Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Part One – Zelda Game Club

Last week I kicked off the first Zelda Game Club, the series where we play through The Legend of Zelda games as a community. I’m starting with Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. This is perhaps one of the most divisive Legend of Zelda games. Over the past week we’ve been playing through the first half of the game, and today I’m going to run what we think of the game so far.

Before we get into part one of the Zelda Game Club for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, if you want to join in it’s not too late! We’re going to be playing through the second half of the game this week, and if you want to play along with the community and be included in part two of the game club, then get your comments to me by Sunday 7th August 2022, and the current plan is to release part two on the 8th August. The game isn’t very long, it’s about 10 hours or so, so if you want to play through with us this week, that would be great.

If you do decide to play then get your comments to me on this video, let me know what you think of the game, what you think of the structure, the items, the spells, and the RPG mechanics. Do you think The Adventure of Link works, or do you prefer a more traditional Zelda game like the first one or A Link to the Past? There are no wrong answers, the idea here is to get as many people playing through the Legend of Zelda games together. Over time I’d love these community playthroughs to grow, and the more community comments we get, the more detail we can go into, the better.

OK, let’s dive into Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Part 1, and I’ll run through a brief overview of the game and then run through community comments and what we think of the game.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was originally released back in 1987, a little under a year after the release of the first Legend of Zelda game on the NES. This game was a huge change from the first game given it was side-scrolling, the towns and NPCs, the RPG mechanics of levelling up weapons, health and magic and plenty more. The top-down view was retained for the overworld exploration, but the main sections of the game take place in a side-scrolling view, similar to Metroid or Castlevania games.

Sword battles were introduced to the game. When you have full energy you can shoot a sword from your initial attack, although when you get hit you can attack stand up, and also when crouching. Link’s shield also comes into play as he can deflect projectiles. Nintendo also introduced a lives system, so you’ll start off with 3 lives and have to make your way to certain points in the game with that set amount of lives. Die, and you’ll go back to the start, although you’ll retain the items you have already collected.

The Adventure of Link is definitely a divisive game, with Legend of Zelda fans either loving this entry or not liking it. Personally, for me, it holds a special place in my heart, given it was my first Zelda game, which actually warped my perception of Zelda games when I was a kid. Given I played through this one first with my Dad when I was a kid on my original NES, when it came to playing A Link To The Past on the SNES, I thought that game was a big change, not having played the original Legend of Zelda at the time.

There’s no doubt the game is difficult, and at times very frustrating, and that was reflected in a lot of the comments I had for Part 1 of The Adventure of Link Zelda Game Club.

Ikana said

“Alrighty, finally beat the 3rd Palace, and I gotta say this game is as hard as I remember. Death Mountain certainly lives up to its name, as I died several times in that Hylia-forsaken place. The Palaces so far were alright, though I struggled with no magic and half health against the 3rd boss. Honestly, as someone who always tries to find good qualities in every game, it is very hard for me to do so here. The game is very obtuse, even by NES standards, and combat sections more often felt like slogs instead of exciting gameplay. I suppose part of that has to do with the life system and how game-overs send you to the start again. I won’t lie, without savestates I probably would have quit by the time I got to the Swamp Palace. The difficulty itself doesn’t feel very fair, like in Souls games for instance, and even by the time I learned how to fight most of the enemies without taking damage it still felt heavily weighted against me and at times it felt like I was playing a bullet hell instead of a Zelda (looking at you, Blue Iron Knuckles).”

First of all, thank you Ikana for writing in, and playing along with us. We’ll hear more about your playthrough later on, but first I wanted to touch on the difficulty.

The game definitely is difficult. I had moments against the Blue Iron Knuckles where I was tearing my hair out and then would have to restart sections, or I was deep in the third palace and you die sending you all the way back to the start, having to make your way back through the Maze to the temple, it can be very frustrating.

Some of the modern conveniences here definitely help to get through the game, the save states on Nintendo Switch as Ikana says are very useful, plus there is the rewind feature. Games have changed a lot since 1987 when this was released. This was at the crossover of arcades and video games moving into the living room with consoles like the NES, and games were still rock solid hard, given arcades were designed to keep you putting money into the machine to make the most money from the game. Back then we didn’t have the choice we do now when it comes to games, for example, if you found something too hard back then there were fewer options to move onto. We still have harder games these days, Elden Ring, Sifu, and Cuphead are three examples that have come out in recent months. Sifu is an interesting example, where they recently released an ‘easy mode’ given the backlash against the difficulty.

Going back to Ikana’s comments, the gameplay at times doe feel obtuse, especially against the Blue Iron Knuckles. They are shooting out flying swords and stabbing at you standing and crouching, quickly switching things up. Then you have a flying projectile overhead dropping fire on you at the same time. It’s tough. I did find myself getting into it after the first few hours. Initially, I was put off, but I did find myself growing into it and almost enjoying it by the time I got to the 2nd palace.

Let’s have a closer look at the palaces and structure of what we played so far. I arbitrarily split the game into two; in the first half where we’re tackling the first three palaces, then we’re going to take on four in the second half.

In the first half, we took on these three palaces Parapa Palace, Midoro Palace and Island Palace.

When we first start out it’s a good idea to head to Rauru Town. Here we get into one of the core gameplay loops in The Adventure of Link, and that’s speaking to the Town’s NPCs and finding the secrets of the towns. In the towns you have a couple of women who are willing to help you out at all times, there’s a woman in a red dress who comes out of a building and if you speak to her, she’ll restore your health. Then if you speak to the old woman she’ll restore your magic meter. In each town, there’s a Wise Man, and they will normally teach you a spell… and in the first town, we get the Sheild Spell. We don’t have to do much here to speak to the Old Man, just look out for the woman in the purple dress, speak to her and she’ll invite you in to speak to her Father. In later towns, you will have to find items to trade with the NPC to get them to let you in, but given this is the first one it’s nice and easy.

BombZeCoffee says

“I think the town should have a shop to buy potions instead of going with the NPC to heal yourself and a way to get a bottle to put a fairy in. The thing I like about the towns is helping the NPC to get to the old man.”

Thanks, BombZeCoffee, and I hope you’re getting on well playing through the game.

I like the idea of the shop. I think that was introduced in the next game with A Link To The Past. I don’t know if we had restrictions here on the NES which made that very complicated, I’m not a game developer. But I agree with you, I like the mechanic of helping the NPC to get to the old man. Sometimes the puzzles are simple, for example, you meet one Old Lady who’s thirsty, and then you walk up to the fountain and get some water for her. The interesting thing with these old NES games is you don’t get an animation of Link collecting the water or anything like that, so you really have to pay attention to the dialogue boxes.

There’s another puzzle in the second town I think, where someone has lost a mirror and you find it under the table in another house. That’s a good example of not really having any clues, and in this game, you simply had to walk around, find objects and interact with them. There’s no prompt or anything like that, so if you walk up to the table, it won’t say “Look under the table to find the mirror”, you just have to press the button and hope. This does lead to some great moments of excitement when you finally find something, whether it be an item or you fall down a random hole to reveal a magic container or a new passageway to reach a palace.

After exploring for a bit we then find ourselves in the first Palace, Parapa Palace. This introduces us to platforming, battling and some tougher enemies for the first time. There are Mace Throwers, which can be tough to dodge, but this is the perfect place to try out the magic spells, the ones we learnt back in the town to help protect us. We also have to find keys and use them to unlock doors plus we have Dungeon items, and the first one is The Candle. The Candle is helpful for finding out way through dark caves, which you’ll encounter on your way to the first palace.

We’re introduced to the first boss here, Horsehead, who isn’t too tricky, you just have to watch his sword and try not to get hit by it. Once you’re done you have to add the crystal back to the stone, and it’s onto the next palace.

That is pretty much the gameplay loop of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Explore the overworld to find a town, find the Old Wise Man in the Town to get a spell that will help you in the upcoming Palace, find your way to the Palace (Maybe solving a puzzle along the way), find the item in the Palace which generally helps you explore the overworld, and then beat the boss in the Palace to progress.

Ikana says

“Despite my previous negative statements, there is enjoyment to be found in the game, and I have overall had a positive experience, though knowing that others are struggling alongside me helps a lot. The music in the game is pretty good, with the Palace theme being one of my favourite themes in the series, and I find myself humming the overworld theme when I’m going about my day.”

Thanks again Ikana, I thought your first comments were pretty objective, to be honest, the game is tough/obtuse at times, so I wouldn’t worry about it being negative, I think it’s accurate. I agree with what you’re saying here, there is enjoyment to be had from playing the game. It takes a little bit to get into, but once you’re in, you’re in… and hopefully many of you agree with me out there. Knowing that other players are playing together definitely helps, and thanks to anyone who’s playing along. Taking the time out of your day or whatever current game you are playing is very much appreciated, and I hope you continue along with part 2… the more players we have playing, the better and we can support each other through the tough times (like the fights with the Blue Iron Knuckles!)

I think you are absolutely right with the comment about the music. It’s very good. The Overworld Theme is a nice switch up on the more traditional Zelda theme, then the Palace theme is great. If you like Zelda music, then I recommend a podcast called Strong Songs, specifically the episode about The Music Of The Legend Of Zelda. Kirk, a former games journalist from Kotaku, goes into depth about Zelda music, and given he’s a professional musician and teacher, he can do it much more justice than I could, so go and check out Strong Songs, and I’ll link that episode down in the description.

After the first palace is where I hit my first frustrating point in the game, and that was Death Mountain. Here you have to enter a series of caves, through a random maze to get the to point where you can find the Hammer to destroy the big boulders on the world map. Death Moutain killed me plenty of times, plus going through the series of caves fighting the enemies with Axes had me jumping up and down in frustration.

There’s a useful spell you can learn in the Water Town of Saria, which helps you restore Life, it costs a lot of magic, but it’s a lifesaver when it comes to navigating Death Mountain. Going back to Ikana’s first comment where they said “Death Mountain certainly lives up to its name”, yes, that’s very true and getting through Death Mountain is a little bit of a slog.

I think this is where I learnt the jumping slash technique for enemies, which was a real lifesaver. Rather than have Link stand or crouch and go into battles if you jump forward and slash when you are coming down, then you can inflict a good amount of damage on your enemies and then quickly get away. This works with the enemies who are throwing things at you as you can time it so you jump over their projectiles and then jump into them and attack simultaneously. I probably left it way too late to learn this technique, but it’s something I took into future Palaces and found success with.

Once you find the Hammer you can then move around the map a little more freely, and make your way to the Town of Mido, where you’ll learn your first new sword technique with the downward strike. This is another one of those moments, similar to when you find the mirror or the water to give to the NPCs. When you are in the Town of Mido, you have to use the Jump spell to jump up to the church, then go into the door and meet the Knight, who teaches you to new attacking technique. This is going to come in handy for the next Palace, plus navigating the overworld.

Midoro Palace is found hidden away in the swamps of Hyrule. In this palace, you’re going to find a bunch of tough new enemies, plus also the Handy Glove. This allows you to break certain blocks with a sword strike, which is going to allow you to better navigate the overworld and also smash through blocks in Palaces to get keys or reach places you otherwise couldn’t reach. The boss battle here in Midoro is a step up from the first boss. This guy is called Helmethead and you have to knock off his head twice, to reveal his face, then attack frantically while his two previous heads are flying around trying to zap you. It’s tough but doable.

After Midoro Palace there’s probably one of my favourite moments in the game so far. In the Town of Mido you have to deliver the Water of Life, which you found in a cave thanks to the Hammer, upon delivering the Water of Life you get a new spell which turns you into a fairy. At first, I was confused as to what this is used for, but that all becomes clear when you find The King’s Tomb. You’ll get a clue from a character in one of the towns earlier on to go south and you’ll find yourself falling in a secret hole. Use the Fairy spell and you’ll find your way up and onto the next Palace, which is the Island Palace.

BombZeCoffee says

“I’ve just made it to the island palace. I think this game actually fun but some parts are annoying like the flying skulls that shoot at you. What might make this game a bit easier is if they had the bow and arrow. I’ve tried to not rewind too many times though technically I did die like 10 times.”

I totally agree, the flying skulls, and generally, anything that flies in this game is annoying. I think it’s here in Island Palac where you have the horse-like heads flying in a wave pattern towards you, which are tough! I like the idea of a bow and arrow. It would be interesting to see what difference that would make. This is almost like an 8-bit souls game at times, with swords and shields crashing together, making for some great battles, but also unforgiving deaths. I used the rewind feature to BombZeCoffee, so no worries about that! I do remember playing through this game as a kid, and I don’t know how I got this far. My Dad probably helped me when I wasn’t looking. Dying only 10 times is pretty good going, I dread to think what my death counter has been throughout the first half.

The Island Palace ramps up the difficulty even more with Orange, Red and Blue Iron Knuckles. The first Blue Iron Knuckles is a shock to the system for sure. In this Palace, we find The Raft, which allows us to travel to other parts of Hyrule, plus we have the boss fight with Rebonack, a Blue Knight who starts out on horseback, but with a few well-placed downward strikes he falls off, and then it’s just a regular Blue Iron Knuckle, which is not easy feat to deal with of course.

That’s the first half of Zelda II: The Adventures of Link. I hope you have enjoyed playing along so far, and if you want to join in then it’s not too late! You can join in this week, and play along with the Triforce Times community. Whether you are playing the game for the first time or rekindling your love for the Zelda franchise, everyone is welcome to play along in this big community effort.

Here are a few details thanks to Zelda Fandom.

Development

Development of The Adventure of Link started with Shigeru Miyamoto’s idea of creating a side-scrolling action game which used up and down movements for attacks and defence. This idea was developed as a new sword and shield action game that did not follow the system seen in the first The Legend of Zelda. At the end of development, the game was considered a type of spin-off until it was decided on a story where Link would be 16 years old, attaching the Zelda title to it.

The levelling-up system was added so players could battle enemies multiple times, while encounters on the overworld added a luck factor to the narrow map. The high difficulty of the game was implemented to extend playing sessions due to the lack of content in games at the time.

Timeline Placement

Both this game and the first are linked in continuity since the first game revolves around retrieving two of the major fragments of the Triforce, and Ganon is fought in order to rescue Princess Zelda; the second game revolves around finding the third major fragment in order to revive an incarnation of Zelda that was sleeping for a very long time and to impede the revival of Ganon.

In the timeline revealed in Hyrule Historia, The Adventure of Link takes place in the “Downfall” branch after Ocarina of Time. It is the latest entry in the timeline that has its roots in Ocarina of Time and starts with A Link to the Past. After Ganon is defeated again in A Link to the Past, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, and A Link Between Worlds, Hyrule then entered The Golden Era, in which the wise Hyrule monarchs used the Triforce to govern the land. After the last king’s death and the attempt of the Prince of Hyrule to assemble the complete Triforce, Hyrule was led into the Era of Decline. The Prince of Darkness Ganon was revived, leading to the events of The Legend of Zelda, but ultimately defeated by Link. The events of The Adventure of Link take place a few years later but refer back to Princess Zelda that was put under a sleeping spell at the beginning of the Era of Decline.

Sales

The Adventure of Link was commercially successful, selling 4.38 million copies worldwide and being the fifth best-selling Nintendo Entertainment System game of all time; however, it sold less than its predecessor, which sold 6.51 million copies.

Trivia

  • Although the Japanese title for The Adventure of Link uses the English name of The Legend of Zelda, and the game’s backstory explicitly defines The Legend of Zelda as a plot concept, the English language game is the only one in the main series not to include The Legend of Zelda in its title.
  • The Adventure of Link marks one of the few times where Link speaks in the main game, by saying “I found a mirror under the table” while in Saria Town and “Looks like I can get in the fireplace” in Kasuto.
  • The Famicom Disk System version of the game uses the infamous “Gannon” spelling in the intro, as well as other typos such as “Tryforce.” This intro was largely rewritten in the North American release.
  • According to series creator Shigeru Miyamoto, The Adventure of Link is the only The Legend of Zelda game he considers a failure, this due to the limitations of the hardware.
  • Ganon’s laugh on the game over screen in the English version is also used in the NES game Punch-Out!! as Soda Popinski’s laugh.

Ikana says

“If Adventure of Link were released today, I think it could be a good game if it had several QoL updates. Here’s to the 2nd half of the game, hopefully, we can get through it in one piece.

I think this one is a prime candidate for a modern remake. Much like Link’s Awakening had a particular art style for that Switch remake released in 2019, I’d like to see a new art style developed for a remade version of The Adventure of Link. Let me know in the comments what art style you’d like to see. Also, yes… here’s to the 2nd part of the game club, definitely looking forward to playing through that this week.

Shout outs to NotYoshi124 and Warrior Princess for writing in via the comments.

NotYoshi124
“A very good idea but I think I won’t join until Windwaker”

Keep an eye on the channel for more Zelda Game CLubs coming very soon. The next one is going to be A Link To The Past, which is one of the best games of all time, but we will get to Wind Waker after Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. I’m going to be playing through all the Zelda games I can get my hands on… so NotYoshi124 I look forward to you playing Wind Waker with us.

Warrior Princess
“I’m playing in BOTW , cuz I prefer that game more. But I’m looking forward to BOTW 2”

No worries Warrior Princess, Breath of the Wild is a great game, but I would give these older Zelda games a try… it’s great to see where the game mechanics came from. Breath of the Wild has a lot in common with the original Legend of Zelda released on the NES, it’s close to being a current-gen reimagining of that game.

This isn’t a required part of the Zelda Game Club, but something for fans of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. I started collecting NES games, and the first game in my collection is an original Gold Cart of Zelda II, complete with a box (even though the box has a few folds, tears and scratches). Given we’re playing through the game, I thought I’d share it with you all.

That’s all for Part One of Zelda Game Club for Zelda II: The Adventures of Link. This week we’re playing through the second half of the game, that’s 4 palaces including Maze, Ocean, Hidden and The Great Palace. Get your comments to me by Sunday 7th August 2022, and I’ll publish part two on Monday 8th, including all of your comments.

A massive thank you to everyone who’s been playing, and especially to those who sent in their comments for part one. The plan is to continue through the Zelda series, working out way through to the modern games. Once we’ve finished Zelda II: The Adventure of Link we’ll move on to A Link To The Past. I don’t have a set date for that one just yet, but it’s likely to either be in August or October, depending on my timing for my Summer break.

That is the future, for now, let’s focus on finishing Zelda II. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t really sure what to think when I went into the playthrough… but so far I am really enjoying it. I remember a few details from my original playthrough when I was a kid, but it’s been 30 years since I played through the original game on the NES and it’s given me a fresh perspective on the Zelda franchise, plus this one is very different to other entries.

One thought on “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Part One – Zelda Game Club

  • August 16, 2023 at 7:41 am
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    I remember beating this game on the GBA, I disliked the lives system, and disliked how I would always restart at North Castle.

    Reply

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