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Retro Review – Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Retro Review – Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

by Jeremy HardinNovember 3, 2010

A WiiNintendo RETRO game review by JHardin1112.

Game – Zelda II: The Adventures of Link
Version – Virtual Console (NES)
Time Spent Playing – 10 hours
Completion Status – Completed (Many, many times)
Obtained – From my parents as a child, and now from the Wii Shop Channel in the form of Virtual Console.
Cost – 500 Wii Points

Official Nintendo Site –

Before I lead you into my actual review I would like you dear reader to please take a few moments to read the contents of my original WiiFuse forums post which prompted me to write this Retro Review.  The actual review will follow immediately after the contents of the aforementioned post.

=====================================BEGIN ORIGINAL POST===============================================

Zelda II:  The Adventure of Link was and still is an amazing game. Released in North America in 1988 just one year after being released in Japan on the Famicom in January 1987, I would come to acquire this game from my parents in 1989. I have always been a late adopter of technology.

I didn’t have many games to compare Zelda II against back then (Super Mario Bros., Dino Rickey, Duck Hunt, etc.) but there was no need for a comparison. Even in hindsight I know that Zelda II was a pivotal game in my gaming history and the best game I ever played back then. This game invokes so much nostalgia in me that just last year I played the game and beat twice in a row on an emulator. Okay, enough proof that I am a fan of Zelda games. It’s time to get back to what made this game so great for me.

Right away as I opened the box I was wowed by the gold cartridge I held in my hand, it was so different from the standard grey cartridges. As you power on the console and the game begins you get to name your character, this was great to me as I could personalize the game in a sense. This is nothing new at in present times but back then it was unique and a great way to connect the game with the player.

This Zelda game was the first (and I believe only, correct me if I am wrong) to be a side-scrolling game and for me, it worked. You were able to jump, attack, defend against enemies from the left and the right. You navigated the game on a large map in which you either walked on paths which did not cause enemies to appear or you could walk off the path which within 2 – 3 seconds caused enemies to move around you on the screen. If you touched one of these black outlined monster icons the screen would change from top down navigation to 2d combat mode. You were on a limited size screen which you could fight your way out of and earn xp or you could run to the right or left and escape the battle.

The game incorporated an experience points system and upgrades to your Magic, Attack, and Defense up to eight times. The highest experience you could obtain was 9,999 so there was a bit of fighting going on in order to obtain the next level. When you obtained the next level in XP, you could choose to raise the attribute it defaulted to, or you could cancel the upgrade and save the points until the next level so you could focus on a different ability. Raising a life level would decrease the damage Link received when hit, raising a magic level would decrease the magic points (MP) cost of spells, and raising an attack level would strengthen his offensive power. There were also a couple of swordsmen in the game who would teach you the art of the downward thrust and the upward thrust (you could attack enemies above and below you, rather than just to your left and right). The downward thrust was great because if you got enough momentum you could run and downward thrust an enemy and create a chain attack destroying 2 to 3 enemies at a time. Better yet if there was enemy that took more than one hit to kill you could use the downward thrust against at times to jump up and down on the enemy with multiple downward thrusts.

Magic. Yes, the game contained magic spells that were necessary to progress through the game and most of them were fun to use and helpful. You obtained magic by heading into towns and finding the sage in one of the houses and sometimes he would just teach you a magic spell, other times you had to go and fetch something first (but that was always quite easy) and then once you retrieved said item the sage would teach you the magic spell.

In towns you also able to interact with all the NPC’s, most didn’t have anything helpful to say but there were at least always two NPC’s in each town who helped restore your magic and life to full. This was a lifesaver if you were traveling on the map and were taking too much damage and using too much magic in battles.

As you progressed through the game you had to defeat castles and in order to make it to the next castle you had to obtain the key Item that each castle held in order to advance. You can see in the bottom of this next screenshot some of the items you collect. At the end of every castle was always a boss which when defeated, you automatically were advanced to the next XP level.

In order to obtain an extra heart, you had to navigate the map and sometimes you would stumble into a hidden section which would automatically take you into a 2d battle but on the screen there would also be heart container. This is also how you would earn extra lives, except instead of a heart container you would find a Link doll on the screen.

One final thing to note is that you were able to save your game. Once you turned off the console and restarted the game you always started back in the room with the princess but you could traverse the map quite quickly.

Sorry guys, I wasn’t trying to make this a review, it was just the ranting of a Zelda fan. To give one last bit of history, when I was 8, I had gotten sick with strep throat and had to stay home from school for a week. During that week, I made sure I played a lot of Zelda II. I was able to reach the final castle and defeat the last boss, thus completing Zelda II: The Adventures of Link for the first, but definitely not the last time.

*When my older brother got home from school I excitedly related the details of my gaming journey only to have him scoff at me in disbelief. Well, I just had to prove him wrong. Thank goodness for a save feature, because I beat it again in front of him

=====================================END ORIGINAL POST=================================================


Allow me if you will to take you back to the days of my youth, the days of 8-bit games.  The year is 1988 and gamers across the United States are getting their hands on an NES cartridge which is different from all the rest.  What made this cartridge so different from all the other NES games on the market.  Well, to many gamers delight (at least for me), upon opening the box one would find not a standard grey cartridge but instead they would hold in their hands a golden NES cartridge emblazoned with the words “Another journey of ultimate challenge in the fantasy world of Hyrule.

This golden cartridge contained a game about a young boy named Link armed with a sword and shield embarking on a quest to brave treacherous terrain, battle evil monsters, and a sinister Wizard named Ganon all in order to save the kingdom of Hyrule and wake the princess Zelda who was under a deep sleep brought on by Ganon.  Don’t be fooled readers, for this game is not merely child’s play.  Only a devoted gamer can survive the monsters, castles, boss battles and ultimately defeat the Wizard Ganon, thus restoring peace to the kingdom of Hyrule.

Gameplay & Controls

Gameplay consists of navigating a world map to reach towns and castles of which there are 6.  Each town has a wise man who teaches you a magic spell.  Each castle contains keys to be found and one key item which is necessary to obtain in order to progress to other areas of the map.  In between these major tasks you will need to engage in battle to earn experience points in order to level up your life, magic, and attack.  Players start off with only 4 bars for magic and 4 bars for health.  As you traverse the map you will come across an area that doesn’t look ordinary and as you step on the area in question you will be transported to a 2d battle screen in which rest a Heart Container or Magic Bottle.  You can avoid the enemies or defeat them, but once you obtain the bottle or heart container you will gain one extra bar for either or.  Worth mentioning also is the inclusion of NPC’s (Non Playable Characters).  These NPC’s give extra life to this already fantastic game.  I am not saying that in each town that every NPC will engage you stimulating conversation but they will speak a brief sentence to you just the same.  Some of the NPC’s are just there for filler and have nothing to tell you of importance.  Some are there to refill your life or magic in their homes (Healers?), some will give you hints about what to do or where to go next, and some as I already mentioned teach you magic.  There are also two NPC’s located in the game who are Swordsmen and once you locate them they will teach you two new attack moves which will prove to be very beneficial upon obtaining them.  The final note of value in terms of gameplay is the ability to save your game.  This only occurred upon loss of your last life, when you were on the Game Over screen you then had the option to Continue or Save.  Once you saved the game you always started over back in the room with the princess, but it never too very long to traverse the map to where you previously where before dying.

To jump you press A and to attack you press B.  You could defend attacks from enemies with weapons if you either stood up or crouched depending on which height the enemy attacked you from.  Certain enemies just hopped or floated around rooms and therefore you could not defend yourself, your only recourse was to attack.  Most enemies when attacked will freeze in place allowing you if uninterrupted by other enemies to patiently attack over and over until the said enemy is defeated.  Please note, this is not the case with all enemies.  Some enemies require a bit more skill between defense and evasion to defeat.  In order to use your magic you had to press the Start button and select which magic you wanted to use, then press Start again to exit the menu screen.  Once you were back in game you just needed to press Select in order to “cast” your spell.  The spells only lasted for the screen you were on, as soon as you left the room you were in when you cast your spell, the effects wear off.  This is not a problem because enemies will randomly drop bottles which refill partly or fully your magic meter (blue for partial, red for full).

Visuals & Sound

For being an 8-bit game the visuals were done quite nicely.  The world which you traverse is done in nice neat little squares which are always easy to tell what each kind is.  There are forest, boulders, mountains, desert, ocean, rivers, paths, etc. etc.  Where the design really takes a step up is in towns, castles, and battle sequences.  Links sprites are drawn nicely and his actions are always easy to identify.  While it is difficult to give much attention to detail with such limited resources, you should take note of Link himself.  From his cap, pointed ears, green vest, sword and shield, all the way down to his boots, the sprite is quite impressive.  I don’t need to mention the enemy sprites but for good measure I will.  The enemies are designed just as well as Link and all of the sprites look great in this game.

As for the sound, I can only give you my opinion and that is I love it.  I absolutely enjoy the music as I play the game.  I find myself humming along with it and throughout my life I have always remembered it when discussing this game.  The sound is good all the way through even into your death.  Once you lose all your lives, you will be treated with a Game Over screen displaying a black outlined picture of Ganon in unison with a sinister laugh, (Ha Ha Ha).

Concluding Overall Impressions

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is, was and always will be an amazing 2d action, rpg title.  From the easy to pick up controls, catchy tunes, pleasing visuals, and engaging gameplay this game deserves to be played by anyone who has never played it and revisited by all of those (myself included) who have played the adventure before.

FINAL SCORE – BUY IT! (Seriously, go buy this very inexpensive game for only 500 point on the Wii Shop Channel.  I do believe you won’t regret it.)

About The Author
Jeremy Hardin
Jeremy's love of gaming, especially Nintendo started in the late 80's when his parents bought him and his older brother an NES. Many hours were spent playing Mario and Duck Hunt. Eventually Jeremy graduated to bigger and better games and systems, like the SNES, GC, Wii, 3DS, and finally to the Wii U. Ask him what the defining moment of his childhood gaming was and he'll answer, "the day I beat Zelda 2." To this day that game holds a special place in his heart. His favorite types of games are platformers. Jeremy started blogging for NintendoFuse in October 2010. He started off as a lurker on the forums who won a free copy of And Yet It Moves on WiiWare. From there he realized he liked the forums and the site and wanted to remain a part of it. He was brought on board shortly thereafter and has helped post news and reviews for the past couple of years. Currently Jeremy has taken a step back to focus on family and school. He assists in minor back-end site maintenance from time to time.
  • November 3, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I, too, am a big fan of this game. In fact, I might have even played it more than the original. It is very unforgiving, as you have a set amount of lives. However, that’s when Game Genie came in handy. Ha! I’ve not re-purchased it on the Wii VC, but I’ve still got my NES copy.

  • JHardin1112
    November 3, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Game Genie indeed! I used the Game Genie on Super Mario Bros quite a bit, but I don’t remember ever using it on Zelda II. This game is what made me such a fan of all the Zelda games!

  • Mark G
    November 7, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    I don’t know too much about the old Legend of Zelda games,but will Link be featured in the new upcoming Fire Emblem for the Wii?

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