It seems that Nintendo is not content to “play it safe” with the Legend of Zelda. The developer is constantly reinventing the series, to the chagrin of fans. Sometimes those fans begrudgingly accept the changes well after the fact, as is the general opinion of The Wind Waker. But then there is the perpetual black sheep of the Zelda family, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
But why? Why can the fans not accept this game? It’s in my top ten favorite games in the series. While it may not stand at the top of many Zelda lists, I’m going to give you three reasons why you should not write off Zelda 2 without trying it. Forget all your preconceived notions about this game; it’s better than you remember.
The Legend of Zelda was a fantastic action-adventure game. It set the standard for expansive worlds and wide-open adventures for years to come. Yet Zelda II was a little more limited when it came around. There was still a wide-open Hyrule, but instead of complete– and occasionally confusing– freedom to tackle the world as the player saw fit, Zelda II featured a much more linear adventure. While it would be easy to complain about the lack of freedom when comparing the original with the sequel, in actuality this focused adventure was much easier to follow all the way through. There was still plenty of side-quests to complete, such as the hammer or magic key, but the adventure only benefited from the focused structure.
You youngsters probably don’t remember what it was like back in the day when not every game had some sort of leveling system, but in the NES days, this was a rare concept only utilized by RPGs (and the occasional SHMUP). That’s why the oft-maligned addition of a level-up system was such a novel concept when the game released. It may have been a basic system, and it would probably be taken for granted now, but the addition of these “RPG elements” years before it was in vogue would point to the forward-looking innovation the series would known for.
Oh, Oh, It’s Magic!
It seems like magic and Hyrule go hand-in-hand. Up until Twilight Princess, every console Zelda game featured a magic bar that various items drained as players used them. We have Zelda II to thank for that addition to the series. While the original had consumable items (Blue Lantern, Arrows, Bombs) and the Magic Rod, Zelda II‘s spell system required integrating a magic bar into the gameplay. The spells themselves were also an integral part of the game. Shield, Jump, Reflect, Fire, Thunder— these were all spells you would become familiar with in playing the game. And then of course there’s the Fairy spell, a useful little spell that let players bypass any locked door. While a spell-based magic system has not been seen in the series since Zelda II, it was a unique addition that really sets the title apart from the series, in a good way.
There are plenty other reasons to love this game. These three just scratch the surface in describing why Zelda II deserves your respect and consideration. If you’ve written off the game because of what others have told you, I beg you give it another chance. The depth and challenge of the game may surprise you. Or you could continue to be ERROR.