Review by Kaas
The controversial sequel makes it's jump to the GBA...
Zelda II: Links Adventure came out first in 1988, and has been a controversial game ever since. Players who are used to the Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker or Link to the Past gameplay will find it hard to believe this is even a Zelda game at all. It took the basic premises of the original Zelda on the NES and created a completely different game with it. Sure, it still features Link, it still deals with Ganon, there are still lots of people to talk with, but its definitely not the same as your average day Zelda game. But we all know change isnt always a bad thing
After the success of Legend of Zelda, Nintendo created this sequel. And, because the port of Legend of Zelda to the GBA was pretty successful, it made sense to port this game second. However, dont expect better graphics, added gameplay or some bonus features: this is Zelda II, pure and simple, just how it came out back in the days. Its a bit of a shame, really, because there were plenty of things they couldve thrown in (perhaps as reward for beating the game).
Zelda II opens with Link in an almost empty castle, with only a sleeping Zelda to keep him company. It appears she has been cursed, and its up to him to save her from eternal sleep and to save Hyrule while hes at it. He must collect the Triforce of Courage in order to complete this task, but its heavily guarded by Ganons evil minions, who wish Links destruction in order to resurrect their malicious leader. Link must locate six palaces, defeat their leaders and place a crystal in it to gain access to the final palace, in which the much needed part of the Triforce resides. Not an easy task, if you ask me
As soon as you start playing, you will notice a few differences with other Zelda games. First of all, this is the only Zelda thats part side-scroller. Yes, a side-scroller. Walking around Hyrule is done via an overhead map (like in the original Zelda on the NES), but battle- and townscenes are viewed from the side (like Final Fight and Mario). At first, its a bit confusing, but once you get used to it, its actually pretty nice and easy to fight in. Fights still require some skill and tactics, as different enemies require different fighting styles, so it never bothered me. Talking to people in towns (which were also new in that Zelda) is also handy in this sideview.
Another addition was the magic system. As you progress through the game, you will encounter some people who will give you the power to cast spells. Some of these spells are very useful (like the spell to replenish your health), while some of them are rather useless, and more of a one-time-use (but youll need it anyway to progress). Casting spells costs magic energy, so you cant keep on using it forever (you can replenish your meter by collecting magic jars, which are often dropped by enemies).
The biggest difference is the leveling, as this is only Zelda game ever to feature it. As you defeat enemies, you will get experience for it. The tougher the enemy, the more experience youll get. As soon as you got a set amount of exp, you can level one of three abilities (life, magic and strength). It adds a new strategy to the game, as youll need to think about what youll upgrade next (which often depends on your way of playing). Once youve upgraded everything till its highest level, you get an extra life for every additional level up. I liked this system, but the leveling gets rather boring after a while, because at the end you will need to defeat a lot of enemies to level (and if you happen to die, youll need to start all over again).
As you travel around Hyrule, you will notice the graphics are pretty clear for a game of this age. Everything looks like it should, and I count this game among the top 10 of prettiest NES games. If you enter a sidescrolling part of the game, youll see the detail in the characters and buildings, while the topdown view looks clear enough and has some nice touches (like being able to chop down grass). Some of the spells look pretty impressive to, and the shadow effect you get when locking a palace, which is pretty rare among NES games, looks really good and definitely adds to the somewhat creepy atmosphere of the game. The bosses are looking very impressive too, especially the first one (I even had nightmares of him for a while when I was a kid ). Some of them really seem to radiate a violent and evil vibe, and you will be glad you defeated them, that is, if they dont utterly destroy you
which brings me to another thing this game is famous for: its extreme difficulty. Some gamers might say its difficulty is overrated, but I can assure you its not. At some times, this game can even be frustrated because you just keep on dying. And having to start in the place you begin the game in makes it not easier, because you have travel back to where you were again (and sometimes loose a life in the progress). Bosses often require a lot of hits before succumbing to your might (that is, if you didnt level up like a madman), and their attacks are often devastating. The normal enemies arent exactly push-overs either; as a lot of them can attack you with unblockable weapons, but can shield themselves from attacks made by you. Theyre still beatable, of course, but in no way is this game as easy as the Zelda games of this era. Luckily, the control over Link is very good, and after some practice, you can steer his every movement while slashing away at the many enemies this games offer. Your magic is just one button away, and you use your shield automatically when not attacking. All this makes for a very challenging, yet absolutely beatable game. Just remember, if you die, its your own fault, for the controls are perfect
Luckily, the excellent music this games features makes backtracking I mentioned before a bit more comfortable. All the tunes are a pleasure to the ear, and youll probably find yourself whistling some of the more well-known songs in a few days. The game features a few of the famous Zelda tunes, and has added some more pieces of art to the already big library of themes. While the tunes are in 8-bit, I still think theyre really well done, as it in no way bothered me during my playing this game. In fact, I think it even sounds a bit better here than on the NES earlier. Im not sure if Nintendo polished the music a bit, or its just my imagination. In any way, the music is excellent.
Once finished, this game doesnt really offer much anymore. The story (which is near non-existant) is not worth replaying the game for, and once youve seen all the villagers and their unintentional wrong speech, collected all the heart and magic containers and found every spell, theres really nothing left to do. Sure, you might whip it out on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and it will remain a classic game, but there arent any sidequests or minigames in it (which isnt really odd, because its an old NES game).
This game earns a 7 from me, because its fun to play, it looks great, the music is near perfect and its not easy to finish. I deducted some points for its extreme difficulty, its lack of story and replayability. Also, I took away a point for it being a straight port (nothing was added at all). Still, this game remains one of my favorite Zeldas and should be played by everyone at least once, if they think of themselves as a Zelda (or adventure games) fan.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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