Genre: Action RPG
Basic Idea: Wonder how you can help a poor man named Error while trying to wake princess Zelda.
Review: There’s video proof of how insanely excited I was to receive this game for Christmas in 1988. Our family had spent countless hours with the first game in the series, and we were primed for more. Imagine our disappointment when we realized that the sequel was virtually nothing like the original game. It took a while, but I eventually got over it. It’s a flawed game, but certainly still worthy of play.
The game’s map is epic. Zelda II introduced towns to the series, a much welcome addition that makes the game world actually seem believable. Granted, many of the town denizens speak so cryptically that there advice is worthless, but there’s still fun to be had. You can learn new spells by visiting new towns, and sometimes you have to puzzle-solve within the town to find certain people.
What’s not so welcome is the RPG like level-building. Much time is needed fighting the same enemies over and over again to be able to withstand the onslaught in each dungeon. And the level-building is even more annoying than in your standard RPG, because you have to be more careful (since it’s an action game) and you actually have to seek out your enemies on each action screen. See, the game map is from a bird’s eye view, but when an enemy touches Link, it transports you to a battleground. This is similar to several SNES RPGs, but each scene takes significant time to wade through, making the game stupidly longer.
The dungeons is where this game shines. Each one is sprawling, but not maze-like. The enemies are colorful and gradually get harder throughout the game. Like the first game, there’s a treasure to find in each one that enhances Link’s ability. Problem-solving is abundant, sometimes using spells (like turning Link into a fairy!), sometimes using guile. And the boss battles are a ton of fun. In fact, the bosses make those in the first game seem like Goombas, not only because they’re more difficult, but because they’re more unique and fun to fight against.
The main downfall in this game, at least for me, is the insanely difficult endgame. Reaching the final castle is almost impossible, as the final caves have so many lava pits that Link’s Castlevania-like jumping ability often isn’t enough. The final castle is also complex and difficult, but at least it’s fair. Of course, if you don’t have any lives left, it’s a daunting task. The final enemy, Link’s shadow, is a worthy opponent unlike Ganon from the first game. I’ve never won the game without cheats, but I can see how one could do it with enough dedication.
Zelda II is unlike any other game in the series. Nintendo took a chance, and while I’m glad they went away from this formula for their next game, I appreciate what they tried to do.