Similar to Link, I am on an adventure: to replay my favorite Zelda titles and compare this new experience to the past.
Entry #2: Zelda II - The Adventure of Link (1988)
Play Time: 8 hours, 53 minutes
This took a lot longer than I expected. Like the first Zelda, I have very clear memories of my childhood days spent playing Zelda II. I recall all of the palaces, hidden medicine and hearts spread throughout the overworld, and the music. How great is the music?! I thought I could speed run to Ganon and finish this game quickly. What I experienced was a long, challenging quest that did not end with Ganon at all. Zelda II is a polarizing game, wherein most people I’ve encountered absolutely hate it for its difficulty as well as the side-scrolling, non-Zelda perspective. When I announced I’m playing it via Twitter, I was called an “masochist”. Perhaps no other title in the Zelda franchise holds this much disdain amongst so many of it’s fans. Although I completely understand the criticism it faces, Zelda II is still one of my favorite games ever.
The adventure is quite different from Zelda I. Instead of running around Hyrule with hardly any direction, you’re actually coached well by NPCs in the villages. Effectively, your quest comes down to this pattern: visit a village, get a spell, get a hint, and go to the nearest cave or palace. Along the way you’re frustratingly bombarded by enemy groups, akin to the Final Fantasy series. Like most representations of Hyrule throughout this franchise, you’re relegated to particular areas until you obtain that area’s special item. Equipment such as a flute, hammer, and boots that let you walk on water, are your keys to progress. Note that you’re not collecting rupees and burning bushes. You’re also not relying on items to defeat bosses. In fact, most boss battles come down to timing the head shot. Modern Zelda titles are incredibly similar. In Link’s Awakening released in 1993, you must retrieve items before leaving an area. In Ocarina of Time you can down thrust. As you’re going along defeating enemies, you’re also collecting points that can be redeemed to level-up your sword, magic and health. That’s right: for the first and only time ever, a Zelda game has RPG elements. And in many cases it makes sense to farm points before entering the next area. Can you imagine doing this in Skyward Sword?
And then there’s that whole “I am Error thing…”
Combat in Zelda II is all about timing - it’s a lot like the Dark Souls series. You know from experience which enemies to jump attack, which to down thrust, and which to up thrust. And you can easily fall off a ledge and die, even at full health. Veterans of Ocarina of Time, and other 3D Zelda titles will feel at home with the attacks. This is the first Zelda title, and the only one until Ocarina, to use up and down thrust attacks. This is likely due to the side-scrolling perspective of the game that is extremely controversial. I love it. The level of strategy in combat was taken up a level in this title. But, so was the level of frustration. One false step and you’re falling to your death off a ledge. Or, you’re facing a knight that blocks every single attack you fling at it. Knights are like mini-bosses that are distinguished primarily by their color. In the beginning orange knights are tough but as you level up your sword and get better at timing, they become trivial. By the end of the game you’ll be fighting blue knights with ranged attacks that are very quick and hard to kill. I tend to just avoid them whenever possible.
The use of magic greatly aids you in battle. Link has spells he casts such as a defensive shield and thunder (need to defeat Dark Link). But they only last for one room at a time making it difficult to manage your magic supply effectively. Speaking of Dark Link, this is one of the most difficult bosses in franchise history. Magic has no power here. You can only hurt Dark Link with your sword and he mimics your ever move. I’ve found the best strategy is to jump attack him with the shield spell running. I was absolutely elated when I beat him. More than I was as a kid for sure. This game was tough as hell.
Again, this is something I enjoyed playing. It’s certainly not the masterpiece sequel A Link to the Past turned out to be. Speaking of which, that’s up next!