On my first month of blogging I did a review of the Legend Of Zelda. Two years later, I’m ready to do the first sequel. And I court controversy in doing so. For this game is one that people either like or dislike. Those who dislike it point to how different it is from the others and the high level of difficulty. Those who like feel that the side-scrolling approach was a nice change of pace, especially for a series that is often slow to change. Me? I played this in my first year of gaming out of the arcade. So I loved it at the time. I have since come to find some flaws that I didn’t see back then. But overall, I’d say that it’s about as good as the original.
Plot: 7 out of 10
This is one of those games in which you need the manual to comprehend the story. It’s been a long time since Ganon died in the first Zelda game. All of a sudden a wizard puts Princess Zelda to sleep at the order of the Prince, who is angry that he only partially inherits the Triforce (magical triangle). Zelda’s nurse, Impa tells Link that to save Zelda again, he must take six crystals and place each one in what appear to be machines in six palaces. This unlocks a seventh palace (if you haven’t turned in the crystals, you’ll be stopped by a barrier of death at the entrance) in which the secrets of uniting the segments of the Triforce can be found.
Along the way, Link is attacked by the former followers of Ganon and the guardians of the palaces intended to keep the Triforce from being united by the wrong hands. The former is said to be able to revive Ganon by dripping Link’s blood onto the bad guy’s ashes. I have to admit, making a spoiled aristocrat’s sense of entitlement to blame for everything is a nice twist even though a lot else comes together much too conveniently. Still, the fact that there’s essentially a “bad guy wins” ending showing a shadowy Ganon cackling at your expense and the words “return of Ganon” on the game over screen is another nice touch.
Graphics: 7 out of 10
I maintain that the original’s weakest point was graphics. They’re much better this time. Detail is impressive, particularly with character designs. Unfortunately, the same issue of things repeating themselves over and over again remains.
Sound: 8 out of 10
I don’t think anyone who grew up playing this game doesn’t remember the songs for the first six palaces and the Great Palace that is the last stop. They are catchy, thrilling, and melodic. No wonder one of these themes was brought back many years later in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. But the rest of the soundtrack ranges from average to outstanding. Nintendo obviously worked the hardest on the palace songs because they knew which songs would be make the most impact. Smart business, but not deserving of a super-high rating.
Gameplay: 7 out of 10
I get the complaints. I know this isn’t the usual format. Much of the game is the usual top-down view. That is the map screen. You walk on the map looking for places in this mode. In all of these places you have a side-scrolling perspective in which you can shield yourself from projectiles, walk, jump, and thrust your sword. But why is it so big a deal? Really. Besides the fact that only one other Zelda game was out, the spirit — hack ‘n slash and treasure hunting in a fantasy setting, remains true. If anything, this kind of stubbornness on the part of gamers is problematic for the gaming industry. After all, why should we be surprised that Nintendo is reluctant to ever change anything when some of it’s fans won’t accept new twists on treasured franchises?-
One nice addition — at least, for the time — is towns. Whereas nobody seemed to live above ground in the original except monsters, Zelda II has towns in which you can talk to people to get clues on what to do and to heal yourself. You can also get spells but usually only by doing some task for someone. Everybody really does want somethin’. You have a magic meter that shows the amount of magic you have left to spend on your assorted spells. These cause a variety of effects including healing, launching fireballs, and even turning Link into a fairy.
You get in a fight by running into monsters on the map, sending you into the side-scrolling view to fight your way to either edge of the screen and return to the map. Caves and palaces are also done in the side-scrolling perspective. The controls are OK. The slashing, shielding, and magic work well, but the jumping is rather stiff. Still, this game plays reasonably well, especially if you had turbo.
Challenge: 9 out of 10
Some people find this game too hard. It’s not. it’s about as tough as the second quest in Legend Of Zelda. What people don’t realize is the need to occasionally build experience. Time-consuming and boring? No more than building up money in the other Zeldas. Still, it is true that you do need strategy. You need to look at patterns to see enemies’ strengths and moments of vulnerability and act accordingly. On the other hand, hesitation isn’t always the answer. For example, Ironknuckles (knights) move their shields up and down and are immune to a low jumping (don’t ask) strike. This leads most players to fence with them. Mistake! A high jumping strike on the way down will easily hit. Although the blue ones aren’t that weak against this because their thrown swords can catch you in the air. Zelda II is definitely a thinker’s game.
Overall: 8 out of 10
Count me among those who like Zelda II: the Adventure Of Link. It adds many new things while keeping true to the spirit of the series. It’s also a blast and challenge to play. Not only is Adventure Of Link great in its own right, it’s the the installment in the series that is dated the latest (A Link To the Past and Link’s Awakening are prequels) before the series started rebooting in Ocarina Of Time, making it impossible to piece the games together. But that’s another story.