Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Adventure
Year of Release: 1988

Date Reviewed: 7-15-98

Among NES partisans, there seem to be two precincts of thought regarding Zelda II -- those who dislike it because it is too different from the first, and those who profess their appreciation for it because they do not feel its dissimilarity to its predecessor is sufficient reason to dismiss it as a poor effort. As is so often my nature, I subscribe to neither belief. Well, I do in part. Zelda II is nothing like its predecessor, but that alone does not justify contempt for it -- at least not in my case. However, this game is certainly not perfect. Some might portray it as nearly so to devalue any berating that founds itself upon the game’s variance from the first. That is valid. However, there remains a precinct from which nobody has heard -- myself and the (if history holds any bearing on the present) very few people who agree with me. I do not think Zelda II is a particularly good game, but my aversion to it stems nothing from its resemblance, or lack thereof, to the classic that antedated it. The object of my dissatisfaction is simply that, in most of its departments, the game contains two extremes -- the fairly good, and the egregious, with nothing on a median between the two.

While the game’s authors could have created a simple truism by which Zelda would be kidnapped again, instead they elected to create an entirely different story that explains the origin of the Triforce, and is quite engaging besides. It seems that, after their master’s defeat, Ganon’s minions continued to lay siege to Hyrule, searching for Link, whose blood was necessary to revive their chieftain. Meanwhile, Link discovered the mark of the Triforce on his hand as his 16th birthday impended (one must wonder just how old Link was supposed to be in the first game.) He sought the help of Impa, Zelda’s nursemaid, whose family was long established in Hyrule. Recognizing the brand, Impa took Link to the North Palace, where he was able to open “the door that does not open.” Inside was a sleeping young woman, whom Impa explained to be another Princess Zelda. At this point, Impa explained the Hyrulian legend pertaining to the girl. It seems an evil magician’s incantation forced her into an indefinite slumber, which could only be lifted by the power of the Triforce. The bereaved prince then passed an edict whereby all female Hyrulian royal figures were to be named Zelda. Anyway, after explaining the history of the matter, Impa handed Link a scroll, which explained that the sleeping princess could be awakened if the Triforce was harnessed. However, the document also revealed that there was a third Triforce -- that of courage -- located in the “Greatt Palace.” It also detailed that the mark on Link’s hand was an indication that he was to travel to that palace, in order to unify the three Triforces. However, this would not be a simple matter, for six other palaces required infiltration, and the placement of a crystal into their respective statues, if the road to the great palace were to be cast open.

This fine plot could be improved upon only if the game itself contained more reference to it. Far too many of the Hyrulian townsfolk seem to know absolutely nothing, or offer no information of any pertinence. A few references to Hyrulian legend sprinkled among the boundless ignorance would have made the game much more engaging. It takes little time for a player to tire of myriad townspeople who all say the same thing.

The appearance of the game is divided among two perspectives. Link travels to Hyrule’s many destinations in the overhead scene. Of the two perspectives, this is invariably the greater eyesore -- and quite an immense one at that. Link is minuscule in this perspective, and has only two frames of animation per each direction he faces. In addition, the entire landscape consists only of gigantic stamps of pseudo-terrain, which are twice the size of Link’s own representation in this perspective. The only way this design is able to render a cave is to place a black square among several rock formations. However, the frequent use of green affords the player a sense that an array of colors is used, rather than simply the spectrum of one hue. Anyway, if Link collides with an enemy, the overhead perspective diverts to a side-scrolling action sequence. This view is much the superior of the overworld. Link is fluidly animated, and drawn quite large. The enemies move very well, and the terrain is impressive in detail -- particularly the grounds. However, this does not compensate for the generic overworld, which is seen with much more frequency.

Like the graphics, the soundtrack of the game is divided among the very good and the very bad, though this category inclines more toward the pleasurable. The opening theme possesses a highly mystical quality, and both palace themes are sufficiently foreboding. The entire score produces quite well the epic feeling a game of this nature demands, with a minimum of exceptions. The only melody of any particular annoyance is the song played in caves and action sequences. Unfortunately, this tune is also one of the most frequently featured, and tends to evoke from the player a desire to rush out of the area in question.

In nearly all capacities, however, Link is terribly difficult to control. When running, momentum develops with haste, and, while this is technically realistic, our hero tends to slide into damaging situations without any true means of avoidance. Also, Link cannot jump with any particular height or distance, and is difficult to slow in midair. Finally, his sword has virtually no range, but is redeemed by a moderate swiftness of use.

Resulting from the poor control Zelda II perpetuates is an absurd level of challenge. Though most overworld action sequences are simple to negotiate, each of the palaces contains a few situations made insanely difficult by this single inferior component of the game. For example, the encounter with Ironknuckle in the first (yes, the first) of the palaces. Link’s short range of attack forces the player to fight at very close quarters. Even if the player is at full life, the projected images of Link’s sword are ineffective against all armor-clad enemies -- a classification to which Ironknuckles belong. Due to the fact that this enemy’s range is greater than Link’s, it is able to simply slash past the hero’s shield and inflict damage. Also, most bosses possess similarly long ranges of attack, and are vulnerable in only one place -- typically the head. Thus, if Link attempts to move nearer to the adversary, he will be easily struck and sent back to a position beyond his reach of the guardian. If the player attempts to jump, Link must be slowed in midair before slashing, for a miss will result in an assault similar to that previously outlined. Though it is possible to season one’s play to the point that working around the poor control is feasible, it is not fleetily learned, nor should it be a necessity.

Zelda II is a game of more than a few flaws. Thus, I fail to see why this game’s detractors can defend their aversion to it only by pointing out that it is no semblance of its predecessor. Perhaps when a game assumes the classic proportions of The Legend of Zelda, all games of its kind are held in comparison to it, whether the player is aware of it or not. Such criticism would be particularly intense upon a successor. However, Zelda II, as an individual game, leaves much to be desired -- many more of its redemptive aspects, that is.

Plot: 8.5
Graphics: 6
Sound: 8
Play Control: 3
Challenge: 6

Analytic Score: 6.3

Personal Score: 6

What a coincidence. The coast has sharp edges in my region too.

This scene, as my old art teacher would say, is afflicted with "Fish-Bowl-Itis." That is, everything is at or near the bottom of the area.... Upon reflection, I can't imagine why you would care.

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