Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link Review

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Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link Review

zelda2_theadventureoflink_boxartThe Adventure of Link is the second game in the Zelda series, and sequel to the NES classic, The Legend of Zelda. However, Zelda II isn’t exactly a carbon copy of the original like most sequels tend to be; in fact, it changes up the formula quite a bit. Zelda II is widely known to be the black sheep of the Legend of Zelda series. Its gameplay style differs the most from other Zelda games, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is a bad game. 

As a direct sequel, Zelda II takes place a few years after the defeat of Ganon. Even though the king of evil was defeated, his presence is still felt throughout Hyrule. Seeking to revive their master, Ganon’s minions cast a spell on Zelda, one that puts her in an eternal slumber. With Zelda out of the way, the minions seek the three pieces of the Triforce to resurrect Ganon. It becomes necessary for them to annihilate Link and steal the Triforce that he bears. Link learns of Zelda’s misfortune and sets out to break the spell and wake her from her slumber.

Already possessing two pieces of the Triforce, Link has to find the third piece to help the princess. The last piece, Courage, resides inside the Great Palace, which is blocked by a mysterious energy. Gaining entrance isn’t an easy task as Link has to set crystals in six statues, each overlooked by one of Ganon’s guardians. It is only after defeating the guardians and setting the crystals that Link can venture inside the Great Palace.

Upon starting the game you will notice right away that Zelda II plays much differently from its predecessor. Zelda II begins without pulling any punches by throwing you directly into the sidescrolling perspective. This is something that you will have to get used to quickly because this is how the majority of the game is played. Link does navigate an overworld with an overhead perspective, but this only occurs when traveling between towns, palaces, caves, etc. Link can not battle enemies or collect items in the overworld as it’s mainly used to connect the world.

The majority of this adventure will take place in the sidescrolling view. When touching enemies, caves or palaces, Link will enter a sidescrolling action stage, but more on that in a little bit. Towns also play their first big role in a Zelda game. They are explored in the sidescrolling perspective, much like the action stages, but contain depth that you wouldn’t normally expect in a sidescroller. Link can talk to the villagers, heal, and learn new magic: things you would expect to experience in a town from an RPG. Link may also get hints to help him throughout his journey, making it worthwhile to chat with everyone.

Let’s get back to the action stages. Link fights much differently in this game because of the sidescrolling perspective. He can stab high with his sword, or low while ducking, and even jump – helpful when using new sword techniques. There is an upwards stab and a downwards stab that can be learned, both can only be done after pressing the jump button. Combat is varied as there are a number of different enemies and bosses each with their own pattern. Without mastering these techniques you may have trouble defeating some enemies.

Aside from sword combat, Link can also utilize magic for the first time in the series. There are a total of eight spells including: Life to refill your health, Shield to halve damage, and Thunder to destroy all on-screen enemies. There is a magic meter which will limit the amount of spells you can cast, an element seen in many Zelda games since. It’s also noteworthy to mention that Magic pretty much replaces the item mechanic of the first game, which is severly missed. Regardless, all of the above elements make for a deep, different, and enjoyable combat experience.

Zelda II can be a hard game and it boils down to certain design elements chosen for the game. I think Link controls well in both combat and jumping, so I wouldn’t necessarily blame the controls. However, the game can become frustrating when learning enemy patterns, platforming sections, or when there are multiple enemies on-screen. In these situations it’s best to be patient and advance wisely. Link can also utilize 1UPs for the first time, which can give you a second crack at the obstacle you are trying to overcome. However, this next design choice will have you throwing your controller around quite a bit.

If you lose all of your lives and get the dreaded Game Over screen, you must start again from Zelda’s chamber. This forces you to navigate through the dangers you previously had to overcome, to get back to the area that took all of your lives. Luckily, Zelda II also introduced an experience system which can be used to level up your life, magic, and attack stats. You will even endure grinding similar to that found in RPGs. Using this experience to level up your stats will lend a helping hand, and I think that this is something future Zelda games could expand upon.

Overall, the gameplay is well-designed, save for a few complaints above. Palaces are similar to the dungeons in The Legend of Zelda in that they are mazes that are gradually uncovered by exploring each room, finding keys for locked doors, and culminating in a boss battle. Other familiar elements such as fairies and sword beams can be found, as well. New elements introduced in Zelda II – including the magic meter and towns – even carry forward in the series. So, if you were told this game isn’t like Zelda, somebody lied. Yes, the sidescrolling stages are quite different, but this is a Zelda game at heart.

Visually, I feel that The Adventures of Link does lack a little bit. Sprites are nicely design with great animations, but other aspects lack originality. Most of the game will look almost entirely the same, save for some palette swapping. Maybe I’m picking on this aspect a little too much, but I feel more could have been accomplished. Regardless, there is no doubt a unique atmosphere created in Zelda II, one that is consistent. Musically, Zelda II is better than The Legend of Zelda. There are extremely catchy tunes in the Town Theme and Palace Themes, as well as a beautifully crafted opening and overworld theme. The Palace Theme happens to be one of my personal favourite Zelda tracks, of all time.

3 out of 5 D-Pads3/5 D-Pads: Zelda II isn’t the game you’d expect to play upon insertion of the cartridge, or booting up the Virtual Console, but it’s a satisfying experience. Sword combat is varied and perhaps influential behind Nintendo’s decision to make combat a more complete experience in Skyward Sword. Also, Zelda II carries forward elements that have become staples in the Zelda franchise. Add in a touch of great music and you have a complete Zelda experience, despite what you may have heard. If you’re one of those Zelda fans that has completely ignored this game, please give it a chance, you may be surprised.

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  • http://chalgyrsgameroom.blogspot.com/ Chalgyr

    Good write-up, Parko. :) I was always the outlier among my friends, but I actually liked this title more than the original Zelda – probably for the RPG elements (I remember grinding those stupid statue knights for hours)

    • MF_Parko

      I like them both about the same, but for different reasons. Zelda II was my favourite as a kid though, mostly because of its sidescrolling sections. I have always been a sucker for sidescrollers.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  • http://incompletegaming.blogspot.com Robert

    I admit, I skimmed the article as it’s late, but I’m sure it’s of quality. There does seem to be some viewing Zelda II with rose-colored glasses, but it had some good points. Although I also enjoyed Faxanadu back in the day which was similar.

    Overall I enjoyed the exploration more in the original, though the music and action of Zelda II really take the cake. (even if the difficulty is a bit over the top)