Game Review

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

Zelda II, have you any tough dungeons? Yes sir, yes sir...

Back in the early days of several franchises the second game in a series tended to be radically different from the first, as developers had not quite pinned down what they wanted the series to become — take a look at Castlevania II or the western Super Mario Bros. 2, for example. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is another big name usually cited in lists like these, and probably the most radically different when compared to its predecessor.

The original The Legend of Zelda was viewed entirely from a top-down perspective and featured a large overworld with a multitude of dungeons, in which Link could walk in four directions and (eventually) had several weapons at his disposal. For Zelda II, Nintendo threw all of this out of the window and started completely fresh. The overworld is still viewed from above, but it's more like a Dragon Quest game — you can only move onto set squares and there are various towns, caves and dungeons to enter. Wander around too long and (visible) enemies will pop up; if you collide with one of them you'll be taken to a battle scene.

All these non-overworld scenes are where Zelda II really gets different — as soon as you enter one of them, the game becomes a 2D scroller in which you can only move left and right, as well as being able to jump at will, itself a rarity in Zelda games nowadays. Fighting enemies gives you experience points, and when you reach a certain amount you'll level up and get to increase your strength, which increases your attack power, life (which is basically defence) or magic, which lowers the cost of spells. Surprisingly, despite there being experience points, you won't have to grind for hours on end, as clearing a dungeon will instantly get you to the next level no matter how much XP you still needed. You'll also find experience bags in secret areas or as rare drops from enemies which give you a big boost, meaning it never takes that long to get a level up.

These spells are also new to Zelda II and are learned in the game's various towns. They play quite a big role, as several of them are needed to advance — utility spells like a high jump and a "fairy" spell that lets you fly are a necessity to get past a few of the dungeons, while others like the fireball spell allow you to defeat otherwise invincible enemies. There's also a heal spell which you'll probably find yourself using the most.

All spells cost magic power. Your stock is displayed in a bar next to your health, which, just like the health bar, can be extended by locating special items — in this case, potions, rather than heart containers. Noticeably, in return for getting magic every single other form of attack Link enjoyed previously is gone: no bow, no bombs, no boomerang, no nothing!

Zelda II's a bit more straightforward than the first game, with a relatively simple overworld and several towns with people that provide clues; these mercifully aren't as vague as those in Castlevania II. That said, there's still a bit of trial and error involved when it comes to getting all the available health and magic extensions, as some of them are hidden in completely unremarkable squares of the overworld that look no different from others.

And believe us when we say you will want to get all of them — the original Zelda was quite difficult, but Zelda II is no slouch either, with massive dungeons filled to the brim with tough enemies and several tough bosses. There's also a bit of a platforming aspect to the game, and you'll find several dungeons with water and lava pits that will instantly kill you if you fall into them; as you get knocked back a bit when hit by enemies, you'll want to be as careful around these as possible.

In terms of graphics and music Zelda II is about on the same level with its predecessor. There are lots of different locations due to overworld battle locations being based on what kind of square you were on, and the soundtrack has lots of catchy tunes. You might also recognize the main dungeon theme as the "Temple" music from Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl.


Zelda II always seems to get a lot of hate for being so different from the rest of the series, but if you can see past the things it does differently there's actually a very addictive, engaging little game in there. Combat in sidescrolling form is a lot more entertaining than Link's hard-to-use overhead stabs from the first game, and all the new additions like the experience system and magic work surprisingly well. Back in the day, the game also seemed to be disliked for its difficulty, but hopefully the Wii U Virtual Console's save states will take care of that problem.

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User Comments (69)



DrKarl said:

I love this game. It was my first Zelda, and the first I ever beat. When it arrived on the 3DS as an Ambassador game, I played it all the way to Thunderbird. After one too many failures, I needed to set it down for a while.

Restore points you say? Bah! Get off my lawn!



Yasume said:

The Wii VC release and the 3DS eShop release of Zelda II both received a 7/10. What makes the Wii U release different that it scores an 8/10?



unrandomsam said:

Better (Different ?) reviewer maybe ?

I would rather play this than the original for certain just for the simple reason that there is no others that are in the same style but better.



Great_Gonzalez said:

Only played this on my 3DS i'm a long time Nintendo fan but was put off by the majority of bad opinions about this game but all I an say is that is a great game and one hell of a great challenge I think people need to stop comparing it as a Zelda game and just think off it as something totally different.



redsoul91 said:

yeah, I'm still truckin my way through it - great gameplay but I can see why more casual players would get turned off by its difficulty



flummerfelt said:

I just commented about this game in another topic but ill say this: Zelda II is an amazing game. If you love Zelda & want a challenge, try it out! If you like it, check out Faxanadu on the NES. Side scrolling adventure, with a more creepy atmosphere.



dsparil said:

Zelda II is one of my favorites. My only complaint is that the sword is way too short. It's more of a dagger or a short sword at best. It makes the beginning unnecessarily difficult. Once you get the downward stab, most of that difficulty goes away.



NintyMan said:

I've been taking a liking to more unique Nintendo games lately like Super Mario Bros. 2, and considering I already have Zelda II on the 3DS, I'll just stick with that. I have no qualms with restore points, so the difficulty wouldn't be that bad as long as I know where all the spells are, but even then I may have to get laughed at by Ganon several times.



odd69 said:

I have the Wii Virtual Console version and the Gamecube Collectors Edition version. Is this the same exact version?



grumblegrumble said:

When Zelda II came out, I remember me pulling every excuse out of the book to make my parents go buy it for me. They did, and I played it and played it that Summer until my fingers were sore. My cousin Andrea and I even made our own Zelda II maps (complete with colored map pencils and stickers.) I have such fond memories of this game. I actually BEAT it in about 3 months, but that was with nonstop playing day and night and calling the Nintendo Game Tips phone number a few times (anyone else here old enough to remember that?) A classic game, well deserving of a 10/10 for me! Great graphics, sound, dungeons, magic spells and... the final few battle scenes will take your breath away. I don't wanna give the ending away but please play this game and win it just to see who you fight! I love the ending credits music, too. Very addictive game



Relias said:

@flummerfelt Also see about Battle of Olympus... another really good game... anyway.. I did not not like it because of the challenge.. I just did not like it as much as the original... I actually love the challenge... but the original was better.. that being said this is the Zelda you want to play if you want more RPG elements and challenge...



ToniK said:

I should try this one day. I just think 5 euros for these 20-25 year old games is a bit harsh. 3 euros would be more appealing to me.



TheAdrock said:

NOT an 8/10. Remove the names "Zelda" or "Link" and it doesn't break 5/10. It wasn't fun in 1988 and its still not fun today.



ShadJV said:

People can be so harsh with this game; I didn't like it until I forced myself to start playing through it, and honestly it get better (and easier) as you get further in. Kinda like Kid Icarus. I think 8 out of 10 is fair, people just need to give it some time to see how great it is.



flummerfelt said:

@bezerker99 Faxanadu is a lot of fun! Love the colors and music as well. Even if those mantras were insanely long haha.

@relias. I've always wanted to play Battle of Olympus, isn't that on the gameboy? Same type of side scrolling action.



sleepinglion said:

I do love this one. I've found a lot of folks who do grew up with it when it was new. And I did. The MiiVerse can be a hoot when gamers start ranting about it but I just tell myself they're all 10 and I move on. Like the review says, franchises didn't know what they wanted to be yet and this is still a fun yet brutal experience.
I am Error.



retro_player_22 said:

This is a good game, not really great like the first one but was still good in a way. Now this is one Zelda game that Nintendo needs to remake alongside Star Tropics and Metroid II.



GraveLordXD said:

@flummerfelt battle of Olympus is an old nes game that came out in 1987 I believe. It is also IMO way better than Zelda ll and one of my all time greats everything from the music to the atmosphere and challenge is second to none for that era of games truly a underrated masterpiece
I wish they would release it on the virtual console with check points and ditch that horrible password save system that made the game way more frustrating than it should be and would seriously freak out if someone with some serious talent brought the series back but I know it will never happen



GraveLordXD said:

Crystalis is also very good and if anyone has a 360 or PC who like those types of games I highly recommend evil quest its on Xbox live I paid like $1 for it and worth every penny seriously the best buck I've ever spent



evanescent_hero said:

I actually like this game a lot, and significantly more than Zelda I. I remember the immense pride I felt upon beating it. And a couple of the songs in this game are among my favorites--the Temple theme for sure, plus the main battle theme. It's more like Castlevania than Zelda, but still a great game, in my opinion.



flummerfelt said:

@LDXD I know why I was confused- they released Battle of Olympus on the gameboy as well. But yeah I've always wanted to try it out!
I recently picked up Crystalis on the NES, I haven't played it yet though. Interesting that it was made by SNK. (Assuming we are talking about the same game)



GraveLordXD said:

@flummerfelt yup same game check out evil quest its like crystalis part 2 but with a good story and I can't believe I didn't know battle of Olympus was on the game boy I wonder if its the same game or not? Anyway if you like Zelda ll then you should love battle of Olympus the nes version
If I had to put a list together of my top 20 favorite games of all time and I've been gaming since Atari I would have to put battle of Olympus in my top 5. Zelda ll even though I love the game wouldn't even make that list



element187 said:

"calling the Nintendo Game Tips phone number a few times (anyone else here old enough to remember that?) "

@grumblegrumble Yes I remember that. Nintendo Power magazines advertised the number... I only called it for a few games (Original Metal Gear near the end and Adventures of Link II)

I loved this Zelda game. It came out when I was 8 or 9. Took me awhile to beat it.... The experience mechanic worked really well, its one of the features I really wish Nintendo kept in the series.



Ryno said:

A good game that kicked my butt back in the day and I remembered playing more Faxanadu then this because of that. Battle Of Olympus is another similar game that I beat recently but unlike @LDXD, I am not a big fan of it.



ICHIkatakuri said:

I like Zelda II, but then I like Simons Quest too as its one of the best Castlevania games, with Some of the best music. And although Castlevania II was a departure for the series at the time it was the first metroidvania version in the series.



grumblegrumble said:

@element187 I totally agree And thanks for remembering! I remember the number was listed in one of the later issues of Nintendo Fun Club News (the one with Zelda II on the cover) I remember salivating over that article because the game hadn't come out yet. I really like the glitches in this game, too. There was a book I bought once about Nintendo game glitches and there are quite a few in Zelda II (that will also get you stuck in places!)



GraveLordXD said:

@ICHIkatakuri yeah even though Simons quest gets a lot of hate and it does have its issues, for me its my favorite castlevania and it introduced not only the metrovania style gameplay but the awesome bloody tears track that I actually had as a ring tone for a long time lol, I also like how you had to buy your weapons and items rather than collect power ups
@grumblegrumble does one of those glitches involve that kid you gotta rescue? The last time I played it like two years ago he wasn't in that cave and I couldn't progress had to start over



DerpSandwich said:

A Zelda game with more RPG elements sounds like something that would be right up my alley. Unfortunately I can never play this game for more than five minutes without becoming frustrated and quitting.



GraveLordXD said:

@DerpSandwich me too about the Zelda RPG part, a while ago Walmart had the Zelda u game listed as Zelda 2 RPG whatever that means I was hoping it would be a Zelda game with a few RPG elements involved and I think its about time for that kinda change things up a bit for the series



DerpSandwich said:

@LDXD Me too, they really need to shake things up a bit. I think RPG elements can make just about any game better. I mean, as long as we're killing monsters we might as well get rewarded for it, right? Nothing more satisfying than gaining experience and levels.



Megajack said:

I got this yesterday on Wii U, and am enjoying it. I do have this game on my NES already, but (call me a cheater) there is no way I can beat this game without restore points. x]



Melkaticox said:

They should remake this game almost completely (include an easy mode for teh noobz!), that's one of the worst things about the game: The graphics.



ajcismo said:

This game made me fall in love with the franchise when I was a lad. Instant download. Its also just making me more anxious for Wind Waker HD next friday.



Relias said:

@flummerfelt I don't think so.. I have only ever played it on the NES.. my Uncle had it.. and I have fond memories of it.. it was a very good game.. if you ever have a chance look it up... you might be able to find a reasonable copy.. (Maybe even cheap) it is worth it though no matter the price.. it's just that good..



HappyHappyist said:

i beat this game on the gamecube, only died 22 times! i'll want to beat it again on my 3DS before getting the WiiU version. and i'm not going to use restore points either. haven't yet,, i want to play this game the way it was intended.



hcfwesker said:

I think the most enjoyable thing about this being on WiiU is watching all the first time players on Miiverse and seeing their frustration at the difficulty when they have no clue what we went through back then when we didn't have the luxury of "save states" lol. DL'ing right now.



The_Ninja said:

I was so excited to play the sequel of the original, but then so dissapointed because it was so different and HARD.



RedRocBoy said:

It would be so dope if they remade Legend of Zelda and Legend of Zelda 2 for the Wii U. I would freak out.



Tasuki said:

This was the game that introduced me to the Zelda series. My dad bought it for me on a whim and played it for a bit until I couldn't beat the game due to a glitch on my copy for the NES, which I didn't find out till I was at the very end of the game. Because of that I have never beat the game and after playing LoZ and ALttP I just couldn't go back to this style of Zelda.



Bass_X0 said:

In a remake, I would want experience points changed to Rupees. You can then buy upgrades in town any time you have enough Rupees. You could also save your Rupees when you turn the game off and they would still be there for when you return.

I hated having to play the game until the next upgrade was made available; how I lost experience points when I turned the game off and not being able to go back to a lower cost upgrade if I had previously passed on it. Even suspend points on the Wii VC version made the game much more enjoyable.



cecesigue said:

This game is greater than an cone of ice cream on a hot summer day,
Is waaaaay better than Zelda 1, but you guys are right,
Is soo different! That's all... I don't even think is harder than the first
One, this one you can keep going and will get you
To the end.



Urbanhispanic said:

I have the NES original cartridge (with box and manuals) and the GBA cartridge as well. I actually played it a lot back in the days and really my only complaint was that it didn't have a second quest like the first game. I don't get all the hate it received but you can't please all gamers especially when it's part of a popular Nintendo franchise. The fact that it's different from the first title is part of what makes it standout. For those of you still on the fence, it's worth checking out and kudos to everyone who mentioned Battle of Olympus and Crystalis (two awesome games!)



HawkeyeWii said:

I am very intrigued by this game. I think I;ll get both this and the original for Wii U soon.



Geonjaha said:

It's always a shame when people mistake the hatred this game gets for simply being an aversion to the difficulty. Never mind how the game wastes ridiculous amounts of the players time, has tens of serious glitches, and doesn't understand the core concepts of RPG's to which it tries to replicate.



elstif said:

lol and there was no internet to go and check a guide because you got stuck (sometimes for weeks) and didnt know where to go to advance the game.
Games nowdays tend to be very easy compare to the old days and I used to think that it was because I was a kid back then but the truth is that those games were hard and I really miss some of that challenge now. Nintendo give us some tough games!!!

Am I the only one who thinks that the VC games prices are very high, come on Nintendo 5 € for a NES and 8€ for SNES??!!!!
I´m not buying many because of these. Make them 2-3€ for NES and 4-5€ for SNES and I´ll sure buy a lot more.



elstif said:

Another game that I loved from the old days was "Willow"
I hated the loooong passwords (no saves) but it was a great adventure "RPG" game



Uttimamario said:

I liked how it was like mario with the 2d scrolling. I might just buy it again just to relive the memories of me playing this



speedyboris said:

This game would've been a classic for me if not for three things:
1) If you get game over, you go all the way back to North Palace. If you got really far on the map, this is a huge pain, especially when, in order to get back to where you were, you have to endure tons of...
2) Random battles. Yeah, you can avoid them on the map, but that's easier said than done due to the limiting four-direction movement. And do they have to pop up every five seconds?
3) Stiff controls. This is most noticeable during the sword fighting, but as I said above, it also makes it difficult to avoid the random battle monsters on the map.

Otherwise, this game has its merits. You have the desire to explore more of the overworld that any game like this should have, and it seems a bit more forgiving than the first game when it come to health refills (and you actually have lives this time!). And despite the stiff controls, I do like the 2D platforming sections because it mixes up the gameplay from just being top down movement like the first game. Oh yeah, and the leveling up is kinda cool.



Tasuki said:

@Urbanhispanic: The crystals that you needed to seal the castles with I never had. The file that I played it always said zero and I have never used a crystal. In fact like I said I never knew that you had to do that till I couldn't get into the final dungeon. I didnt know about the crystals until my friends on the playground told me about them.



Tsurii said:

It's funny to see so many people disliking Zelda II for being different and then seeing some of those guys disliking Twilight Princess for the exact opposite (both are in my top 3 zelda games of all time)

When I saw this review first I relly had to laugh at that second headline. Now that I got to play it finally I start crying every time someone mentions the dungeons

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