Emboldened by the massive, widespread success of the original Zelda, Nintendo envisioned a radically different gameplay engine when the time for a sequel came around. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was born shortly thereafter, setting off a string of debates and arguments that echo even to this day. Is it an RPG? Does it live up to the success of the first Zelda? Zelda II carries far more RPG-style elements than other titles in the series, and perhaps because of this many players are left disappointed by Nintendo's second installment.

The sleeping Princess Zelda

   Hyrule's favorite hero is off on another quest to save his beloved Princess Zelda, even if this time it's from an enchanted sleep instead of from an evil thief. Ganon has cursed the princess, and Link's only chance of reviving her is retrieving the Triforce of Courage from the Great Palace. (Apparently, the two Triforces of Wisdom and Power that he obtained in the last game just won't do the job.) This is no small feat, since getting past the "binding force" that protects the Great Palace requires that Link place crystals in the other palaces all around the world. This crystal theme reappears in later Zelda games, as well as the Final Fantasy series, and is a peculiar quirk that a lot of latter day RPGs seem to share.

Level Up
Link gains a level

   This time around, Link is granted the ability to gain levels, another gameplay feature more common to other RPGs than to the Zelda series. He starts out at measly level one for attack, magic and life, and by fighting random enemies and the monsters found in Palaces for experience, can raise these all the way to level 8. Raising a Life level will decrease the damage Link takes each time he is hit, while raising a magic level will decrease the cost of spells, and raising an attack level will strengthen his blows. During his journey, Link can also find heart containers and magic containers that increase the amount of life/magic he can have at any given time. Although the Heart Piece theme appears in later Zeldas, Zelda II is the only game in the series that allows Link to build levels. In games like Dragon Warrior, you can sky rocket your levels (with a great amount of patience) and then wallop on whatever boss you choose, and Zelda II gives you that option as well, where the other Zelda games force you to rely on your skill, since there's no way to increase your character's strength. One might think the fans would enjoy this idea, but it seems they prefer taking a repeated beating with a limited amount of strength over the ability to be as strong as your patience allows.

Hyrule's Overworld

   The second Zelda also welcomes players to a two-mode world. The Overworld mode, once home to all battles, labyrinths, graveyards, etc., now serves simply as a means to get from one place to another. Whenever Link arrives at a place that can be explored, the game switches to a side view mode. The Palaces and towns are all viewed in this new way, giving Link the opportunity to access his sword and his magic, since the Overworld mode doesn't allow him to. Likewise, if Link strays from the road of the Overworld, wandering into forests, deserts and swamps, little black enemies chase him across the screen. If outrunning them proves too much a challenge, then a random battle ensues, and the side screen mode comes into use again. Even though the fighting is still action oriented, not menu based like later RPGs, the difference in battle mode and traveling mode is very characteristic of later RPGs, and is yet another thing gamers complain about. Zelda II is often classified as the most RPG-like of the entire series, yet every advance toward that genre seems to be mocked by fans of the original, and leaves the impression that this influenced the return of the SNES Zelda: A Link to the Past to a mode more similar to the original's.

Link explores a Palace

   Along the path of Link's journey are the oh-so memorable Palaces. These Palaces unfortunately have no interesting shapes to speak of, and are just full of fun, bobbing creatures that offer zero experience when killed. After defeating the guardian of said palace, Link can place a crystal in the statue, and the Palace turns to stone when he departs. Link's treasures are useful, as objects like the raft and the flute make an unsurprising comeback, but other favorites are noticeably missing. There were some who claimed that without bombs and a boomerang, this game just couldn't be a real Zelda game, though other gamers must have reminded them that it was, after all, not the original. That idea was simply scoffed at, as gamers hadn't quite made the connection yet.

Ruto Town

   Towns first make their appearance in the second Zelda as a haven with ladies in red and blue (never green and yellow) who can restore Link's life, as well as people who can offer him clues about where to go next. In addition, each town offers Link a chance to gain a magic spell or a sword technique, provided he complete a small favor, which usually means chasing some monster down. In this way, Link learns magic that allows him to jump higher, morph into a fairy to fly through keyholes in palaces, and refill his life, among other things. Swordsmen will also teach him to upward and downward thrust with his sword, which is vital to defeating certain enemies. The role of these NPCs in Link's quest is also a typical RPG element that the original Zelda lacked, however, it is especially noticeable in N64's Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, that NPCs are again vital to Link's quest. Long time fans might notice that certain important characters in Zelda: The Ocarina of Time bear the names of the towns in Zelda II -- Saria Town, Mido Town, Ruto Town, etc. Although, with the time traveling factored in, perhaps it was the towns who were named after the people!

   The Adventure of Link more closely resembles traditional RPGs than the original, even if that classification was still uncommon for the NES at the time the game debuted. Along with the change in overworld/battle modes, the variations on sword techniques and the addition of magic and level building to Zelda II make it a very unique game in the series. At the same time, many Zelda fans are so attached to the original's format that they don't enjoy the new innovations in this second game, or they simply find it irritating. The fans of this second Zelda are left to wonder if those who despised it would have been happier with a re-release of the original, with the number "two" tacked on the end. Despite the argument over this game, and the entire Zelda series as RPGs in general, it's still evident what draws fans to the series. Zelda was not prettier than any other NES game at the time, and certainly had nothing in the way of plot, but it offered hours of unique gameplay, and it is this trademark which draws people to the current N64 masterpiece five games and ten years later.

Retrospective by Tamzen Marie Baker.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Developer Nintendo
Publisher Nintendo
Genre Action RPG
Medium Cartridge
Platform NES
Released 1988
FAQ / Manual
12 screen shots
Manual Pictures