Post Game Wrap-up: Zelda II – The Adventure of Link

Posted: July 2, 2016 in Post Game Wrap-up, Retro Gaming
Tags: , , , , ,

Zelda II

Quite some time ago, when I was about 10 or 11, I put a borrowed gold cartridge bearing the name Zelda II into my NES system. There was no internet then, and gaming magazines were not exactly common. Therefore, I had no way of knowing that I was about to start playing a game that would still be among my favorites over 20 years later.

The Set-up:
You are Link. Some years after defeating Ganon and saving Hyrule in the original Legend of Zelda, you discover that you are marked for yet another quest, this one involving the original Princess Zelda, who is in a deep, cursed sleep, and has been for many, many years (and who is the source of the “Legend” in the title). Once again, you find yourself venturing into the land of Hyrule on a great adventure.

The Story:
The plot of this game is a bit secondary, which is the case with most NES games, but you can read the graphic at the title screen and/or check out the Instruction Booklet (remember when those were invaluable?). You are given six crystals by Impa to place in certain temples around the world of Hyrule. The temples are, of course, each guarded by a boss character that you must defeat before you’re able to place each crystal. Upon placing these, you may enter the Great Palace and claim the Triforce of Courage, which can awaken the sleeping Princess.

Zelda II Zelda Sleeping

A kiss just isn’t going to cut it.

There are other minor, very minor, side plots in the game. One involves the followers of Ganon attempting to kill Link, as sprinkling Link’s blood on Ganon’s ashes will revive him. Others are simply mechanisms used to obtain items or spells in the villages scattered around Hyrule, such as finding a lost child or returning a trophy. These are required, and involve no real expansion of the main quest, but do offer up a motivation for villagers helping you out.

The Gameplay:
Immediately upon playing this game, it is very obvious that this is not simply an expansion of the original Legend of Zelda. Link still moves on an overhead map, but anything involving combat or exploration of a particular area is played out via a side-scrolling level. These range from minor battles that occur when you are touched by a shadow on the overhead map that appears when you stray from the main road (agents of Ganon), to the temples where you are to place each of the six crystals. The overworld functions much the same way it does in the NES and Super NES Final Fantasy games. It allows you to travel “vast” distances quickly, but offers very little else in regards of combat.

All that said, it is a very large overworld, consisting of two continents, numerous villages and caves and such, and the aforementioned temples. There are also hidden “tiles” that contain heart or magic containers, or are levels that you’ll need to navigate to continue on. As mentioned above, there is a road you can follow, but you’ll have to move off that into other terrain as you journey through the game. This consists of forested areas, swamps, and deserts (and some kind of volcanic looking area much later in the game). The overworld in Zelda II has always given me the feeling of a vast land, filled with secrets and dangers. In the current gaming landscape, it’s probably not much to look at, but in that day and age, it was filled with possibilities, and seemed almost magical.

Zelda II Map

This helped make the game seem that much bigger.

Combat in Zelda II is very simplistic at first. You stab stuff. That’s it. There are no items such as a bow or bombs, although you do acquire items in each of the temples that will help you out. These consist of items such as the candle which allows you to see in caverns (which are in darkness up until this point), the winged boots allowing you to walk on water, and the whistle which removes a river devil blocking your progress. These items are all non-combat items and can only be used on the overworld map. However, as you progress in the game, you will learn the down-thrust and up-thrust techniques which complement your fighting abilities. These sound simplistic, but are actually extremely helpful in the game, and aren’t simply one and done techniques. There are also Spells that Link will learn, ranging from Shield and Jump to the powerful Thunder spell. You will need to monitor your Magic Meter however, as a spell like Thunder will just about drain it. I will admit that magic can be mostly ignored in this game, but if you’re willing to keep it in mind and use it, it can be helpful and enrich your experience. Especially a spell such as Life which will refill part of your life meter.

Zelda II Red Woman

No comment on what she does to fill your life up.

Speaking of, this game does have Heart Containers to find, but only four of them, and they are found in the overworld, not given at the end of each temple. The same is true of your magic meter and Magic Containers. These meters/containers are supplemented by Link having the ability to level up. An ability that has not been seen in a Zelda title since. Upon obtaining enough experience points (given in treasure bags and by defeating enemies), you are given the option to upgrade your life, magic, or weapon levels. Upgrading life and magic will let you take more damage or use less magic per spell respectively. Upgrading your weapon allows you to deal more damage. Each can be upgraded to a level of 8, and it is possible to ignore upgrading one aspect in favor of leveling up another, providing some minor strategy to the game (especially when used in conjunction with the automatic level up you get at the end of each temple). This RPG element of Zelda II is definitely not close to something you would find in a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, but does spice the game up somewhat and further differentiates it from its predecessor.

Even though Zelda II is the black sheep of the Zelda series and it is almost blasphemous to say this in video game circles, I far prefer Zelda II to the original Legend of Zelda. It just feels so much fuller than the original game, which is odd as I imagine that the original game is probably the bigger game. Somehow, Zelda II just seems to have a larger scope to it, and as you travel from the beginning across two continents to the Great Temple, it just seems like more of an adventure. I suspect that this is helped by the addition of villages and NPC characters going about their lives, making the world feel like a populated place that exists outside of the game. These towns and citizens were not present in the original game outside of people hiding in caves. Also, the difficulty of Zelda II is ramped up quite a bit, which helps further the feeling of an adventure that is escalating in difficulty and danger. By today’s standards, this game probably doesn’t stand up as anything special, but in the era in which it was released, a world full of 8-bit games, this game was bursting with a special kind of magic that only a few games are ever able to capture.

Zelda II Magic Map

Even at 34, this map still seems special to me every time I play it.



  1. I’m in the process of playing Zelda 2 now. I finished off The Legend of Zelda a few weeks back for the first time. After seeing all the Breath of the Wild clips at E3 I’ve had Zelda on the brain.

    So far I’ve gotten to Death Mountain and decided to take a break to play Majora’s Mask for the Cartridge Club, but I’m looking forward to getting back to Zelda 2. In some ways it’s more difficult than the original and it took me a while to get into it, but I was starting to really enjoy it.

    • JAVGB says:

      Zelda II is generally regarded as the most difficult Zelda title. I’m sure that I can breeze through it due to my playing it a as a kid. When you have no choice but to keep trying, you tend to get better. Lol

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