The unfairly unpopular Zelda game
One of the best underdogs out there
I’d like to talk about a game that often gets bashed by Zelda fans. It was a game that tried new concepts, that explored new possibilities and truly added a lot of features that we see in Zelda games even today. It’s name, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
In case you haven’t heard about this game, or played it, here’s the basics: It was a NES cartridge, released in 1988 in America, and a sequel to the successful Legend of Zelda. This time, Princess Zelda has been cursed and has fallen into a deep sleep, and can only be waken with the third triforce, the triforce of courage. (The original game only presented us two of them, the triforce of power and the triforce of wisdom.) The game is pretty different than its predecessor:
- First of all because it plays mostly as a 2-D scroller instead of the first one’s top-down view. I said mostly because there is a top-down view mode in the game, but only when traveling between the different locations.
- It had a “lives” system, and the corresponding 1-up item.
- It featured many towns and lots of NPC’s, which made Hyrule look a lot more civilized.
- It had various side quests, and though they were mostly of the “fetch the item” kind, they made the game feel more complex.
The first time I saw this game was in 1988 or 89, when I was 5 or 6 years old, and at the time it looked magical.It was like if a fairy tale came to life. I was too young to play it, but I watched my older cousins as they tried to beat it, and I remember how every new part of the game was special in its own way. There was the dark caves, which only lit up when holding the candle; the challenging temples; the cursed river town where some folks were in fact agents of Ganon, and turned into bats. A year later I got Zelda I for christmas, and hoped for a similar adventure. I must admit I was a little disappointed when I started playing it. I mean, Hyrule was either deserted or in ruins, and the dungeons didn’t have that ‘ancient’ feel to them. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the first Zelda a lot, and I still play it to this day, but it never reached to me like Zelda II did.
When I did finally get my hands on Zelda II, in 1993, I played it non-stop until I finished it. It was a great challenge, and a whole lot longer than the original, and it confirmed my love for it. In this game, it wasn’t just about getting past every dungeon, but also about getting medicine to cure a person, or to return a kidnapped child to his mother. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you find a town destroyed by Ganon, and later find out that the town’s people have rebuilt a hidden community in a secret forest, or finding the the secret passage in the cemetery that takes you to the third temple’s island.
Very shortly afterwards I was blessed with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and felt overjoyed to see that the best aspects of both games had been merged into a masterpiece.
Well, here are the pros and cons of Zelda II. The cons listed here as usually the reasons why some folks strongly dislike this games, and not necessarily express my own opinions:
- Huge map, with a lot of locations, both hostile and friendly.
- More RPG elements, like magic and experience systems.
- Towns full of NPC’s (althought few of them have anything of importance to say), and houses you can get into.
- Interesting puzzles and mazes.
- The ability to turn yourself into a fairy.
- More interesting swordfighting than the original, thanks to the ability to duck and to do jumping stabs.
- Your quest involves more than finishing temples.
- No money system whatsoever, thus no shops.
- The need for leveling up via grinding (fighting the same monsters over and over).
- More linear gameplay than in Zelda I.
- The ‘lives’ system. (not a con in my opinion, as it adds challenge to the game, and it was pretty common back then.)
- The deviation from the first game’s formula (DEFINETELY not a con in my opinion. It was very original and I much rather prefer that game companies propose new ideas better than rehashing a tried and true formula.)
This is pretty much what I have to say about Zelda II for now, but maybe I’ll revisit the subject on some other time. I’d love to hear comments and discuss this, so feel free to do so.
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The GBA port of this great game.