If you’re an old school gamer and like the Zelda series one game in particular may stand out like a sore thumb. Zelda 2: The Adventure Of Link released for Nintendo in 1988. I knew this game wasn’t revered like the original, but I always assumed it was fondly remembered for its weirdness like Super Mario Brothers 2 or Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest (I could be wrong about that one too) but when it came up in a discussion in at the Evil Geeks Lair, everyone pretty much told me they hated it. I was flabbergasted.
I understand that it’s not a worthy successor to the genre defining first Zelda game but I always enjoyed playing it. I like that in the early days Nintendo was ready to go out on a limb and try a completely new style of game rather than just making a slightly different clone of the successful first game in a series. Zelda 1 gave us an overhead view and the ability to freely explore a large plot of land which was a big deal at the time. Zelda 2 partially emphasizes this, but to a much lesser degree. You also can’t use weapons in this mode. Anytime you enter a castle, cave or dwelling etc. the game switches to a side scroller. This apparently seems to be too jarring of a change for many Zelda fans to handle.
It subtly introduced many RPG elements into a sword and sorcery type side scroller which got people interested in RPGs without knowing it, people who wouldn’t normally play Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior. Link earned experience points through his kills that allowed him to make his attacks and spells stronger and increase his life meter. Like a classic RPG staple you visit towns and can actually talk to people who will give you hints to aid your journey. It’s through these towns that you can learn certain spells from wise men and also go on different side quests.
It has the Zelda series mainstay of challenging castles (7 in this particular game) complete with challenging puzzles to figure out. As with any classic Zelda game you also receive items in each of those castles that will allow you to move onto the next area of Hyrule. This game is also a bit more intuitive than the original Zelda as far as getting from place to place and doing things in the proper order. The original Zelda seems easy now but that’s only because I’ve had a whole life time of playing and know the exact order to do everything. How the hell would you know the Master Sword is stuffed in a grave somewhere? Zelda 2 is an excellent level of difficulty. It’s not one of those games you can beat in 20 minutes and it’s not one that’s utterly impossible and thanks to the save feature though, you don’t have to do it one sitting.
How about what it added to the overall Zelda mythos? The big one is the existence of a 3rd Triforce, the Triforce of Courage as well as having to defeat Dark Link (also in Ocarina Of time) and giving Link a magic meter. While not life changing, these are important for future installments.
Zelda 2 is very different (especially since the far superior Link To The Past for SNES went back to the series roots) but it’s also a lot of fun. Starting right from the title screen of that awesome rock embedded Master Sword. This game might actually be the only direct sequel in the franchise, think about how insane that is. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but the combination of side scroller and RPG is a bizarre concept that’s just crazy enough to work. I’m not saying it’s the greatest game and I’m definitely not saying its better than the first Zelda but if you’ve never played its worth giving it a shot.