Review

“I am Error”

Publisher: Nintendo
+ Link returns for another epic quest!
+ Challenging
+ Introduction of magic
Developer: Nintendo
Genre: Action RPG
Released: 01/14/87
ESRB: NA
- Frustrating
– Linear for a Zelda game, What do I do?
Platform: NES


What’s the story: The story of Zelda II revolves around Link finding a way to awaken the sleeping princess, who apparently has been cursed by an evil wizard.  You see Zelda’s brother had tried to force her into telling him the secrets of their recently deceased father and revealing the location of the last three pieces of the Triforce.  Zelda of course refused to do so and her brother had his wizard friend put a spell on her out of rage, which led to Zelda’s current state and the death of the wizard himself.  Unable to reverse the spell put on his sister, he locked Zelda away in the castle in hopes that she would one day reawaken.  From this point on he also made it so every princess born into the royal family from that point forward would be named Zelda in remembrance of this tragedy.

Several years after the events of the first game, Link notices a strange mark on his hand that resembled the crest of Hyrule.  Link seeks out Impa for answers and his led to the castle that has been sealed for generations.  Impa then places the back of Link’s hand on the door and it opens, revealing the sleeping Zelda.  Link is then told that he has been chosen to be the one to awaken the princess and eventually lead Hyrule as the new King.  Impa hands Link a back of strange stones and tablets with instructions that only the future King can read and sends him off to fulfill his destiny.  Meanwhile the followers of Gannon are out to kill Link and end his pilgrimage premature to completion.  It is said that if they sprinkle Link’s blood over the grave of Gannon, he will return to once again reign terror across the land.

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retro_review_zelda_2_03 What’s to like: The first thing that stood out to me about this game was how challenging it was compared to the first. In this installment you will once again control an overhead view of Link has he ventures across Hyrule, but there is a bit of a twist. Whenever link runs into an enemy or enters a specific location, the screen will change to a side scrolling style layout. In most cases you can simply kill the enemies in your way and move on but in areas like towns or dungeons you will have some exploring and back tracking to do. Dungeons and such are also pre-layed out you pretty much know what to expect as you make your way through a second time. In the open however the encounters are random and can happen at any given time. The layout of random encounter are pretty much based on your location and the terrain you are standing on at the time of the encounter.

retro_review_zelda_2_17 Another interesting aspect of the game is that it is one of the first games ever to imply the RPG element.  There are three basic attributes to level up and you will gather experience from killing enemies or finding experience pouches hidden around Hyrule to increase Link’s abilities.  The stats you level up are attack, magic, and life.  Attack will of course increase the damage Link can due using his sword, magic reduces the magic cost of the spells you can use, and life lowers the amount of damage Link will receive from the enemy.  Even though you can technically choose which stat to level up when you have the experience required to do so, they each cost different amounts and the best strategy is to just increase the first one that comes available.  Keep in mind that if you have to use a continue, you will lose all unused experience that you have worked for.

retro_review_zelda_2_12 Next I will cover the various spells and abilities found throughout the game.  In every town there is a wizard that you can learn magic from.  Some will give you spells that are used for nothing more than gaining access to new areas, such as Jump and Fairy.  Others can aid you in combat like Shield and Life.  Whichever the case may be, it always starts with a person from that town giving you a task to complete (usually a missing item).  Once you have completed your task, they will let you pass and talk to the wizard.  Some towns even have warriors hidden in them to teach Link new sword techniques, such as the ever so useful Downward Thrust.  All in all Zelda II delivers when it comes to this aspect of the game.

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retro_review_zelda_2_15 Whats not to like:Now to cover the ugly part of the game…which also happens to be the bulk of it.  Lets start with how frustrating the game is.  When you play the game you will always start with three lives.  When you lose these three lives, it is game over.  There are certain spots throughout Hyrule that you can also gain extra lives from, but they can only be used once.  Seeing as how the only thing you lose by continuing is unused experience, there really isn’t much of a point to finding them.  It would be different if they were a little more frequent in the land, but as rare as they are it just seems like a waste of time to me.  Now this doesn’t just imply to extra lives, but also the various experience pouches you can find.  In the beginning it doesn’t take much to level up so you probably won’t notice as much, but later on when you collect these one time pouches and come so close to leveling up just to die and lose it all, it can be very frustrating.

retro_review_zelda_2_02 Speaking of frustration, when you continue all enemies you have killed in caves and dungeons will re-spawn.  Furthermore you will have to start all the way back at the beginning of the game where Zelda can be seen sleeping in the castle, forcing you to make your way back and re-kill everything in your path.  Any keys you acquired for dungeons will remain as well as opened doors that previously blocked you path, so no worries there.  However when you finally get to a boss just to die forcing you to fight your way back to it from the start of the game, you most likely aren’t any better off in terms of life and extra lives than you were the first time you encountered him.  This kind of frustration is just unnecessary in any game and isn’t really needed to add challenge to an already challenging game.  In my opinion, continues should start you off at the start of the dungeon rather than at the start of the game itself.

retro_review_zelda_2_10 Another frustrating aspect of this game is how you are always aimlessly walking around.  Now I know the first Zelda game didn’t offer much in terms of direction, but there was all kinds of extra stuff to discover along the way and it felt good when you found it.  Here you are basically walking around looking for small areas of the map that don’t even stick out to advance the plot.  There are maybe one or two hidden areas with a heart container or magic jar, but that’s about it.  Sure there are experience pouches, but if you fail to level up before having to continue they are rendered useless.  What makes it worse is that Zelda II actually has the resources to offer direction to make things a little more bearable, but it just doesn’t do it.  There are several townsfolk walking around that could clue you in, but most of them have nothing useful to say.  There are one or two that do offer guidance, but they are hit or miss.  Some make it rather simple, others leave you waiting for more info before you go back to randomly walking around till something happens.  It is a shame because all of the elements for a complete game are there, it just seems that everything is just thrown together in a very sloppy manner.

Score
Overall
When it comes to Zelda games, this installment is most definitely the weakest Link (pun intended).  Zelda II seems to have everything it needs to be a complete and enjoyable adventure, but it seems that nothing was put together how it should have been.  With a much more linear game play and highly frustrating obstacles that are unnecessary in the long run, I can’t recommend this game to anyone other than die hard fans of the series.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t like the game is unplayable nor is it the worst game out there.  I will however say that there are much better and more enjoyable games out there to invest your time into.

Written By: Jason Roberts