25: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Genre: Action RPG

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 1988

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.

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17 thoughts on “25: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

  1. Beau, I was suprised you included this game in your top games. I know how excited you were when I got it for you and Ryan for xmas back when, but what a frustrating game, and no near the caliber of the original Zelda!

  2. 24 years later, I still don’t know if I like this game. I don’t expect a sequel to be the same, but this was a huge shock.

    I beat it without cheats, but I did play it quite a bit (so perhaps I liked it? I don’t know).

    This game was responsible for the greatest glitch I ever saw – I walked over to the temple where Zelda was in her cursed sleep (or whatever it was) the second I started the game for the first time, and the game was confused into thinking I’d just beaten it and I saw the entire ending. Because I had no idea what was supposed to happen, I just sat there and watched it.

    I still say “I am Error” if I get the chance. I also love “The Adventure of Link.” What a pointless subtitle. The first one was Link’s adventure, too!

    • I hated then loved then hated this game. Now after some years have passed I think i’m comfortable with it, especially if I don’t compare it to the canon. It’s a good game with flaws.

      I’ve seen that glitch used in tool-assisted-speedruns.

      Yeah, that subtitle is ridiculous. Almost as bad is “Simon’s Quest.” So, the first game wasn’t a quest? Was it a trek?

      • Simon’s Quest! I knew there was another hilarious subtitle out there.

        I was going to name one of the last Survivor XI challenges “Minefield II: The Field of Mines” in that vein, but I was afraid that referring to another challenge as “Minefield” would freak out the players (since the first one took so long).

  3. What I loved most about Adventure of Link is the joy you and Ryan got when you opened it up on Christmas Day, after I’d told you that you weren’t getting the game, that it was all sold out that year!

    What I didn’t like about the game is that it was quite a let-down after the original Zelda, as in having to spend hours killing those tiny little blobs (I can’t remember their names, but I’m sure you do!) to power up to the next level so that you could continue on. I never won the game, came close, though, but I finally gave up.

    On a good note, the Zelda games will always rule for me, whether or not I win them. The ones I have played since on my DS have been a pleasure to play . . . I didn’t win either of those either, but no big deal, I enjoyed playing them immensely until I realized I couldn’t “move fast enough” to win the game, so gave up before the final win. So onto Professor Layton . . .oops, I guess I’m off the topic now, this is supposed to be about NES! :}

    • Bits and Bots!

      Not only did you tell us we weren’t getting the game, you guys wrapped it up in a sweatshirt to make us think we were getting lame ol’ clothes as a Christmas gift.

  4. I still play this one up until the final palace. It’s just not worth the frustration and angst going through that dreadful experience of a final trek. When I as in the hospital back in ’88 or so, this is the only game that didn’t raise my heart rate, so the nurses let me play it. They took Contra away…

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