Have you guys ever heard of The Legend of Zelda 2: Adventures of Link
? I think these games might have been popular, back when they were new, but just in case here's the title screen in case you've forgotten it. Seeing a title screen always brings a flood of memories back to me, as I look at this, I can hear those loud beaming noises building slowly into a thunderous sound that always hype me up. Even twenty years later, I hear this and I'm ready to try some more Zelda 2.
The first time I played Zelda 2, I was four years old. I could read exceptionally well for my age, having been spending far too much time entranced by The Demon comic books, as well as more comical fare like The Amazing Spider-Ham, of which the "goose rider" character and incredible hulk bunny were particularly delightful. It was the summer, I was young and happy. Video games had become a passion early on, and on this several weeks vacation I didn't bring along my own video games, a mistake I've never made on any trip after this.
We were in Baltimore, Maryland staying with my aunt and uncle for two weeks. Their grown son had a regular Nintendo, I found out several days after being without one. When asked do you want to play it, my enthusiasm cannot be properly captured with written words here. Unfortunately, the video game selection he had were three of the worst games I've ever played. Jeopardy, Pin Bot, and Predator were all there, a far cry from Super Mario Bros and Double Dragon, these games were some of the worst I've ever played. Having tried them since then, my adult mind can confirm that childish opinion that indeed those three games are to be avoided.
What was I to do? Another week and a half with three of the turdiest of games?
Then we go to my aunt and uncle's daughter's house. She has two granddaughters closer to my age, that also have a Nintendo. Suddenly, I'm more excited. I've always been fond of hanging out with females, and that they had a stack of games made this trip suddenly not a waste of time. They had stinkers like the crummy Simpsons game, Home Alone, and that crummy barbie game. These were even worse than the games at the other house! Then, I notice this gold cartridge game, I pick it up and sound out the title. "Zall-duh too." I put it in, doesn't work. I desperately blow in the cartridge, with the encouragement of my two cousins explaining their own technique for making their video games work, and finally, I'm presented with the title screen for the first time.
For starters, I'll explain why I say "try" some Zelda 2, much like seemingly every other regular Nintendo game, the sequel expands and changes everything from the previous game while also adding an intense amount of difficulty. The phrase "Nintendo hard" doesn't just come from nowhere, here in Aventures of Link, it is every bit one of the most difficult games I've ever played. There is a fair difficulty in some places, with exemplary game design being a constant in every area I've been to. Other sections of the game I think about the same way a person recalls sodomy. Some people like sodomy, but a lot of people don't like that sort of feeling in their games.
Some of my favorite sprite work is right here on full display. At least, in the sidescrolling sections of the game. That same cheery 8-bit style on display in something like River City Ransom
is here, with lots of bright colors and surprising detail. I'm so bummed that the towns carry so little information within them, despite looking so well designed and colorful. Unlike the overshaded design in Faxanadu with mud colors, the towns in Zelda 2 actually look how I precieve fantasy towns. Based on movies like Excalibur and Conan, what do I expect other than wood houses with simple interiors? I know one thing I didn't expect was this jerk, who doesn't help at all, and offers nothing in the way of advice.
What makes Zelda 2 so difficult, much like Castlevania 2, is the vagueness of the world you're inhabiting. Where do I go? What do I do when I get there? The enemies of the game are always strange, like a man with a horse head swinging a fucking mace at you. In my restless dreams, I'll never think of a big bad as insane as that, and that is the first boss of the game. Nearly as deadly as him, but occurring far more frequently, are skeleton enemies in dungeons. These jokers have shields and swords of their own, making combat with them an expert affair. Unless you time your ducking and jumping to block their attacks, as well as observing their patterns with precision, you'll never kill these guys. I got lucky a few times catching them off guard, but every single one of them I fight feels like this incredible battle between two characters with the dinkiest of weapons.
Unless you're attacked by two skeletons at once, or more. That can happen.
As you start the game, princess Zelda has been put into some sort of sleeping beauty type curse by Ganon, whom you whooped in the previous game savagely. You wander outside of this area, into an open world where you can travel to towns and caves, as well as having encounters with random groups of enemies. Unless I have this wrong, the actual goal of the game is to once again, find the pieces of jewels or something in several dungeons located throughout the world, making your way through some dungeons, and eventually beating a shadow version of yourself, and waking princess Zelda up.
These groups of enemies are represented by a single sprite, usually a fidgety small version of something actually in a fight be it a puppy play though spear man or giant spider, you're pulled into a sidescrolling section where you're up against seemingly everything that moves on screen. Depending upon which encounter you go into, some can be difficult to escape from, while others involve you fighting little red or blue blob monsters by ducking down and just stabbing them to death. Effective use of your tiny shield and equally minuscule sword are very important here.
I can't emphasize just how essential mastering the combat in this game is. Being able to rush in and jump into the air, hit a guy in the face three times while you fall down, turn around to block a spear being thrown from another guy charging at you, stabbing him to death, and then taking on several giant spiders happens within the first ten minutes. There is something satisfying about this combat, mainly because it allows you to upgrade your version of the main character into whatever you want him to be. Should he hit harder, Have more health, or a magic upgrade for the many spells you acquire throughout the game.
That was something that I was really enjoying on my last and most serious attempt to finish the game, the magic. I grew particularly fond of a spell that let me half damage, a savior in a game where my shield is barely there. I mean it just isn't worth anything. Even less than my dinky sword, I'm angry at my piss poor shield. At least if I have full health with the sword, I can throw that weird lighting from my sword. That ability makes having healing items a necessity, as getting a hit and losing that just ruins any strategy I've used. At that point, that first hit on my guy, I start yelling at the TV knowing that now I've got less than a centimeter of attack. Worse still, I've no idea how to wield it properly.
On my last play through, which I say knowing full well I've never actually finished the game, I managed to get four dungeons into the game. This took hours, over the course of several days and with GameFAQs opened, desperately searching through the guide trying to decipher things. I gave up, after just wandering around for an hour trying to find a hidden cave. I now realize that using a video play through is the only idiot proof way to figure out a video game, but there's no honor in that. I could easily lie and say that I've beaten the game countless times and never touched a guide, but for Zelda 2, even with the guide I couldn't touch this.
I actually recall this being a popular song when I first played Zelda 2, having it played on a CD player while playing a game I can't beat twenty years later is the definition of frustrating. Even as I play that damn song now, all I can think is Zelda 2.
My problem is that I would try to play without the guide, searching around on my own trying to do this myself, and then looking where to go next in the guide and realizing just how foolish and stupid I am. I've done this with every Zelda game I've ever played at some point, I always look to the internet for some assistance. Yet I always insist on bashing myself at the game for as many hours as I can throw at it, walking around, talking to every stupid person in town, trying to crack this game without help. I'm an idiot.
By the way, this game has the greatest game over screen on all regular Nintendo games. This same idea was used again in Batman: Arkham Asylum, where upon being beaten villains mock you. None of those bitmapped and high resolution characters hold a candle to the simple characterization of a darkened picture of Ganon, laughing his ass off at you for losing. Much like that dog in Duck Hunt, Nintendo knows how to really motivate you with the simplest things. I love that. Final Fantasy VI used a similar sound to much effect, and I just can't sing the praises of simplicity more than I can for a good evil laugh.
Did I mention you have three lives to beat the entire game? You can save your game, by pressing up and start on the second players controller, but who knew that without the internet? And "save" your game doesn't mean what it means today. Saving your game in a Zelda today would mean starting you right before the big boss with full health and everything. Zelda 2 liked throwing me back to the snoring princess Zelda, a hundred miles away from wherever I needed to actually be. This is what I usually call bullshit.
After reading all that, you might think I hate Zelda 2. I don't. It holds a special place in my heart, having excellent graphics, sound design, and most importantly difficult gameplay restrictions. Something about tough games does it for me. I'm less about the destination and more about the journey as I get older, and the more I play Zelda 2 and lose, the longer my personal story continues along with it. Having beaten tougher games like Battletoads
, I can't figure out why Zelda 2 keeps beating me. It has to do with my own spirit, other games coming out or finding their way in front of me, and starting at the beginning of the game with just as little direction where to go as before.
Something about losing my lives and having that happen just drives me nuts, to the point where I just can't keep playing when it happens. I made it four dungeons deep without losing a life, and then I just got rocked all at once. I felt so useless. The exact opposite of how I feel in later Zelda games. Every boss has conveniently located pots, that just happen to have life restoring hearts in them? No thanks. I'd rather fight something that can kill me in two hits, that takes like tweny hits for me to kill. Also, there are pits that I could fall into and die in one hit during that same boss.
Is it strange that I can recall with exquisite detail all the events leading to me playing Zelda 2? How we wasted time playing Barbie dolls and the Game of Life, before I found out they had a Nintendo? It blew my mind that first time I played the game. Having not experienced any other really good fantasy games, but being a huge fan of that sort of thing at the time, this blew my mind. After losing my three lives very quickly, they handed me a copy of the first game, which I proceeded to play after losing another three lives very quickly. It was something, having these two games just there amongst turds like Home Alone just blew me away.
Comparing this game to all the other Zelda video games isn't easy. Across many games in a long running franchise, none of them are really like Zelda 2. Beyond that I played it first, I just feel so excited to play it. Every year or two, I seem to start playing again, usually finding that any progress I once made has been erased. I somehow wound up with a few copies of the game, next time I'm marking the one I play with a magic marker and placing it in some sealed container somewhere when I eventually give up on it. But who knows, next time I play could be the time I finally beat Zelda 2.
Until that happens, I just like wandering around leveling up and seeing what goofy things towns folk will do. Like the lady who takes you in her house, then heals you completely and mysteriously. One last final note, is how the first two Zelda games form the basis for the comic book and cartoon versions of the game. I've laughed at that thirteen of the silliest cartoon episodes for twenty years, and somewhere in a pile of comic books are Nintendo "system" comics, featuring several Zelda stories that feel like things from Zelda 2.
How about you guys, ever play Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link?
If you beat Zelda 2, this is the screen you get: