Last Generation Gamer: Zelda II: The Adventures of Link

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Last Generation Gamer is Seed Sings way of reflecting on the greatest video games that were released before the current gen systems.  These are not necessarily reviews.  Let's look at these thoughts as a walk down memory lane.  If you have any ideas for Last Generation Gamer contact us seedsing.rdk@gmail.com

It is without question that the Legend of Zelda series of games are some of the most iconic and beloved in the history of all video gaming. The latest entry, Breath of the Wild, has already been heralded as one of the greatest games ever made. The first game introduced revolutionary concepts most games did not adopt until very recently. From the very first gold cartridge to today’s open world marvel, the games that start with The Legend of Zelda in their title are sure fire masterpieces.

It almost was not that way. After the runaway success of The Legend of Zelda, the sequel soon followed. Zelda II was released in Japan in early 1987 and followed to America in late 1988. The game was a huge smash, selling out and being generally well reviewed. All seemed right with the new series of games.

Yet initial success did not help the legacy of Zelda II. If you look up the worst games in the series, Zelda II is regularly listed as the worst one Nintendo ever introduced. Yes, there were the three terrible games licensed to Phillips for their 3DO system. Outside of a terrible cartoon series, those games are not considered by anyone to be part of the Nintendo series of games. When it comes to the “main” games, Zelda II is not held in the same high esteem of any of the other games in the series.

Why such a critical fall from grace? For starters Zelda II is very different than the original. The split between a top down world and a side scroller is not found in any other game in the series. Also, Zelda II is a hard game. The game introduced leveling up by getting experience points, and those experience points take a long time to acquire. The game gives you three lives, another thing not seen in any other Zelda game, and if you lose all three lives, you lose all of the experience you gained. And believe me you needed those three lives. The games monsters also require some wait and see strategy. No barreling through enemies because you are just way too strong, Zelda II made you stop and think. Many times you would need all three lives just to test out strategies to get past a few levels of a dungeon. Once you figured out the right strategy on your last life, you died and have to start again. To make it sting even more, no matter where you lost your last life, you will begin the game right back at where you started in the very beginning. Zelda II added to the tradition known as “Nintendo Hard”.

Zelda II does not deserve the disdain time has given the game. Yes it is hard, but so what. It was so different from the first game, yet added to the charm of the series. The towns became alive, the world of Hyrule was ripe for new exploration, and the hero Link was as awesome as ever. He could jump up and stab downward, how awesome. Zelda II was a huge leap forward in concept and execution than it’s older sibling, and both games lived on the same system. Zelda II was a triumph of it’s time.

It is extremely easy to play the very difficult Zelda II: The Adventures of Link these days. The mini NES that came out a few years ago has it (that is how I am replaying it right now), and it is part of the Nintendo Switch Online catalog of games. The Switch catalog even has an easier version where Link already has many of his power ups and spells. So go find this lost gem and get exploring. Once you get over the frustration of having to play a challenging game, you will find that Zelda II deserves a place of respect in our pantheon of awesome vintage video games. Get to it, princess Zelda needs saving, again.

RD

RD Kulik is the Head Editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast. Up next? Why Kid Icarus of course.

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