I had a couple of very frustrating days of gaming. After beating The Legend of Zelda (1986), without looking at the map included in the instruction manual, I started playing Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987). My 8-bit videogame skills were really poor, so I spent a long time trying to overcome Death Mountain. It took so much effort for me to get the first item, the hammer, but I had to acquire it in order to navigate the world without exhausting myself with meaningless but hard battles. Moreover, you need it to continue with the story after the second Palace. Eventually, I started harvesting XP whenever things got too hard, so the game became a little easier. My attack, defense, and jumping skills improved considerably, but only after hours of practice, dedication, and PATIENCE.
At first, Zelda II did not feel like a TLoZ videogame at all, at least for me. Yes, Princess Zelda was the sleeping beauty that always appeared at the respawn point, The North Palace, but there was something off with the world. Comparing it to the rest of the Saga, this Hyrule lacked some ZeldaNESs. The music, for instance, starts in a very “Zeldaian” way but then changes into a weird set of notes that considerably turns down the ZeldaNESs vibe of the game. Zelda II was very different from the original Zelda even though it was released only a year after. The fighting scenes occurred not on a plane that gave you the illusion of 3D movement but on a 2D horizontal screen. I did not enjoy that at all in the beginning but got used to it after a while.
The instruction manual gives context and adds magic to the story, so again, the analogue aspects of the NES are essential to understand the videogame or boost its meaning. However, I was as foolish as with the original Zelda and read it only after playing the game. So, maybe that was the spice I felt was missing at the start.
After you die thrice, which happens very often, you reappear at the starting point of the game, not at the beginning of the dungeon you are trying to beat nor the nearest village, but the very beginning. This is the most frustrating thing in the game, and it can make you stop playing it for good. In that regard, Zelda II definitely has one of the most frustrating game designs ever.
Just think about it: every third death, you have to restart from The North Palace and travel to the level you were trying to clear. Therefore, you have to walk down the same path and fight the same enemies over and over again. More importantly, all this happens while you are hurting your thumb with the uncomfortable controller. Once you are in the Palace you were trying to beat, you are probably too, physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted, to continue. As a result, you die immediately, which sends you right back to The Frigging North Palace. By the way, for the love of your own deity, SAVE! I turned off my NES out of despair sometimes only to find out that I had not saved my progress.
There were some improvements, like the fact that characters give you helpful information that guides you throughout the world and tells you what you need to do next. A great loss from the previous Zelda to this one was that, even if Hyrule was easy to understand and remember without a map, there was no navigation system inside the game. I did not care much about this outside the dungeons (and the instruction manual did have a map of Hyrule), nevertheless, inside the Palaces, it was another story. I am guessing they did this in order to make the dungeons a little bit more difficult, but, since you respawn at the starting point, as a result of being forced to explore, that made the lack of a map very annoying.
However, “The North Palace” respawning was not the only kind of respawning I had to face. In one of my previous articles, I did not mention that there is a saving system built into the Mini NES. I did not use it at the time, because I did not know about its existence… I really should start reading the instructions manuals. Long story short… Forget that, it is actually a very short story: somehow, I managed to open an early version of my game, a version I saved without noticing. In consequence, I lost almost all of my progress…
At least I already had the hammer on that version, or I would have killed myself because Death Mountain is really hard to finish when you are level zero. Still, it was excruciating for me because when my game got erased since I already had all the items and was about to start the final dungeon. After losing everything I obtained with so much effort, I have to admit I laid down on my bed, curled up into the fetal position, and cried a little. My mom had to feed me chocolate to lift my spirits, and I said to myself that I would not play that frigging Zelda for at least two years. My life felt incomplete, and I really wanted to share my experience with you guys, so I was twice as depressed. I went full “Elegy of EmptiNESs”.
Anyway, the next day, I continued feeling empty, since I was already a Zelda II junkie, so I decided to continue playing. My mom became my own personal cheerleader! For real! Isn’t that cute? :3
I was a better player and had my family’s moral support, so it took me less than half the time to get to where I was before the traumatic event. Since I had gotten so far and was really angry with the mini NES, I did not use its saving system. I was also paranoid, so I decided to continue respawning at The North Palace instead of utilizing the save system.
Annoyingly, my game glitched at some point, and I did not receive a heart container from a boss. Despite the horrible incident, the mini NES dared to nerf me! I could not believe it! My siblings told me this was a good thing since this awful experience was part of the actual NES experience. So, I guess I cannot fully complain about my mini NES because it is a true NES classic edition, as stated on the box.
Still, I finished the game without a heart container that could have been useful for the last part. I am really proud of my stoic endurance and resilience, mainly because I usually am extremely impatient and anxious in real life.
The last dungeon was difficult and tricky because they decided to keep the design from the original Zelda: The Great Palace was confusing, and without a map, it was tough to know where to go. If you turned the wrong way, you would hit a dead end. Moreover, the enemies were challenging, and even the weakest ones required several hits to kill. The Palace was not only massive; the floor levels and rooms had very similar designs, and, as a result, you were often not sure if you had already been there or not. Luckily for you guys, I made a map to beat this part, and you can have a look at it below:
I have a couple of tips for you guys as well:
a) To get to The Great Palace: you need to cross a graveyard before entering The Valley of Death. Just step on the cemetery and immediately step back to the main path. This way, you will not have to fight the enemies that appear; therefore, you will not lose energy. This tip works for the rest of the world, too.
b) To cross The Valley of Death: just activate the “Fairy” spell and die comfortably in every battle scene. Once you are at The Great Palace, you can happily kick the bucket because you will respawn at the entrance. This works if, and only if, you press “Continue”. Remember that this is the only place where that happens.
c) 1 UPs: However, if you need an extra 1UP, an additional opportunity to fight the final boss, make sure to die and press “Continue” BEFORE taking the mini Link figurine. If you press “Continue” after taking the 1UP, you will not find it the next time. That means that you will have to restart from The North Palace unless you use the mini NES saving system wisely. This is how 1UPs work in the entire game, so be sure to not waste them.
d) For the final boss: you need enough magic to activate the “Thunder spell”, this is not optional, so keep an eye on your magic level. I recommend you also trigger the next spells: “Jump”, “Shield”, and “Reflect”. You will not have enough magic to use “Life”, so “Reflect” is a lifesaver, believe me.
To sum up, Zelda II is frustrating as hell, but it is also addicting. The respawning and the lack of dungeon maps are evident flaws of the game design, and for some they are deal-breakers, just ask our baker Ricardo Rico. You have to be stubborn and relentless, or a diehard Zelda or 8-bit game fan, to finish it if you want to beat it without using the mini NES saving system. Please keep in mind that the mini NES saving system is a doubled-edge MASTER SWORD, so be careful while using it. It is better if you read the instruction manual to avoid disasters like mine and make sure to keep your eyes open to avoid accidents. Do not forget to save your progress, autosave is not included… I think… maybe I should start reading the manuals.
Big Note: One of our amazing readers made me think about the name of this game. As I pointed out at the end of The original ZeldaNESs, the original title in Japanese translates to Hyrule’s Fantasy: The Legend of Zelda; therefore, as our reader said, TLoZ was only a subtitle, Hyrule’s Fantasy beingthe original name of the game. In that article, I questioned if Zelda was a strong enough character to be mentioned in the title. Later, in the comment section, I stated that the story told was more about Hyrule than about the princess, which makes more sense if you consider the original title.
In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, the princess is sleeping at the starting point. You see her every time you die and respawn, but the story is still not about her. The original name of this second game was just The Adventure of Link. I guess they added Zelda II because of marketing reasons; however, I think it is the most prominent “Translation” fail in the Saga.
Nintendo of America did not even try to include the name “Zelda” in the title in a cool way. The marketing team just stamped it on the cover without putting in any kind of effort. At least they used Roman numbers, but let us be honest, Zelda II sounds boring and dull. So, in the end, thank Anpanman, our bread messiah, they decided to stick with TLoZ instead of using Zelda n, where n= 2 to ∞.
Have you played Zelda II: The Adventure of Link? Please share a slice of your opinion in the comment section below! The Cake is always thrilled to read about your thoughts!
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“The Great Palace” gif taken from Tumblr.
“I am error” gif taken from Sheikav.
“Elegy of Empitness Link” image taken from Planet Minecraft.
“Use Fire” image taken from Game Quotes on Twitter.
Dungeon Map by Alexis Ibarra-Ibarra.
Featured image taken from FANDOM and intervined by Alexis Ibarra-Ibarra.