Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Release Date: December 1, 1988

Version: Nintendo Switch Online

Rating: 6.5/10

After defeating Ganon, Link has another crisis on his hands. This time, Zelda has been put into a deep slumber and Link has to defeat the evil sorcerer causing this horrible curse.

Playability 2 of 4: Difficulty, thy name is the Adventure of Link. This is probably the hardest game I’ve ever played. There is no difficulty curve either, it starts out incredibly unforgiving and only gets more difficult as the game goes on. It doesn’t help that almost nothing points you in the direction you need to go, or lets you know that you absolutely need to find every single spell and item in order to proceed to the next part. Ultimately, I had to use a guide because I don’t think I’d know otherwise that you need to do half the things you need to do. The vague clues you find from villagers barely lets you know anything, only once did someone say something that let me discover something on my own. Every other time I said to myself, “I don’t know what to do, back to the walkthrough…”

Okay, this is made during the NES’s hayday, only a few years into it’s life before even Sega Genesis hit the scene. Zelda was a huge hit and rightfully so, Adventure of Link was trying to recapture that magic, but was doing so by basically changing everything that made the first game what it was.

First off, the leveling up system doesn’t really work in a Zelda game, it’s made even more frustrating that when you lose all your lives and have to continue, you keep your levels that you’ve earned but lose all your experience for getting to the next level. This isn’t so bad at first when you only need a few points between each upgrade, but gets immensely impeding when you lose literally thousands of experience points all at once and it feels that much farther to getting another level.

Next, the absolute unforgiving nature of the combat system. You see, when you’re walking around in the world, it’s a top-down map like in the original game. But once you enter anything else, whether it’s a cave, palace, town, or random encounter, you’re entered into a side-scrolling, Castlevania-style areas, which aren’t bad and I actually like this aspect, but the combat itself is far from what it could be. For one thing, Link’s sword just feels really short. I find myself constantly having to run inside where other creatures can slash and get hit in order to try to get an attack in, and probably just get attacked myself in the process. This is countered by the fact that towards the end of the game, most enemies either have unbreakable shields with psychic abilities so they always know where your about to slash, or they need to be attacked with magic that isn’t always easy to come by and runs out fast.

…..BUT! At first, this game was so difficult I almost broke my switch right in half over my knee several times in frustration. Then, after a while, partly due to something akin to Stockholm Syndrome, I started playing a lot better, especially after getting the downward and upward slashes. You start anticipating when to shield and when to slash. You learn which enemies aren’t worth fighting if you can help it, and where you can go to get experience easily without needing to worry too much about dying all of a sudden and losing it all….again. So, this becomes a game that’s actually pretty fun, but I nearly gave up on it several times.

Oh, but one more thing that I think belongs in playability more than anywhere else. Dungeon “puzzles” in this game get downright stupid. They’re fine at first in that it’s more like Castlevania and you just got to do A first before you can do B, but then about level 4 or 5 you start having to do things like: Jump down a pit in order to find a hidden room that you HAVE TO FIND TO CONTINUE! Keep in mind that falling down a pit outside of these “secrets” means instant death. Another part is a hidden wall that you, again, have to find in order to move on. I don’t see how anyone figured these points out before the days of the internet because the game doesn’t give even a single clue to their presence.

So, if you’re playing through this one for the first time, use a guide.

Fun Factor 2.1 of 3: As I say above, this game becomes fun over time, but it starts off so difficult that it takes quite a while to get there. The frustration never quite goes away, but it does become at least partially fun.

The best part of this game, and this may sound weird, but it’s right after you beat it. I don’t even mean that in a “now you can finally stop playing it” way. But there is a real sense of accomplishment that I don’t think I’ve gotten from beating any other game I’ve ever completed. Difficult as hell, fun only partially, and I have conquered it! I don’t know, like I said, kind of a weird reason to recommend a game….

Story 1 of 1: If you read through the booklet, which you can find online for free, there is a lot of story going into this game. Something you at least partially miss out on if you’re just jumping straight in. But, with the induction of people and towns in the series, even if they only say one thing per person, it feels a lot more real and a lot more like the Zeldas we all know that came after this game. It creates something that feels like a real country instead of a barren place devoid of civilization like the first game, though the former title more than makes up for that with its environment.

Graphics and Sounds 0.8 of 1: The music can be a tad annoying sometimes, but fits in with Zelda as a whole though I think I’d have preferred just reusing music from the first game, personally. Also, the graphics are pretty good for it’s time, but Link’s face just looks downright strange.

Replayability 0.6 of 1: Like every Zelda, I could see myself replaying this further down the line, perhaps when I’m feeling a tad masochistic. And the world in this one is big enough I’m sure there’s tons of secrets still to discover. Also, I wonder how good I’d be at the beginning now that I know the combat a lot better than I did. At the same time though, I feel the accomplishment of having beaten it and I don’t know if doing so again is really worth the effort. Even having “mastered” the game, it’s still incredibly hard. I’m not sure if a replay is worth the immense frustration.

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