On a Personal Note: Zelda II

Posted: July 18, 2016 in Current Gaming

Zelda II

I recently reviewed Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, but I love the game so much that I felt compelled to expand on my thoughts.

As I stated in the review, Zelda II seems to have a magic that not many games have. There’s something enchanting about the game that pulls me in every single time I play the game. It never fails. At this point, I’ve probably played through Zelda II about a dozen times. Maybe more. Yet, it never gets old.

I will admit that at least some of that is nostalgia, but some of it is also the fact that Zelda II, more than most games, seems to take me back to being a kid and playing these games for the first time. I realize that that sounds like the same thing, but it goes deeper than simple nostalgia for me.

If you didn’t grow up in the NES era, then you have to understand that the natural limitations of the system almost required an active imagination. If you take a game like Zelda II at face value, then you’ll see an overworld with some paint by number villages, a few caves, and some temples to explore. But, if you can place it in that time period, it becomes something much more. That overworld was a vast, sprawling land that compelled you to check every nook and cranny. You just didn’t know where a hidden treasure bag may be lurking or a house may be hidden in a forest area. It offered up a ton of possibilities. The system couldn’t present a land that looked like Ocarina of Time, so the developers instead presented the idea of that land, and for me, it worked perfectly.

I think this more than anything made the game seem massive. When you’d finished the temples on the first continent, you ride a raft to the east only to find an entirely new continent. It’s almost impossible to explain how amazing that was as a kid unused to such massive surprises hiding in a game. It was such a joy to find that you’d only gone through about half of the game at that point, and had so much more to do. A good comp for how it made me feel is how surprised players where in Symphony of the Night when they get taken to the inverted castle and have an entirely new map, the same size as the map they’d been exploring, to fight their way through. That’s how it made me feel, and I still get a bit of that wonder today when I replay it.

Zelda II also serves as a reminder of when there were no internet spoilers, and no FAQ’s to help you out. You needed to explore the land fully, lest you miss something good. That wasn’t an annoying task though, it was part of the joy of the game. Also, as a bit of an open-world game, Zelda II almost challenged you to sequence break. Could I get to the second area without getting the candle first? [For the record, yes, I can.] Can I take on the fourth temple before the third? What happens if I just get the item in the temple, but don’t place the crystal? For a kid, the possibilities were almost limitless. I couldn’t look up the answers to these questions, so I had to test each one out, and I kept coming back to the game to see what it would let me do.

Zelda II isn’t the only game that had that affect on me, but it’s the one that stands out the most in my mind, and the one that I still revisit regularly today. For the most part, I’m not certain that I can fully explain the hold it has on me, but it really does make me happy, and reminds me of a simpler time in both my life and in video games. A time that I sometimes long for, but can’t recapture. Still, when I play Zelda II, I get at least a taste of that time again, and I’ll never be able to explain exactly how important that is to me.

Zelda II Lunch Box

I even had this lunch box. Would love to own it again.

  1. That lunchbox is awesome! I love that late-80s/early-90s Nintendo gear, like the sticker cards and stuff. I really enjoy the art.

    I have these exact feelings with all sorts of games, as well, so I completely understand. I think it would be difficult for a younger person who maybe started out with the N64 to get the imagination aspect, but anyone who played games from the 70s/80s/early-90s would get it.

    Unfortunately for me, I didn’t really play a Zelda game before A Link to the Past and even that was only a little bit here and there. Ocarina was my first LoZ title. I remember getting the Inverted Castle in SotN very clearly, though!

    Great stuff! Love the articles.

    • JAVGB says:

      Thanks! I agree with your thoughts on those growing up with the N64/PlayStation/etc… It’s not that those are bad systems by any stretch but, as you stated, it doesn’t offer the same opportunity of using your imagination. I think the resurgence of side-scrollers and the indie gaming scene have done quite a bit to bring back that aspect.

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