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Zelda II: The Adventure of Link - Review

Zelda's Not So Prodigal Son...

By: MrSorcerer


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 8
   Plot 4
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Medium-Hard
   Time to Complete

15-30 hours

 
Overall
number
Criteria

Title Screen

   When Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda in 1986, it created the foundation for an incredible series, as well as the entire adventure genre. Thus it was no surprise that three years later, a sequel was born. With The Adventure of Link, Nintendo tried to go far beyond the simple yet incredible adventure elements of Zelda and create an even more impressive RPG/Action/Adventure hybrid. In many areas, Link is a great success, but it is also laden with features that often make it frustratingly difficult at times, while almost too simple at others. While many RPG enthusiasts have long looked down on Link as being the black sheep of the Zelda series, it is in all actuality a fantastic game that is still fun to play several years after its release.

   In Link, you once again resume the role of the title character, who is on yet another mission to save Princess Zelda as well as the entire realm of Hyrule. As is explained in the manual, Zelda is trapped in a deep sleep, and only by obtaining the Triforce of Courage can Link wake her. This must be completed by bringing six mystical crystals to their corresponding palaces, and then tracking down the hidden Triforce itself. As if this weren't daunting enough, the minions of Gannon are trying to find Link in order to kill him and revive their fallen lord. Thus, with only his sword, shield, and wits to support him, Link sets off on a mission to save the world.

   Although there is a traditional overhead map on which Link travels from place to place, all of his battles are fought in side-scrolling 2D battlefields. These bouts are initiated by encountering enemies on the world map, which appear as small and large blob-like creatures. In these fights, you manipulate Link by moving him back and forth in order to hack up his foes. Link also has the ability to jump and duck, which, amazingly enough, allow for intriguing tactical subtlety. Often, you will have to fight against similarly armed foes, and incredible reflexes are required in determining where to block and where to attack.


Originality?
Can't get much more original than a princess in distress...  

   As the game progresses, Link also gains a variety of magic, with uses ranging from healing to making his sword shoot fire. Strategy is involved in determining when to use magic, for our hero has a very limited supply, and a spell's effects wear off after leaving a particular screen. These few magic points can be stretched somewhat by finding magical pots that raise Link's maximum magic. Leveling up can also aid in increasing magic, as well as other abilities. Once Link earns an appropriate number of experience points, either from defeating monsters or finding bonus points scattered throughout the world, you are able to improve one of his abilities, be it health, magic, or attack rating. However, all of the experience points that Link has accumulated for his current level are lost every time you end your game, making some of the later levels much difficult to reach.

   Outside of combat, Link travels between caves, palaces, towns, and the like. Moving Link between places is very simple, and it becomes somewhat important to look for roads in order to avoid monster encounters. Inside towns, you can be healed, refill you mana, and gather new techniques and spells. Most of the other townspeople have little to say, and when they do say something relevant, it's hardly ever helpful or astounding. Text is also limited to four short lines, often compressing somewhat important statements into small, silly sentences. These tiny sentences are, however, fairly clear, with little that could possibly be lost in translation.

   The only real in game menu is the magic selection screen, which, while easy to navigate, can become frustrating in the manner that you often have to return to it before casting a spell, even if you already have that spell selected. The simple nature of Link's interface, does however lead to impressive ease of play and helps to reduce the somewhat difficult learning curve.

   Considering Link's prehistoric release date, it doesn't lead one to expect any great achievements in sound. Indeed, there are plenty of appropriate tracks which nicely fit whatever town or dungeon you are exploring, but there's really nothing that will impress today's gamer in the music department. Sound effects, however, are a different issue. In the common fight with another armored opponent, every clash of sword against shield produces an appropriate shwing sound, so that these somewhat difficult battles become very intense and every hit becomes more dramatic. Although none of The Adventure of Link's sounds are very impressive by today's standards, they still contribute to smooth, fun gameplay.


Blobbo!
Horrible black blobs of doom!  

   Aside from the manual, there is very little to support that there is any kind of plot at all in the game. Townspeople often make random comments that are aimed at building some kind of plot, but, for the most part, the storyline is confined to: "Beat the palaces. Save the princess. Help the villagers. Beat the palaces."

   Although Link seems very generic and basic by modern standards, it offers plenty of features that were incredibly innovative and influential ten years ago. The simple concept of "find key, unlock door," that was surprisingly clever in Zelda, takes on a new depth in Link, in which definite strategy and planning are involved with every enemy encounter. The Adventure of Link offers a host of puzzles that may seem somewhat basic today, but that's only because they've been reused in many games of the past decade. Also, the chance to choose which skills to advance in, the calculations involved in trying to preserve both health and magic power, and the general mix of three genres make The Adventure of Link an impressive and original game.

    This game offers strong replay value, but not strong enough for many of today's gamers. Once the game is completed, you have the ability to start a new game with all of your stats, skills, and magic that you had acquired in the previous game, but there is little else to motivate players to return to Hyrule again and again. Being the classic that it is, however, Link is often fun to come back to just for the sheer satisfaction of delving once again into the game. Link, however, is good for an occasional return adventure, but can easily become repetitive and dull once all of the game's little secrets have been found.

    Like sound, the graphics are not the strong point of this game. Although they are fitting and definitely give the game a visual style, many of the critters that Link runs into are beyond recognition as anything other than strangely colored blobs. Some creatures, however, show detail that is surprisingly good for an old NES game, but, for the most part, the visuals are quite bland.

   Link offers a surprisingly difficult gameplay experience. The commands are simple, but there is a level of strategy that one must develop in order to outsmart many of the foes you will encounter. Defeating armored knights, for one, takes amazing finger agility, hand-eye coordination, and often risky tactics. Many of the palaces will take several tries to complete, let alone the numerous attempts at defeating the bosses. This continues to the final palace, which is incredibly long, difficult, and frustrating. Speaking of frustration, some aspects of the combat system are guaranteed to set one's nerves on end.

Palaces
One of the many palaces  
Whenever Link takes damage, he is knocked back several paces, which can easily set him up for more pain, or even push him into one of those deadly NES lava pits. Mastering the combat system is quite difficult, but becomes very necessary come the game's end.

   All in all, The Adventure of Link was a great game in its day and is still a fun game now. Although the sound and graphics are extremely dated and the game is lacking in the depth expected in most modern RPG's, Link still offers addictive and rewarding gameplay. Unfortunately, many modern gamers look down on Link as being a weak RPG, but these people fail to see much of the true greatness possessed by this classic title.





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