In my last post I basically just raged about how Zelda II was terrible and that I wouldn't be beating it. A few hours after posting, I decided to give the game another go. I set out to beat every Zelda game in order of release, so skipping one just because I didn't like it just seemed wrong. So I went back and completed Zelda II. Here's what I have to say about the game.
So basically, the premise of the game is that Zelda (different that Zelda 1's Zelda, even though it's the same Link. Makes no sense, I know.) is under an enchanted sleep, and the only way to wake her is to go and get the last part of the Triforce. To do this, Link has to put gems in statues in 6 temples, and get the Triforce of Courage from a 7th. All the while Ganon's minions are trying to kill him, and use his blood to revive Ganon.
Alright, let's get the first part out of the way. This game has RPG elements. In other words, there are several points in the game that just turn into a grindfest, and in the early game, this is infuriating. My biggest problem with this is that when you get a game over screen you lose all exp towards your next level, and enemies that infinitely spawn in the first dungeon not only damage you, but steal your exp too. Once you gain some levels, the game picks up the pace a bit, but it was enough to make me want to put down the game forever. If I hadn't forced myself to beat it, I probably never would have.
That said, after the first dungeon, the game really did become a bit more fun. The combat was simple once I figured out that I could kill almost anything with a downward thrust or by quickly alternating high and low strikes, but it was still challenging and it felt a bit rewarding.
The dungeons were all pretty bland though. Zelda 1 at least kept things fresh by throwing new enemies at you in new combinations, but Zelda 2 was a lot more simplistic. I often found myself lost in a dungeon because all of the hallways looked exactly the same and I was without a map. Getting through the dungeons was somewhat of a chore, partly because I kept all of my keys and items found when I got a game over. The game made me think "how many of these side paths can I loot before I die" instead of "how can I loot all of these side paths without dying."
I also found that it was usually just easier to avoid any kind of combat in a dungeon and just grind somewhere else. The inevitability of a game over screen meant that all of the exp picked up while exploring would just go to waste, and I could minimize damage by avoiding conflict. Once I realized this the dungeons became completely monotonous to me. All I did was sprint through every room looking for keys or an item to grab so I could finish as quickly as possible. You could say that I was "playing it wrong," but when a game encourages you to "play it wrong" then you're actually playing it correctly.
As for towns, they were just as bland as the dungeons. Sure, there were people all over to talk to and spells and sword skills to be learnt, but I felt none of the heart that was in Zelda 1. In Zelda 1, every npc meant something, they had a purpose that was significant, and they all had a personality. In Zelda 2, all of the text was just bland and arbitrary, and I felt no need to read any of it. I'll put it this way. How many memes did Zelda 1 spawn? I can think of at least 4 off the top of my head. Now how many came out of Zelda 2? 2: "I am Error," and the game over screen, and the former was just because the character's name was silly. The lack of heart in this game astonished me at times.
I wanted to like this game both times that I picked it up. I really did. My entire experience was either frustrating, monotonous, or just disappointing. There are worse games out there, for sure, and while I wouldn't say that this is a bad game, it's not a particularly good one either.
While the game's current position is staying the same, now I know for sure where it belongs. It's definitely my least favorite Zelda game, but now it at least has a chance against some spin-offs that I haven't played yet.
1. The Legend of Zelda
2. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link