, powerful as it is, wasn’t enough to save The Faces of Evil from being one of those games we don’t mention. (The first rule of Zelda Club is… we do not talk about CD-i. The second rule of Zelda Club… we do NOT talk about CD-i.) Rather, I think Awakening succeeded because it was able to pull at the emotions of its players even as it ended in tragedy, allowing us to feel that final catharsis. The ending was like watching the last act of a Shakespearean tragedy.

Awakening is the only Zelda to date to have such a sad ending. Despite what would normally turn players away, Awakening made it work. And that’s what makes the dream filling.

Filed under Games, Editorials, Link's Awakening

Follow This Entry

36 Messages from the Gossip Stones about “But Where’s the Dream Filling?”


    Interesting. Though I must say, even if the game didn’t end like that I’d still feel like I accomplished nothing. After all where was the huge parade? And the shower of gifts and kisses that would befell such a hero? All the other games had it, this one should too, dang it.

    However, I don’t think it was that much of a tragedy. Then again, Link’s Awakening ranks bottom on my list of favorite Zelda games, so I probably don’t know what I’m talking about.

    Great Article TML. :D

    Great article TML :) Although I can’t agree that it was entirely Link’s dream (more like it being the Wind Fish’s, but I digress) you nailed the nature of such a game as Link’s Awakening nicely.

    great article, TML. I would have to agree with you about both link’s awakening and mario 2. but i have one question… what did you put as the 14th line to the story? :)

    I’ve always thought there was something very poignant about the musical score during the island dissolve scene…it seemed to speak of completion, triumph, and sorrow all at once. Just thought that deserved a mention.

    Oh, and I look forward to seeing your treatment of LA in The Book of Mudora. ;)

    kronuskaos said:

    but i have one question… what did you put as the 14th line to the story? :)

    Oh my. Someone’s trying to peek inside the messy file drawers of information that is TML’s horrible memory… I actually have no idea what I wrote; the story actually happened (gasp!) nine years ago. I only remember very clearly being very upset with having to come up with the first line of the new plot directions three times over the course of it!

    Ive heard that theres a secret ending for “Links Awakening”, if you complete the game without dieing even once you get to see Marin as a Seagull. Now I have tried to accomplish that task and I have to admit that I consider myself to be a “Zelda Vetaran” but I CAN NOT avoid dieing at least once so I may never get to see the Marin Seagull, oh well but saying that I did once complete “A Link to the Past” without dieing which I am immensely proud of.

    BTW My own Computer is completely *Navied* and I cant access the Internet (I had to do this from the Local Library) so I may not be able to add messages as often as I would like untill my Computer is fixed (MAN I HATE VIRUSES & SPYWARE) now I know you guys will miss me (XD lol) but theres nothing I can do about it.

    yeah.. i watched my little brother (i have 2 brothers) play the game, what a useless ending it had. I wont even play it, its too disapointing, as for mario 2 i liked that game, my brothers won it but i dont think i ever did. and what is CD-i??? i have never heard of it :/

    One key difference to note was that SMB2 it was Mario’s dream, the protagonist. And those familiar with the game already had a vague idea it was a dream land. In Link’s Awakening, the dream belonged to the Wind Fish… a dream Link inadvertantly got drawn into.

    In that way, Koholint was almost ‘real’. It was real to Link, it was real to the player - just not the Wind Fish. So when Link had to ‘destroy’ the island to save himself, it was sort of a chilling experience… a tragedy, as TML put it. That’s probably why Link’s Awakening stands among some of the best Zelda endings. There was no sugar coated happy ending where you get to see all the major characters having a good old time (ala ALttP, OoT, and MM). It was a real legitimate ending, which makes the game all the better for it.

    In order to understand these dream games, you need to understand the Japanese philosophy when it comes to dreams. Playing Chrono Trigger to the point where you get to the city of Enhasa - City of Dreams in the Kingdom of Zeal - will help you understand their philosophy better, especially if you talk to Doreen several times. However, a better way to understand it would be to watch the Urusei Yattsura (sp?) movie “Beautiful Dreamer.” Those are my words of advice to understand these dream games…

    Maybe I shouldn’t be here, I never played LA (maha!) anyways, I thought that was a joke that Koholint was destroyed, ah well…waaaaait a second, a Zelda game with a sad ending?The CD-i games were made by philliops and had permission to make three Zelda game, and althought all three were released, they weren’t too successful, and only a true Zelda fan would appreciate tehm, I’m trying to learn all I can, so I can fit them in my (CENSORED) (its was off subject) anyways, LA sounds like a good game,and the only way I can learn about it without playing it is to read about it in The Book of Mudora (Hey, TML, when are you going to update that thing, I figure a lot of us are waiting, but I’ll be patient)

    I think it worked for me because of the lead up, before the ending happened, you already knew what the outcome was going to be. (At least, most people would have I think. If you played the games you should have seen the clues and, I mean, walking up to the egg- you should have had no doubts it was a dream.) I felt like I was having to work towards the same goal as Link- He was coming to the realization it wasn’t real, I was coming to the realization it wasn’t real- and if it wasn’t real, and it really wasn’t real no matter how much you wanted it to be, should one choose to stay? If you wanted to stay on Koholint, then I guess one could turn off the game and imagine Link never tried to get back to Hyrule. If you decided you shouldn’t stay- and “as” Link I had a real sense of duty towards Hyrule and moving on, wake the Wind Wish- Wake yourself up.

    It’s only the games that ended with a “shocking” ending, the ones that suddenly (or somewhat suddenly) revealed an “amazing” twist, that angered me. Lufia 2 (I think it was that game, maybe just Lufia) ended in one of the main female characters getting amnesia and then being found by her hero “love interest” a year later -but she didn’t know him… Now THAT sucked. LA was sad, but it wasn’t a surprise at the end- and in my mind, getting the player to make that choice along side Link is what made it work. I was heartbroken, but it felt like the right thing, the best thing. I loved Link’s Awakening, after all: #1:LttP #2:LA #3:LoZ :)

    You know, I was just thinking of this.

    Are dreams really better than nightmares? In a dream, you partake in a magical land and it’s a disappointment when you wake up and realize it never really happened and you are strugglingt or remember it. However, with a nightmare - which is what Koholint really was, a dream being assaulted by a nightmare - after waking up, you are relieved and thankful and, in the end, more cheery than you might’ve been after a dream.

    Interesting…wonderful article, TML. LA was my first Zelda game, and I didn’t like Mario 2 either XD.

    I’ve always thought that by making Koholint disappear, Link was saving it. After all, the Nightmares were gaining power, and if the Wind Fish had stayed asleep, Koholint would’ve become another evil realm. That’s a harsh way to save something, but it works.

    This material is worthy of being part of Darth Citrus’s A.S.S.A.-series satire. Keep it up yo!

    Great article

    I have always thought that the storyline, and especially the ending of LA was one of the greatest of the Zelda games. The whole ending sequence, with the island fading away, is powerful, and the score, as Aubrey the Bard mentioned, greatly enhances the feeling.

    However, you can’t exatcly regard it as shocking. After all, the bosses were called “Nightmares” after all lol

    And with Mario 2, I never actually played the original version much, just the GBA one, but I thought it mentioned in the introduction story that Mario found this (I think) door at the top of a staircase that led to the Mario 2 world. Am I misinformed?

    Andromeda said:

    And with Mario 2, I never actually played the original version much, just the GBA one, but I thought it mentioned in the introduction story that Mario found this (I think) door at the top of a staircase that led to the Mario 2 world. Am I misinformed?

    I just pulled out my instruction booklet, and it says something like this: One night, mario dreamt he was climbing a stairway, and at the top was a door. He opened the door and saw Subcon, and heard a voice say it was cursed by the toad Wart. Then Mario woke up. A few days later, Mario and co. were hiking in the mountains and found a cave. When they entered the cave, they found themselves in the world of Subcon.

    Interesting points.

    Intas said:

    In a dream, you partake in a magical land and it’s a disappointment when you wake up and realize it never really happened and you are struggling to remember it.

    I had a dream recently of getting the last ice cream, but them the smoke alert went (fireplace was smoking) and I never got to even taste it ;_; I was mad after that.

    LA has always been one of my favourite Zelda games, the ending never, for a moment, struck me as disappointing (unlike *cough*Oot*cough). LA’s ending incited real emotion in me, there was something very sad about it, because as others have mentioned, you begin to realise that none of it is ‘real’ and that in order for Link to save Koholint and go back home, he has to do the one thing that will effectively destroy it. The SMB2 ending never really irked me though, because it was a game I invested far less time and emotion in. LA drew me in, SMB2 was just a fun way to spend a few hours on a rainy afternoon. Plus, you gotta admit, the ending had spiffy graphics for a Nes, I was like ‘whooooa!’

    To Robert-UK and anyone else who may be interested: yes, there is that little extra tidbit of Marin being a seagull at the ending if you complete the game without dying and collect all the heart pieces etc. The fact that you seem to think it’s so tricky makes me wonder if you know how to save without dying. Just press A-B-Start-Select to bring up a Save and Quit menu. Use that frequently and anytime you die, just turn off the game and go back to the last save point.

    Anyhow, it’s nothing much to look at, although if you’re into the story it might give your heartstrings one last tug, this time in a positive way. Though Koholint Island disappeared, Marin’s dream somehow came to life and lived on.

    I happen to like Mario 2. I liked how different it was from all of the other games. And I liked that you were able to use Peach and Toad as characters. As for Awakening, well on my list of Zelda favorites, that is number 3 after OoT and ALttP! Like TML, the characters grew on me, and when I found out it was all an illusion, I was horrified, but not angry. It all seemed to fit at that point.

    I think link should have just stayed on Koholint island.all he acomplishes by waking the wind fish (besides getting of the island) is……..waking the wind fish.so he destroyes all his new freinds……for a fish? that link doesent even appear in any other zelda games (at least to the best of my knowledge) so it would have made no difference to hyrule, no one even knows for sure if he makes it back to hyrule (or shore for that matter).its a good ending though,but the wind fish could have made it worth links time and granted him a wish or at least put him back on land or something :( .by the way,mario 2 was ok,but after beating that frog thing,I was really disapointed that it was just marios stupid dream.who dreams of frog kings anyways!?!

    Someone whos obsessed with fairy tales :P I know a fact that joins these two games (although people might know it) that Wart was used as a character in LA, as Mamu (I’ve done my homework) only Mamu was a singer, not an evil king.

    • 23. Ops says:

    Sadly, I have never played AL. I usually stick with ones from OoT and up, but after I heard of this, I’m definatly checking it out.:D

    Links Awakening was a wonderful game. It had a great ending. When I was like seven I used to go to my Grandmother’s house every weekend and I would play Links Awakening for hours untill I finally beat it and I was touched by the ending.(I was like eleven when I finally beat it)

    Could someone describe what it was like?It might sad, but any ending in Zelda is a good one.

    Well the Zora band in MM had a song called the “Ballad of the Wind Fish” so maybe Koholint wasnt completely destroyed.

    Yes but according to many timelines, MM was before LA.PtL someone broke the silence, I was thinking this site was becoming dead.Anyways, I’ve never heard the song ’til I heard it on MM, and its pretty cool, yet Link had to do all the work (its also surprising they had recording and holograms in Termina)

    *tears in eyes* That is all so very true…I fell inlove with that game, with that island, that world, and most of all, Marin. I had no idea that any of it was just “Link’s dream”…I wouldn’t even believe whAT I read in the shrine:


    I refused with my whole heart…and then I wne t a beat the game…oh…my heart was sooooooo broken… The second the sceen with Marin singing as the island disappeared…..it was….well…..hard to believe. It tugged at my heart strings so much… But, now i’m working on beating it without dying so i can watch the “special ending”…I cried the first time i beat it…i hope I don’t cry again…. MARIN WILL LIVE ON IN MY HEART AND MY ART! (( I’m making Marin’s dress in my clothing class, actually! ~.^))

    WOW Musica you must have liked that game more than I did, rofl. And to answer Hyrulian Hero’s question the answer is YES, YES, YES, YES I watch the ending to Links Awakening many times… sometimes over and over again, lol.

    BTW Musica please report back here if you can complete the game without dying and tell us if you really do see Marin as a Seagull.

    Come here Musica, you obviously need a hug (just kidding) if it makes Musica cry, it must be good.Something just struck me, although it isn’t related to the subject, its still good for thought, what would happen in TP’s ending, I mean, if it really is before TWW, then Hyrule is doomed, and IF I’m right and its after TWW, then Hyrule is saved for the next attack from Ganon.But COME ON PEOPLE

    The Missing Link said:

    Oh my. Someone’s trying to peek inside the messy file drawers of information that is TML’s horrible memory… I actually have no idea what I wrote; the story actually happened (gasp!) nine years ago. I only remember very clearly being very upset with having to come up with the first line of the new plot directions three times over the course of it!

    sad… :(
    then again, i can’t say much; i quite literally have trouble remembering stuff that happened earlier in the day.

    I forgot to finish my last post (sorry) anyways:
    CCOME ON PEOPLE, PLEEEEAAAASE TELL ME WHAT GOES ON IN THE ENDING!!!Robert, please please pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaase tell me, I need to know!!!

    Well Link wakes up drifting on the Ocean on a piece of wood, then a shadow passes over him and he look up to see the Wind Fish flying over him, then he smiles and some cool music plays.
    BTW after going through all that for the Wind Fish the least it could have done was give him a lift to Hyrule the selfish bint.

    Maybe this lead Link to Calatia, leaving Zelda in Hyrule, and doesn’t come back ’til LoZ and AoL.It seems plausible enough, right?

    Well… no one is exactly sure where Links Awakening is set in the timeline exactly, I myself think that is set after the events of Wind Waker.

    I was in denial when I read that message at the face shrine…”It can’t be a dream, it can’t be!!!” I really did cry when I saw the ending. It might have been a great ending and all, but since I passed it 5 years ago…..I never TOUCHED it again…:,( I couldn’t bear it….(Yes, I know I’m a crybaby)