Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES) Review

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Review by The Every Gamer (December 2019)

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, developed and published by Nintendo, it was released in 1987 in Japan for the Famicom Disk System, and in 1988 in the US and Europe for the NES. The game was made to be totally different to the original game, long story short, it was the only time this gameplay style was used for a Zelda game and has since remained the black sheep of the series.

The game takes place many years after the first, with Link now being a teenager. One day, Link finds a crest-like shape on his hand, so goes to Impa for an answer. She takes Link to the North Castle where his mark opens the door and he finds a sleeping beauty, a maiden named Zelda. Keep in mind that this is NOT the Zelda from the first game. Impa tells Link that the mark on his hand means that he’s the chosen one to wake up Zelda from her eternal slumber. Meanwhile, Ganon’s followers are trying to kill Link in a bid to use his blood to resurrect the pig monster…well ain’t that messed up, even for a Nintendo game.

So what we have here is an action RPG, and one where I actually feel comfortable calling it a legitimate RPG. The game incorporates both side-scrolling and overhead elements, with the overhead part being the world map and everything else being the side-scrolling sections.

Upon starting the game, your questions will probably be, “what do I do and where do I go?”. Well to give you a summary of the gameplay, the main objective of the game is to go to six different palaces and set each of the gems in Link’s possession into the statues, which will open the way to the Great Palace that contains the Triforce of Courage.

Walking through the overworld you will encounter random foes that will run into you, and you’ll have to fight them with your sword and shield since you no longer collect items like in the first game. And this is where I’ll talk about the RPG elements. You see, you gain XP for defeating most enemies. Once you fill up your XP bar, you can upgrade one of three attributes, either health, offence, or magic, since life and magic are now measured in bars.

You can either upgrade whatever is recommended, or skip it to upgrade something else once you got enough XP, this will alter the challenge depending on what you do, but I mostly picked what was recommended, and by the time the final parts began I was well off anyway, though you could grind for XP if you got time for that. You can also collect heart and magic containers to extend said respective bars, and you’re going to need it for the journey ahead.

The gameplay for Link and his mechanics aren’t too bad. He can now run and jump like any other platforming adventurer…mostly Mario considering how successful that game was. Sword attacks pack a punch despite having a very short range, but if you have full health, the laser attacks can help, though I doubt you’ll be using it since it’s very easy to lose a good chunk of health in this game. I’ll get to the multiple sword attacks in a bit.

During the game, there will be towns to visit, with people you can talk to, making the world feel more alive than ever before and would continue that way in future games. Some people in town give you sound advice, and there’s a woman who can heal up Link in the house, we don’t know what she’s doing to Link in order to fill up his health and the many obvious jokes means there’s better things to talk about…come to think of it, nobody talks about the old lady filling up Link’s magic, OH I SEE, NO ONE WANTS TO THINK ABOUT THAT DO THEY? BASTARDS!

Anyway, most of the towns will have plot-important items to collect, mostly magic from old men. And this is where we talk about the magic. By doing a few required things, we can go into certain homes and find a Wizard. Said Wizards will give you magic powers, each will help you in the game. Examples include Shield for extra defence, Jump for a higher jump, Life to refill a bit of your health, Fairy to turn into a Fairy to either go up high areas Link normally can’t go through or certain passages that seem impossible to go through, Spell which is only used ONCE, Fire (only used ONCE), Thunder (also used ONCE), and Reflect is used to defeat blue enemies and I didn’t bother to use it because I only cared about saving my magic. Going back to sword attacks, you mostly get two, an up and down thrust attack, very useful when attacking certain enemies in the head and very useful when attacking air-bourne enemies… if you can.

The palaces can feel like mazes half the time full of enemies and such, you’re mostly there for an item in each palace, the bosses you need to fight, and the crystals you must place on statues. Simple enough. So to sum it up, go to a temple, go to towns for more info and magic, go to other places nearest to you for additional items to help you, rinse, repeat, and you’re done.

You’re probably thinking as to why I had a hard time with this game many years ago. Simple, it’s the NES and because it’s the NES, it’s a hard game. The enemies in this game are nothing compared to the previous game, they are nearly relentless and you’re going to die a lot. Shielded enemies take a strangely long while to kill, enemies with long-ranged attacks that become a guessing game on where they’ll throw high or low, skeleton enemies that perform down thrust attacks, it’s absolute Hell until you have enough power to stand against it to where you can at least get a bearable experience.

You’re probably thinking, “well you can collect hearts from dead enemies”, NOPE! There aren’t any, the only way you can refill your health during the game that isn’t a random fairy (if you’re lucky enough to find one) is to cast Life if you actually have it, but you got to have enough magic to use it, and only rarely do you get magic pots to refill your magic meter.

The experience…isn’t too bad, though having a map and a guide helped, because even then it was still a tough journey to go though. In terms of dying, you have a life system and if you lose them all, it’s Game Over and you start from the very beginning, but so long as you save regularly, you get to keep everything you collected, but any XP you gained is lost, now that’s some spicy insurance.

The graphics are an improvement from the original game, though it’s oddly enough not the most memorable world in my opinion, I will give credit where it’s due to the world map as it’s huge, even by NES standards. The music is oddly lackluster even for a Zelda game back then, but then I realised that this is the sequel to a game that barely had a lot of music to begin with.

Overall, after a week of this nonsense, I beat the game and…Zelda II had so much potential to be a fantastic game, and playing through it, it’s not too bad, it’s just difficult for difficulty’s sake, and the cryptic elements can annoy modern players, and because of that, it ages the game severely, among other things. I felt that Nintendo didn’t need to abandon the side-scrolling elements for a Zelda title, I think the game should have been more polished so that it would work for everyone, but that wasn’t the case and people moved on. I’d only recommend it if you’re willing to get help…that is all.

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