Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES) Review

By Adam Riley 05.05.2003

Review for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link on NES

One year after the original Legend of Zelda had taken the NES by storm, Nintendo launched the sequel in December of 1988 – this time stating the lead character’s name in the title to avoid the confusion many had with the first game. Many call this game the weakest in the entire series (excluding the dire, non-Nintendo, Philips CD-I games of course), but even if you believe that, it’s still one of the most impressive NES games ever…and has achieved cult status in many circles.

Link is back, and guess what? He has to save Princess Zelda once again! This time, though, she’s fallen under a spell that has left her in a deep slumber. But how could the culprit be the evil Ganon, as his plans were thwarted when he was killed in the first outing? But it seems his followers are trying to keep the memory of him alive – a strange wizard is believed to have cast the spell and then ‘liberated’ the Tri-Force. Thus Link must traverse the land of Hyrule collecting six special crystals along the way, then place them back in their respective palaces in the hope of awakening the Princess and restoring peace all around…

Being a Nintendo in-house title, you would expect the graphics to be of a high quality. After all, the Super Mario series, Metroid and Kid Icarus all came from the same people – how could Zelda II fail to be as pretty as a sheep wearing a balaclava (erm…)? However, it does trip and fall flat on its face in this department, with its bland, and sometimes basically empty, backgrounds. It would appear Nintendo sacrificed the background action in order to cram more into the game’s content as an alternative, which may be commendable on some levels, but not when you’ve seen what the company achieved with Super Mario Bros. 3!

Screenshot for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link on NES

Just click on some of the screenshots included in this review – you will see that matters are on the side of shoddy. Some of the actual characters, on the other hand, are quite intricate in their detail, notably with some of the Bosses. The ripples in armour and facial features are laudable – as is their animation. The movement of characters from left-to-right, as well their individual weapons moving about have an attention-to-detail that only Nintendo seemed to supply back in the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System…and still do this very day!

It is always difficult to judge the music of a title from such a long time ago, mainly because, in many cases, the quality found in next-generation games is so sublime and monumental. However, it is possible to determine whether what is there suits the various scenes encountered along the way…and, regardless of the fact that it pales into insignificance by today’s standards, Nintendo provided the game with a reasonably pleasant soundtrack. Other than the ever-popular Zelda theme, there is nothing completely memorable, but it’s all so non-offensive that you can merrily get on with the game. Why the relatively high score then? Well, that would be because of the extremely impressive sound effects. They are especially effective when in heated battles, so mush so that every single *swish* from your sword and *clink* from when all you manage to hit is your opponent’s armour will get your adrenaline pumping to the maximum…

Screenshot for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link on NES

Despite starting off on an overhead map, thus leading you to believe the action style has not changed since the first outing, after a short while you will be whisked-off to the two-dimensional plain. For this game is by no means a ‘traditional’ Zelda game – Nintendo took a risk by moving the series in a slightly alternative direction, which, as with The Wind Waker’s graphical changes today, brought about an uproar from fans the world over.

Veer from the pathway on the overhead map, and small blobs or larger human-shaped creatures will appear, only to hastily chase you. On contact, you are transported to the 2D battle-field, where Link must jump, duck and move from left-right whilst trying to jab the various surrounding enemies with his dagger-like protection. This may sound simple in description, but wait until you play…If you lack an abundance of skill and cunning, then you will certainly struggle to defeat, or even merely bypass, many of the guards before you even reach the Palace Bosses! Be warned, this is a Zelda game where you actually have to Level-Up – there’s no easy ‘collect enough hearts and win easily’ in this title. Nintendo chose to lean to wards the Final Fantasy / Dragon Quest approach of levelling-up to become more powerful in terms of health, attacking and magical abilities. On reaching a specified amount of points, you are given the choice of advancing one of those three aspects, adding a strategic element to the title: do you go all-out on one particular skill, or try to balance things to make Link an all-rounder. The choice is yours…

Screenshot for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link on NES

Thought you were a patient gamer? Yes, that’s the mistake I made as well when first playing this game. My poor NES, though, really suffered as its controllers were thrown around in anger and disgust after Link had died yet again at the hands of the dastardly clever computer AI. The enemies are far too intelligent for an 8-Bit game, surely! But notice how I use the word ‘intelligent’, as opposed to ‘cheating mother-f***ers!!!’? That is because that is really how it feels – you can get past eventually, you just need to use every ounce of skill and dexterity to achieve the task.

Thankfully, to counter the fist-clenching, abuse-hurling sections, there are areas that will have your wondering what is going on. ‘Did I miss something there, or was that really easy?!’ But then, as you are lulled into thinking matters are easing-up, you realise that it’s time to save and turn off for the moment…all those EXP Points will save until next time. Not a chance! Sure, yes, your actual health and magic levels are saved, but the points earned between levels will not be saved! So if you want to quit, make sure you do it just after you’ve gained a level, or else you will be pretty frustrated when you return to play.

Oh, and, as copied in so many games today, once you have defeated the (impossibly hard) Final Boss, you are given the ability to play through the whole game again…except this time with all of your stats and items from the previous game.

Screenshot for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link on NES

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

It is a close call between which is better: Zelda II or Falcom's Faxanadu. Unfortunately for Nintendo, after the sublime Legend of Zelda on the NES, the sequel was bound to be slightly inferior due to the immense pressure from the public's expectations. Thus Falcom's title of a similar vein probably just edges ahead in terms of overall quality. But do not get the impression that this is anything less than another classic Nintendo game...A must own for completists and RPG fans alike!






Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (5 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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