|Zelda II: The Adventure of Link|
When the original Legend of Zelda hit the NES in 1987, it ushered in a new genre of adventure games. Naturally with the game a smash hit, Nintendo followed up with a sequel a year later. However, much like Super Mario Bros. 2, the second game in the series was quite different than what fans were hoping for as Nintendo decide to make it into a platform/RPG. While it didn't quite win the fans over, it doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad game either.
This second game takes place many years after the first chapter and once again has Link as the central character. In the first game Link was successful in defeating the evil Ganon, rescuing the Princess Zelda and reuniting the two Triforces, but ever since then chaos has still plagued the land of Hyrule. However one day an insigna appears on Link's hand and that leads him to discover the original Princess Zelda, who was put under a sleeping spell by an ancient wizard long ago and has been slumbering in the North Castle ever since. Link learns that the key to reviving Zelda and restoring peace to the kingdom is to find the long-lost third Triforce, the Triforce of Courage, which is hidden somewhere in Hyrule. Link sets out on his mission to somehow claim the Triforce, but Ganon's followers are on his trail as Link's blood is the key to reviving their master.
As I mentioned the gameplay is quite different from the first Zelda; instead of a top-down view, most of the action takes place with a platform-style side-scrolling view. To complete his mission, Link must reach the great Palace where the Triforce is kept, but to enter it he must first journey to six other palaces scattered around Hyrule, which has been split into two large islands. Link travels from place to place on a Dragon Warrior-style overworld map, but when he gets attacked by groups of enemies of when he enters certain places, the action shifts to the side-view. Link's only weapons are his trusty sword, which can fire energy bolts if his life is full, and his shield to block attacks. However instead of secondary weapons, Link now has the ability to cast magic spells which include the ability to shoot fire, jump high, restore your life and others. Each spell requires a certain amount of magic points, which can be repleshed with magic jars. Also, instead of Rupees you gain experience points from killing enemies, and once you gain enough points you can use them to increase your attack power, defense, and your ability to use magic. You can only increase one attribute at a time, and you must build up more points to increase another one. When Link first starts his quest he has four bars of life and four bars of magic, both of which can be extended by finding the appropriate containers, and three lives.
During his travels Link must also visit the eight towns in Hyrule. Link can talk to the villagers to get information, and some can even restore his life and magic. Each town also has a wise man that can teach you a new spell, provided you fulfill a certain requirement, and you can even learn new fighting techniques in two of the villages. Of course Link's main destination are the six Palaces, which are like the Dungeons in the first game but also use the platform mode. Link must search out a statue in each Palace but has to battle his way through the various enemies out to end your mission and search out keys to open the locked doors along your path. In addition, each Palace has a special item Link must find to complete his quest, such as the candle to light up caves, the hammer to smash rocks on the map, the raft to reach the other island, and so on. After Link reaches the end of the palace, he must defeat the Guardian and place a crystal in the statue's head to clear the level. Once Link completes all six Palaces, he can now enter the Great Palace, where the Triforce of Courage is kept, but must battle the final guardian to claim it.
The graphics in this game have their good parts and bad parts. The overhead scenes aren't much to look at; it's basically made up of tiles prepresenting the various terrain, though it is clear what's what. The visuals in the side-view mode, on the other hand, are pretty good. Most of the characters are pretty well drawn and have good details and animation. The various areas range from okay to great, especially the castles, which have different looks and textures for some variety. Like the graphics, the sounds also have their ups and downs. None of the classic music from the original made it to the sequel, but what's there is good, from the peaceful music in towns to the creepy theme in the castles. The sound effects feature some nice sounds such as you zapping enemies and your shield deflecting hits. The controls are easy to use since you can easily access your spells from a drop-dowm menu and don't have to equip anything to use them, and they're pretty responsive without any delays. However Link doesn't jump very well, meaning you can miss a ledge and fall into a pit and he also can't stop on a dime when he walks, sometimes taking a few extra steps. These are annoyances but can be worked around.
As far as the gameplay goes, Zelda II is pretty fun and engaging for the most part. The battle system is nicely done with constant action that keeps you on your toes, and the experience system gives you the option to customize your character. Plus this game requires quite a bit of time to complete and is a little on the difficult side, so you won't finish it too quickly. Unfortunately the gameplay does have some major flaws that drag it down. First of all some of the enemies can be frustrating to deal with, especially those that take away points if they hit you. Plus when Link gets hit he gets knocked back quite a bit, and often times he can get knocked into a pit, instantly costing you a life. But the main problems occur when you lose all three lives. While you have unlimited continues and a save system, you have to start ALL THE WAY BACK at North Castle and have to constantly retrace your steps to get back to where you were no matter how far you were, even if you get all the way to the last palace. Also while you keep your current levels and items, you lose all the experince points you had before you reached the next level, which is especially infuriating when you get close to advancing your abilities after many hours of work, only to lose them all at the last second and having to start from scratch.
When all is said and done, Zelda II is a good game that could have been done better. This title does offer a nice twist to the Zelda franchise and has some good features that carried over to the later titles. While the problems with starting over are frustrating and could have been addressed, there is still enough enjoyable gameplay to keep you going. Many gamers consider Zelda II to be the black sheep of the series, but if you give it a chance you'll find it still proves to be a fine adventure on the NES.
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