Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Review

Zelda IIZelda II: The Adventure of Link (Available on 3DS, Wii, and Wii U)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Original Release Date: September 26th, 1988
Wii Virtual Console Release Date: June 4th, 2007
3DS Virtual Console Release Date: November 22nd, 2012
Wii U Virtual Console Release Date: September 12th, 2013

Parent Talk: Having played this while a youngster myself, I can understand why the ESRB rated Zelda II E for everyone. Considering the somewhat primitive graphics, there really isn’t anything too overly mature about the game except the overall plot, which thankfully comes across much clearer than the original’s did.

Plays Like: Unlike The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link no longer takes place with an overhead perspective. Instead the game plays something more like Castlevania mixed with Dragon Quest. There’s still an overworld, although whenever enemies touch Link, they’re transported to a side-scrolling battle stage. Dungeons also take place in side scrolling areas where players engage in some of the most challenging battles ever to grace a Zelda game. Many consider this the most difficult game in the series, and for very good reason, it is. There’s also a leveling system, magic, and so much more.

Review Basis: Much like the original Zelda on the NES, I’ve played my fair share of The Adventure of Link. While this may be one of my least favorite entries in the series, it’s remains a fantastic game that dramatically changed the course of the series.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is generally regarded as the weakest link in the Zelda series, but that’s only because it tried to do so many new things. As a stand-alone videogame it’s actually extremely fun to play, so long as you aren’t easily frustrated. Reviewing this game as if playing it for the first time proved one thing right away, if you dislike dying a lot, this is most likely not the game for you. Outside the challenge, it’s pretty remarkable how well certain aspects have held up some 25 years after its original release?

ZeldaII_1The Great:

Having the balls to do something different. Bow and arrows, boomerang, bombs, yeah, they’re all gone in Zelda II. They’ve been replaced with an overworld and leveling system that mimics Dragon Quest. Enjoyed spending countless hours looking for secret entrances, well they’re still here although they’ve been scaled back to make room for what the real focus is, action. Link can learn a wide variety of skillful sword techniques including the awesome down-thrust, which is one of the most useful abilities in the entire game. There’s now a magic system which allows Link to shield himself, heal his wounds, or even transform into a fairy. All of these changes made Zelda II a completely different beast compared to the original, and depending on when you began playing the series, you either loved it or hated it. No one can deny that it was extremely risky of Nintendo to make all these changes, and today the game is remembered for having the courage to try something different.

ZeldaII_2The Good:

+ Extremely large overworld that contains loads of hidden goodies. While completely different than the original, the overworld still has its fair share of secrets. Players can find point bags, which aid in leveling, they can find heart containers, which increase Link’s capacity to hold more health, and more.

+ Grinding isn’t really required. Sure you can if you want, but unlike true RPGs, Zelda II works quite differently in that each dungeon automatically increases Link’s level upon completion. The game automatically determines which area will increase in strength upon leveling, be it either health, magic or sword strength.

+ Save sates are a blessing for new players. Given the extreme difficulty level, new players will be able to slowly ease into the game thanks to the save states, and not have to worry about restarting over and over again.

ZeldaII_3The So-So:

+/- Brutally difficult at the onset of the game, but slowly balances out as you progress. That’s not to say it ever becomes easy, but as you learn to use your spells more effectively, and get better at the combat system, things eventually balance out.

+/- Dialogue is more useful than the original Zelda, but players will still get lost. Thankfully towns are useful because there are more than a few characters which can point you in the right direction, but when it comes to hidden items that are required to progress, more often than not you’ll spend hours trying to find them unless you resort to using a guide.

The Bad:

– Hit boxes are extremely small. If you’re up against an Ironknuckle for example, unless you use the jump thrust move, you’re likely to lose of half your health because of how precise your hits have to be.

– Merciless. Difficulty is one thing, the lack of health drops from enemies is something else entirely. If you don’t use save states you’re going to die, a lot.

ZeldaII_4The Lowdown:

While many may dismiss Zelda II because of its difficulty or how radically different it is compared to its predecessor, it remains a fun game. The magic system remains fun to use, and exploration is easier than the original because of additional hints and a more linear progression system. If you can stomach the difficulty, aren’t put off by the emphasis on action, then Zelda II is certainly a classic worth revisiting.

Final Score: 8/10

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