Rating: ESRB Rating – E for Everyone – Mild Fantasy Violence
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, GameBoy/GameBoy Color
From the Cover of Link’s Awakening (2019)by Nintendo
“As Link, you awaken in a strange land away from Hyrule, where animals talk and monsters roam. To uncover the truth behind your whereabouts and rouse the legendary Wind Fish, explore Koholint Island and all its trap-ridden dungeons, reimagined in stunning detail for this new release of one of the most beloved The Legend of Zelda games. Along the way, you’ll meet a hilarious assortment of charming characters to which you’ll never want to say goodbye.
In this new version of the game, the classic soundtrack has been reborn with new arrangements, and now you can equip more items at once, review key conversations, and navigate the map in new ways. Try your hand at the renovated mini-games to earn dolls based on the Super Mario series…or Chamber Stones. These unusual stones can be used to arrange your own Chamber Dungeons; each one is a puzzle in and of itself! Place chambers from dungeons found throughout the game on a series of objective-based grids… Where should the bosses go? How do you get from the entrance to the stairwell? They’re your dungeons, so arrange them however you see fit. To earn more Chamber Stones, you must conquer the main adventure’s dungeons and mini-games or tap any amiibo featuring a The Legend of Zelda character to unlock Chambers exclusive to amiibo.”
Transfiguring Adoption’s Overview:
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (2019) is a fun remake of the 1993 GameBoy game also made by Nintendo. The game is a great classic game millennials and gen x-ers may remember with great fondness from its first edition in 1993 and re-release as The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX (1998) for GameBoy Color to add better coloration and extra player help in gameplay. However, this new remake has much better graphics and easier gameplay suitable for younger and older players alike to follow the mildly-abstract plot.
The target audience appears to be children that are 9 and up. It also appears this game would be best for any puzzle-loving family. While Link does not have explicit ties to foster or adoptive families he does find himself having to adapt to a new, unfamiliar world and making connections with various people to work through puzzles and dungeons. This game also has a low level of risk for cyber bullying or exploitation due to the game requiring no online or online cooperation elements.
** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **
How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?
This is a great single-player game parents can bond with their children over whether they played the original game or not since Link’s Awakening is not a part of mainline Zelda lore. This game also can put parents at ease with its lack of potential danger of cyber bullying or exploitation since there are no online community components to the game. Instead caregivers can help ease their kiddo into the game while discussing adapting to new situations, seeking out positive connections, and navigating stressful situations.
Adapting to New Adventures When entering a new home through adoption or the child welfare system a child may relate to Link… they’ve already been through some rough storms before coming to your home, did not choose to come to your home, and have no control over being there. Even if the move is a positive change this can still be very stressful to a child that has already endured trauma and is now traumatized by another move. For this reason your child, like Link, is a survivor and uses every tool they have picked up so far to navigate your home and all the new rules and boundaries that come along with it. Caregivers need to remember that as a child navigates the new spaces that caregivers should not position themselves against the child when conflict arises. Rather, the dynamic needs to be created by the adult to become the caregiver and the child versus the challenges that lie ahead with the caregiver in charge and ready with patience and love.
Seeking Out Positive Connections When Link wakes up on Koholint Island he finds the dynamics between man and beast to be very different from his home in Hyrule. Some people look and are safe, as he is used to, but the dynamics with beasts/monsters are less straightforward. When a child with trauma comes into your home it’s important to remember that every adult is potentially a source of danger. For this reason your kiddo will need extra help navigating friend or foe in real life.
Navigating Stressful Situations Throughout the game Link takes on some pretty stressful tasks all with the prospect of never going home lingering in the background. While your child may not be trying to wake a Windfish, the stress of separation from what they know is familiar and comforting is still an immense weight on their shoulders even if they are safe now with you. For this reason your child will need help moving through stress, giving those emotions validity, and then processing them out to make a game plan.
Mild Fantasy Violence Throughout the game there are lots of sequences with cartoon violence. Most of this is pretty low-key in terms of graphics as there is no blood, brain-matter, or dismemberment of human-like characters so this should be a low-level trigger. However, if your child has had a lot of use of their limbic systems due to toxic stress and trauma they may struggle with the excitement of wielding a sword, bows and arrows, and even bombs and become more prone to aggression due to being unable to differentiate their brain’s response to excitement from danger so caregivers should still check in frequently with their child to ensure they are having fun without overwhelming their cortisol and adrenaline-filled bodies and brains.
Who is your favorite character in this game? Why do you like them? Caregiver Note: This is a good introductory question to help ease your child into conversation. Children often struggle with being put on the spot with big questions so it’s good to start the conversation off naturally by giving them a chance to connect with a character they like. This can also give a caregiver insight about attributes that a child may admire or aspire for themselves as well!
How do you think Link felt waking up in a place he’s never been? Caregiver Note: Link probably felt like many foster or adoptive children that have experienced being removed from their family of origin and homes. A line that stands out to me comes from the “Removed” short film where the child featured describes waking up every morning not knowing where the sun rises. Such a simple thing as knowing where you are in space and proximity to home can help so much with feeling like a fish out of water… or a Hyrulian out of Hyrule in this case. Help your child connect feelings to words as they may need help with vocabulary since trauma often influences language development in adolescent brains. Remember, giving your child words today helps to empower them for self-advocacy tomorrow.
What helped Link get used to Koholint? Caregiver Note: Before Link can wake up on the beach of Koholint he is thankfully found by Marin and her father Tarin. This is especially lucky with the huge number of Nightmares and monsters on the island! Much like Link, your child is waking up to a new, scary reality full of many potential nightmares after already battling many inner and outer demons for survival prior to landing in your home. Caregivers should aspire to be like Marin and Tarin in being a source of safety, security, and aid as a child adapts to learning to live in a new place.
ACTIVITY: Create an Instrument of the Sirens! Caregiver Note: Much like other Zelda installments there is a bit of a musical element of the game. This game is unique in that the end goal is to collect several instruments to wake the Windfish. This includes the Full Moon Cello, Conch Horn, Sea Lily’s Bell, Surf Harp, Wind Marimba, Coral Triangle, Organ of Evening Calm, and Thunder Drum. Work with materials around the house to help your child create their favorite instrument from the game. A tissue box, yarn, and toilet paper rolls can become a cello for example and it recycles things you may already have in the house so this activity can be low cost and a lot of fun! This also gives something tactile for your child to work on as you discuss the game. Children often are uncomfortable with face-to-face conversation and do better with side-by-side activities while talking about most topics and especially uncomfortable ones. This will help your child feel comfortable as they bond with you and engage in conversation.
When Link is rescued by Marin and Tarin, how do they help him adjust to Koholint? Caregiver Note: Marin and Tarin could have easily given Link some food and rest and sent him on his way. While Link is featured as a youth it’s clear that whatever age he is tends to be one where he can be more self-reliant and independent due to cultural norms but even with those skill sets Link is at a vast disadvantage on the strange and new Koholint. Marin and Tarin thankfully are willing to offer ongoing support and explanations as Link levels up and learns more about the world around him. This is much like how caregivers and children with trauma can function. There is a desire for caregivers to hover a little more knowing our kiddos have had a rough start, but there is also a need for caregivers to step-back just a little and allow for healthy exploration while being prepared to help a youth in crisis or an emotionally escalated state while they learn about their new boundaries and spaces. Sometimes a caregiver needs to remind a youth they are there with support but other times a youth will develop a good rapport and feel more comfortable over time with expressing need for support.
What helps Link to know Marin and Tarin are safe people he can trust in Koholint? Caregiver Note: Throughout the game Marin and Tarin are supportive and kind. They don’t seem to ask for a tit-for-tat type relationship with advice or support. Marin and Tarin are also available with kindness. Help your child brainstorm other ways Link can identify them as safe people.
What sorts of attributes can you watch for in safe relationships with adults? What about other kids? Caregiver Note: Help your child think through other attributes that maybe were not included in the game since Link is more independent than your child or teen. This will help your child reinforce learning to watch for healthy relationship patterns as they interact with others outside the home and learn to build healthy relationships while you are present or not.
Link seems to have a lot of stressful situations come up while waking the Windfish. What were some of the scarier, more stressful parts to you? Caregiver Note: Allow your child to lead this part of the conversation. Especially since they are likely playing the game with your assistance or watching they will likely be more versed on specific enemies and Nightmares they play against. While most of the character designs are more whimsical in nature the battles can sometimes get tough and your youth may need encouragement to not give up.
How does Link get through these tough parts? What tools does he use, physically/mentally/emotionally? Caregiver Note: Also allow your child to take lead here when discussing tangible tools found in the game, but feel free to help your kiddo more when thinking of mental and emotional skill sets that help them get through tough puzzles and battles as Link. These can be discussed in the context of strengths and can be reminded of in other stressful times outside of gameplay as well. This is important as children with trauma may become overwhelmed by feeling inept or helpless in some situations and may need assistance from their trauma-informed caregiver to think of strength-based strategies for success.
Activity: Organizing Your Side Quests! Caregiver Note: To many caregivers, making a chart or a list (literally or mentally) may not be much of a big deal. This can make sense especially in neurotypical adults as this requires development of the prefrontal cortex in the brain where executive functioning is fully developed around age 25 to 30. For those that have executive dysfunction or lack of development in that area of the brain (such as kids and teens) this is a life skill that needs to be taught and practiced in ways that make sense and work for your kiddo. For some kids a literal list on a sticky-note is best. For others they may prefer a chart with the ability to use stickers or something else tangible for their list. Whichever way works best for your kiddo needs to be reinforced regularly while a child learns to prioritize tasks and execute them in a timely manner. Work with your child to create a quest log. I’d recommend finding some neat parchment from a craft store to make it look like a gilded-age quest adventure to fit the model of the Zelda series but any motif or materials you have can be used to fit a gaming-like theme to create. Be sure when creating the log with your kiddo to help your child include something to track priorities (i.e. – numeric ordering, letters, etc.), the title or name of the task with a brief description (feel free to play with the language on this but keep it short and sweet so it’s easy to remember), a due date, and an area to denote the task has been completed. Also list a mix of tangible or intangible rewards depending on the difficulty level of each task so that your kiddo can see what types of rewards there are at play. This can include getting a “good job” all the way to getting to pick dinner. And remember, if it doesn’t work the first time that’s okay!! Practice and the willingness to adapt tools to suit your child and family’s lifestyle is key to skill development.
About the Reviewer: Rachael Rathe
Rachael B. Rathe is an East Tennessee native with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a Minor in Child & Family Studies from The University of Tennessee Knoxville. She has worked in mental health since 2013 and in foster care/adoptions for a private provider agency since 2014. Rachael was inspired to work in the field after working with children and teens on a volunteer basis 2008 – 2013. Rachael’s ideal self-care day involves snuggling on a couch with her kitties (Tabitha, Fergus, and Rufus) while enjoying a good movie or book. She also enjoys galavanting around conventions concerning all things nerd and geekery.
**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.