Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    FDS
    • JP 01/14/1987
    NES
    • UK 09/26/1988
    • US 12/01/1988
Score: 75%

This review was published on 03/26/2013.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is a game with an awkward subtitle and it's the sequel to The Legend of Zelda. Zelda II was first released in Japan on the Famicom Disk System, an attachment to the Famicom that allowed it to play games on floppy disks. It was later released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America and Europe on a cartridge. The first Zelda game was an action adventure title that displayed its action via an overhead view. While it's a direct sequel, Zelda II decides to make a bold change: become a side-scrolling platform game. The action adventure roots of the first game are still retained, but the overhead view has been mostly done away with. This was quite a big change that polarized fans, similar to what was done with Super Mario Bros. 2. As a result of this, Zelda II is often considered the black sheep of the series. Fans are split on whether they like this game or hate it, though most hate it. Despite all the flak it gets, Zelda II is a decent entry in the Zelda series that experiments with a cool idea worth revisiting in a future installment.

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Having emerged victorious from his previous quest, Link is informed that Princess Zelda has fallen under a sleeping spell. In order to awaken the fair Princess, Link must go on another adventure. A hero's work is never done, as usual. Link is given six crystals that he must place in six palaces to acquire the Triforce of Courage, which will awaken the legendary Princess. Ganon, the villain from the first game, is surprisingly not behind the nefarious deed this time around. In fact, Ganon is dead. In case you didn't get the memo, Link killed Ganon in the previous game. That doesn't mean Ganon is out of the picture entirely, though. The goons of Ganon are still on the loose and they're trying to impede Link on his adventure. Ganon's lackeys want to kill Link and use his blood to revive their dark master. It takes the blood of the hero of legend to revive Ganon, it seems. Players actually get a screen telling them Ganon has been revived if they die, which is a nice touch. It's up to Link to save the land of Hyrule by not dying. Zelda II's slightly confusing story sets the stage for another grandiose adventure.

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As mentioned earlier, Zelda II is a drastic change from the first game with its side-scrolling perspective. Like in most side-scrolling games, Link has the ability to jump at any time. Even though this technically makes it a platform game, Link cannot stomp on his enemies to defeat them. This isn't Mario, after all. As drastic as these changes might be, the focus in this game isn't on the platform elements, but on the combat and exploration. The objective of the game is still to figure out where to go, what items to get, and where to use them. There aren't as many puzzles to solve as in the last game, but there are quite a few riddles. The riddles aren't quite as cryptic as they were before, but they're still rather ambiguous. That's just how it is with these older 8-bit titles, though. Somehow, Nintendo managed to keep the fundamentals of Zelda's game play even in this unusual perspective. Whether this perspective is ideal for this type of game play is debatable, but it's good that Nintendo didn't lose sight of what makes a Zelda game tick.

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The combat in Zelda II is actually fairly in-depth for an old 8-bit title. Link wields his trusty sword and shield to fend any foes that are foolish enough to challenge him. There are two types of sword attacks; high stabs and low stabs. All melee combat revolves around this high and low concept. What's truly unique about the way in which combat works in this game is how Link uses his shield. Link's shield is out at all times and can be used to block high attacks or low attacks depending on what direction is pressed on the D-Pad. This makes for some intense sword fights between certain enemies in the game. The Darknuts, menacing knight enemies from the first game, provide some of the toughest challenges the game has to offer. Darknuts also have shields which they use to block low or high attacks, much like Link, so it's imperative to use the right attack at the right time to damage enemies like them. In addition to normal attacks, Link can learn a few special sword techniques to further his skill with the blade. Masters of the sword can be located inside towns or other areas, and they are the ones who teach Link these valuable sword moves. One is a downward stab Link can perform as he swoops down onto an enemy; this allows Link to attack enemies from above, much like Mario does, except with a sword. The other move is an upward stab that enables Link to harm aerial foes that are above his head. This upward stab isn't terribly useful, but it does come in handy from time to time. The swordplay in Zelda II has incredible depth and is a lot of fun, but be warned that the game is excruciatingly difficult.

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This is the first game in the Zelda series to introduce towns, believe it or not. It's also the first Zelda game to feature a world map function similar to a lot of other role-playing games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Towns are still presented in the same side-scrolling perspective whereas the world map is in the familiar overhead perspective. Link can speak to the denizens of a town to get hints on where to go next or how to find some secret goodies. What the villagers say can often be vague and confusing, so an online guide will probably be needed. Some lady folk in town will freely restore Link's health and magic, too. I suppose that's what you can expect when you're a handsome hero. Exiting a town brings Link to the world map, where he can visit other areas of the game or have random encounters with enemies. The random encounters are a pretty annoying addition to the game, because they rudely interrupt the flow of exploration. Luckily, random battles can be avoided if Link sticks to walking on roads. With the exception of the random fights, the world map is a neat way to explore the lands of Hyrule. The towns also add a greater sense of adventure to the game, and they become a staple of the rest of the series.

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Leveling up is one of the newly added game mechanics to Zelda II. Defeating enemies gives Link experience points, and acquiring a certain amount of those will bring him to the next level. What stands out about the leveling system in this game are the attributes. Players can choose to boost whatever attributes the game recommends, or pass up the opportunity in order to save up for something else. It's a little awkward, but it adds some strategy to the whole leveling up thing. Link's three attributes are power, life, and magic. The life and magic attributes are somewhat misleading, because they don't actually increase Link's life and magic. Instead, they increase Link's defense and reduce the cost of his spells, respectively. By the way, this game has spells. Link can learn a couple of spells if he speaks to any old wizards he finds along his quest. The spells are quite handy and do things like health restoration, increase defense, shoot fireballs, and more. As far as actually increasing Link's maximum health and magic meter is concerned, there is a way to do that. Heart Containers and Magic Containers are items that can be found hidden throughout the game, and they do the job of increasing Link's various meters. All of these items and spells act as great rewards for exploring the vast world map of Zelda II, though the leveling system feels a little out of place in a Zelda game.

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Dungeons in Zelda II work much like they did in the first game, just with a side-scrolling perspective and a greater emphasis on action. Keys and the dreaded locked doors they open are back, too. Every dungeon is a labyrinth of sprawling pathways in which a lot of exploration will occur. Elevators connect the various horizontal pathways together, so there are rarely any vertical climbs to worry about, unlike in Metroid. The focus of the dungeons is still navigating their maze-like structures and locating enough keys to unlock the way forward. Combat will be priority number one in a dungeon with the massive amounts of dangerous enemies lurking about, like the Darknuts. Link will acquire an important item in every dungeon that is essential to achieving progress in his quest, like a hammer that lets him break boulders on the world map. However, in order to finish a given dungeon, Link must face a ferocious boss at the end. The bosses are both challenging and cool, though some of them get reused multiple times. The only problem with the dungeons is that there are no dungeon maps, which is in stark contrast to the first game. While the no maps thing is definitely a bummer, Zelda II still manages to preserve the essence of what makes Zelda dungeons good.

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Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is certainly an adventure game to remember. It takes many great risks in trying to experiment with different concepts. Unlike games like Castlevania II, however, it does not change the most important elements of what was established in the first game. Zelda II manages to keep most of what made the first game great intact, yet it was still an intense transformation. Some of the new ideas incorporated were good, such as the towns, but some of them were bad, like those random enemy encounters. Zelda II isn't the classic that the first game was, but it's still a solid title for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Word Count: 1,703

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