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Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – NES

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – NES

Zelda_2_NES_coverPlatform: Nintendo Entertainment System

Developer: Nintendo R&D4

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA): December 1st, 1988 – (hey, look at that, five days after I was released!)

Genre: Action/Adventure, Platformer, RPG

Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10

Ah, hello everyone. How are you today?

Right now we are going to discuss something of utmost importance: Zelda II The Adventure of Link. Zelda II gets a bad rap. I know. I was once a part of that camp which so condemned this perfectly fine and, I should say, outstanding gem of a game.

The frustration I had with this particular title, after several attempts at making any sort of progress, resulted in me leaving the cart in a trade pile and later on regretting said action tenfold. Many years later I would see this game demonstrated all the way through. Once I discovered the way to play Zelda II I found a new copy and took it for a whirl, just to see for myself.

Could this be a new favorite for my beloved NES?


I think so.

Now let’s break it down. Why I didn’t like this game (and I imagine many others echo this same feeling) is that if you don’t know what you’re doing you’ll be wandering about over and over again trying to get anywhere you can. Perhaps you’ll find that shield spell, not know what to do with it, then you’ll give up and move on.


Cave exploration is a great new addition to Zelda II. Just be sure you find the candle first!

But persistence is the key word here, my friends. Persist until you unearth the candle, illuminating the path before you in those darkest of caves.

I’ve also heard talk of this being a difficult game. Well…again, I think you have to know how to play it. Once you get the hang of what you’re doing and take the leveling system seriously you should be fine. I mean, I beat it. And I’m not that good. To be perfectly honest, while there were some moments that I was ready to throw in the towel, all in all I found Zelda II to be a little easier than The Legend of Zelda.

Some may also feel that the sequel was a bit too esoteric. Sure, the final dungeon is a total pain in the ass to navigate. And how the hell are you supposed to find just the right spot to reveal the hidden town of Kasuto? But do you mean to tell me the first game was clear in all its secrets? How about playing the whistle to get to the seventh dungeon? Or burning a bush to get to the eighth? Yeah, these are not straightforward games.

Another common point of criticism is that Zelda II is a major departure from the original. And you know, that is true. Nintendo made a bold decision in taking the second entry of a very popular, successful game in a whole new direction.

Gone are the rupees, the purchasing of items, the bombs, the different weapons, all that. Now you’re armed with nothing but a sword, a shield, and a new magic system to help you on Link’s journey.

The game is more linear, yes that is true as well. But what is Nintendo’s greatest offense here? Replacing the overhead view in favor of a more standard side-scrolling element.

Well, I for one commend you Nintendo.

Zelda II takes Link on a whole new adventure through Hyrule. And may I, for just a moment, emphasize adventure?


See? There it is, the old familiar overhead view we all know and love

While the bulk of the game will be on a side-scrolling system, you still traverse the overworld in the same fashion as The Legend of Zelda, only now it’s more like an RPG. This juxtaposition of gameplay really takes you on a journey. The land of Hyrule may not necessarily be larger here than it was in the first Zelda (or perhaps it is, I haven’t taken a tape measure to it yet) but it certainly feels grander in scope. The overworld instills a notion of traveling great distances. And whenever you have an encounter, be it villainous or otherwise, you feel as though you’re in a new place, that you’ve really made it somewhere. The environments in the side-scrolling segments will reflect the landscape of the overworld, lending even more to this sense of traveling afar.


As you make your way up to the mountain town of Darunia, you find yourself platforming up said mountain, adding even more to the impression of traveling and destination

There are more ways to get lost in the dungeons as you are left without the map and compass that occupied your inventory in the previous game. Whether you’re the kind of person who enjoys a good maze or not will determine if this is a merit or a demerit. I’d wager most of you will fall into the latter category along with me. I had to use a walkthrough for the final stage; I don’t have the patience for that sorta thing.

Regardless, sidescrolling through the dungeons just feels better in my opinion. You have elevators, collapsing bridges. And the combat…

Let’s talk about combat for a moment, shall we?

Red knuckle

Link blocks the Red Knuckle’s high attack, while the Red Knuckle defends against the possibility lower attack

I love the combat in this game! Nintendo takes the sword and shield thing to a whole new level in Zelda II. With numerous enemies that will shift their block and attack pattern up and down you will need timing and skill to emerge victorious, emulating the experience of an actual sword fight. And the up and down thrust, I mean…how can you put the controller down after acquiring such abilities?


Downward and upward thrust are so much fun to use!

When you first encounter Orange Iron Knuckles you may think you’re screwed, but as you get better and better at fighting you’ll eventually find yourself taking down Blue Iron Knuckles with laughable ease. Your attack will level up, but in the process your actual skill in real life will level up!

And since I said “level up” in the same sentence twice, let’s talk about leveling up.

It’s very satisfying.

Earning points is simple. No turn-based fighting here, just kill enemies and earn points. It’s that easy. And it gives you incentive to face those tough baddies with a reward that is well worth it. Trust me. Because if you don’t level up, the game’s nearly impossible. At least if your skill level is on par with mine.

level up

The magic system is also very accessible in this game with simple spells such as “jump,” “shield,” “fairy,” and “life” that you’ll need to progress. And it is essential that you are conservative with your reserves, as the red magic jars are as elusive as Big Foot himself. Well…sorta. Okay, that’s an exaggeration.


Magic transforms Link into a fairy so that he can reach inaccessible areas necessary to progress

All-in-all, it adds an extra layer of strategy to the gameplay. Even a person like me, who doesn’t like messing around with magic in games, can still have fun using spells.

townAnother element that brings a new dimension of liveliness to the world of Zelda II is the addition of villages. These bustling towns will make the previous game look like a crawl through barren wastelands. While your only encounter with another living being (other than enemies) would be inside caves and hidden rooms in dungeons, this time around you have many villagers with whom you can talk to. And I wholeheartedly encourage you do just that. You’ll find a bounty of hints and clues, and maybe even a letter that could open up a new path for you *hint hint wink wink, know what’a mean, say n’more*.

Towns are where you will learn spells. Certain individuals when approached will complain of some misfortune, and it is up to you to get them what they need. Your reward will be entry into their home, where a Wise Man is waiting to bestow a new power unto thee. Tasks can be obscure, but once you solve the puzzles you’ll feel all the better for doing so and the sweet nectar of victory shall taste even sweeter.


Lastly the music.

It’s fantastic! I’ll admit I find the overworld theme in The Legend of Zelda more enjoyable than in Zelda II, but even so, all the tracks are superb. While the first game does have memorable music, there are only a few different melodies, which brings a level of monotony and a tinny quality to your auditory experience. Overall the music in Zelda II sounds richer, fuller, and with a variety that will keep it fresh throughout.

Please don’t get the idea that I dislike The Legend of Zelda. Quite the contrary in fact. I think it’s great. And I believe Zelda II is even better. It does everything a sequel ought to do, taking the original concept and improving upon it, making it stand out from its predecessor. Zelda II is so different that it’s fresh.  I would recommend them both as excellent and unique additions to your NES library.

At the end of the day you just may not like Zelda II, and that’s fine. Not everyone enjoys the same cup of tea. But give it another chance. Take a moment to better understand how the game plays, then try it one more time. If you still don’t like it after that, you’ll get your money back! (you didn’t hear that from me…)

better ending

What’s that? Dark Link?

Oh yeah…

No comment.

Written by ZB


Since the tender age of four, I have been playing video games to occupy my free time. Raised on Nintendo and Sega Genesis, I have an extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for the classics. Also an avid collector, I have accrued such consoles as the Atari Jaguar, Super Famicom, Odyssey 2, Sega Nomad, just to name a few.

Got any questions, comments, concerns, or threats? Feel free to email me at I am happy to hear your feedback!


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  1. I’m almost ashamed to say it, but there’s only 1 reason I’ve never really played this game: one of the Game Genie codes I REALLY wanted to use crashed it, at the very same spot, every single damn time.

    • Hey, it’s never to late to go back. I’m sure you have it, right? Sounds like you have a fairly extensive collection.

      • Yep, I still got it. Saw it just the other day as I rambled around for Mega Man 3 and 5. I may give it a whirl…and your review does make it sound enticing…

        2 Things that Make a Good Collector:
        1. Never get rid of ANYTHING.
        2. Some people put their big bucks in new TVs, nice cars, new phones, and fancy shoes. Thing about what happens when you put even a fraction of that cash towards rare-ish games. People see collections and think “man, you must be rich!” but it’s not really about that, it’s all about where you put the money that you do have. My phone still has a keyboard, I don’t buy new clothes every season, and my shoes are 3 years old!

        • I didn’t become a good collector until it was too late. I learned the first cardinal rule the hard way after selling my original stuff 14 years ago. And one little gem of a game I had in that original collection was Bonk’s Adventure….

          Perhaps one day I’ll share the devastating tale behind that one photo.

          Anyhoo, have fun with Zelda II. I had a hell of a good time running through it. Frustration manifested, but all in all a good experience. Do yourself a favor and grind early on in the game.

  2. It’s really nice to see Zelda II get some love. It’s only inaccessible in the same way that Zelda 1 is, in that you need to improve your skill at it and navigation and puzzle solving can be difficult. I really think it’s just how different it was that made people loathe it.

    • Oh I totally agree! Like I said my biggest problem initially was figuring out where to go. It’s a little boring to start when you don’t know what to do but once you get going it’s so much fun!

  3. Fantastic review! It’s funny how these days, there are complaints that the Zelda series plays it too safe with its formula…Yet here is a radical departure which is viewed as the dark horse of the series, and it would be unimaginable if Nintendo were to release another Zelda game in the same style as Zelda 2.

    • It really is a shame, isn’t it? It was such a groundbreaking title in my opinion. I’ve always liked the Zelda games, but never considered myself a hardcore fan. I never thought I’d like this game as much as I did, but when I gave it a fair chance – I mean, it just does so many things right.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the review! It’s always great to hear from the readers, really makes writing them even more of an enjoyable experience.


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