Saturday, December 31, 2011

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

And the legend continues... 
Growing up, I have a stronger memory of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link than I do of its predecessor. I remember being quite young (guessing by its release date of December '88 most likely 8) and being watched by my Uncle and his friends that were very much caught up in the world of Hyrule. The exact details are a little fuzzy but I remember there was some kind of hint guide (most likely the newly released Nintendo Power Issue #4) and my Uncle and his friends sitting in front of the TV for hours trying to navigate the map and dungeons. I was caught up watching them play, ignoring their multiple offers of going outside. No, I wanted to see Link complete his quest, I wanted to see the sleeping Princess Zelda awaken. It wouldn't be until 23 years later that I finally saw this feat accomplished (and by my own hand at that).

After completing The Legend of Zelda, it was only natural to take on its NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) sequel. I’d already rescued the kingdom of Hyrule and saved both the Triforce of Wisdom (collecting its fragments are the main game play) and the Triforce of Power (defeating Ganon); now it was time to rescue the Triforce of Courage and save the fabled sleeping Princess Zelda for whom all other Zelda's are named. It sounded great and I had the fond memories of childhood to propel me on my quest, it was going to be awesome... Or was it? First thing most people notice (okay everyone who has ever played another Zelda game) is, this isn't a top down adventure; it's a side scroller. Innovation? Maybe. At the point of Zelda II's release (hey where did The Legend of… go?) you have to remember there were only two games so this didn't stand-out as bad... Or did it?

Didn't Americans (I say Americans because it was audience-specific, wait I'll explain) realize the dramatic difference between Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario Brothers 2 (even before we found out that it was a port of a Japanese game Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panikku and not the original sequel, so told you I'd explain)? I mean, for the first time there were noticeable differences between Mario and Luigi (like Luigi's ability to jump higher) and also for the first time you weren't being told by Toad that "Your Princess was in another castle" because both Toad and Princess Toadstool were playable characters. Gone were King Koopa, his Koopa Troopas, and Goomba's; now we were introduced to Shy Guys, Birdos, Mousers, and Wart.  
I look at the differences between The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link in the same vein (minus the trade of an original sequel). They were trying something different to keep us interested. It was an experiment and, well, it failed. Gone were the hearts and the ability to refill your life by collecting them, gone were shops where you spent your hard earned Rupees on various items needed to complete your quest. No, this was a whole new system based on magic and meters and experience points, this was as close as the Zelda series came to being a true RPG (Role Playing Game). Similar to the Final Fantasy Series, you walk on an overworld map (the only top down gameplay in the game) to reach your desired locations (whether it was a town or dungeon) and while you walk you're attacked at random by enemies that then force you into battle in the games side scrolling style. Without Rupees and Hearts what do you battle for? No, not just for the fun of it (because believe me at some points these battles become relentless) you battle for experience points, magic potions, and P Bags (points bags that add experience points more rapidly, so yes more experience points). When you collect enough experience points you level up in ether your Health, your Magic or your Strength. It's important to level up to be able to handle some of the tougher bad guys in the game so if you find an area that offers you some bad guys that are worth a bunch of points, I'd recommend taking the time and gaining the experience points. I messed around outside the hidden town of Kasuto killing Red and Orange Lizalfos until I gained the experience points I was looking for and leveled up appropriately. It's also important to note two other things about your precious experience points: if you die or you reset your game, they return to zero. This is a bummer if you are within lets say 100 points of leveling up and you die having to start from scratch all over again. A nice thing is with every boss you defeat you will level up automatically so if you are feeling a bit lazy keep this in mind, or if you’re close to leveling up already maybe hang out in the dungeon a little longer and level up and get two for the price of one.
So now that I've explained why this game is different from its predecessor, let's talk turkey... If the skill level for The Legend of Zelda was intermediate, than for Zelda II it was hard to insanely hard. Don't agree? Well then I'd say first F*ck You! (kinda childish, but I mean it) and second let's talk about Death Mountain the second freakin' level in the game. Let's talk about getting bombarded by Daria's. Let's talk about fighting through relentless other enemies. Let's talk about the lack of health power ups. Let's talk about relentless FREAKIN' ENEMIES!!! Okay, whew I feel a little better now, but for real? Who turned up the suck? Where I finished The Legend of Zelda in eleven hours and seven minutes (I know not a record by far) it took me seventeen hours and fifty-three minutes to beat Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. That's almost seven hours longer! And unlike The Legend of Zelda, I don't believe there was any pausing in there whatsoever; that was straight gameplay. Do you remember in my last blog I talked about hating having to play the same things over and over again (if not please check it out here)? Well for this game it was strap on your helmet because I was going to have to replay more than play. Very rarely was any of it smooth sailing, it was more like an exercise in patience... And the thing is, I don't have any. I really, really wanted to beat this game and I had already thrown down the gauntlet so sometimes that's the only thing that kept me going. No, not the love of the game or the enjoyment of playing; just the simple fact that I really wanted to beat it. Sometimes nothing more than anger griped the wheel as I flailed wildly through both the world of Hyrule and reality respectively. Many times I had to drop my controller and walk away from the game cursing it for ever being created. 
Another thing I hated about it? How come when you die, no matter where you are, you are sent back to the Princess' chamber? Are you kidding me? Now instead of getting to play the dungeon again I have to walk my happy ass all over Hyrule just to reach the area I was in before? The Legend of Zelda didn't have this problem; last time if I died in a dungeon I got to respawn in a dungeon. But for Zelda II this isn't the case, it's always back to the sleeping Princess Zelda's side and then marching back across Hyrule and it sucks!!! Luckily when you finally reach the Great Palace if you die you respawn at the gates and not at Princess Zelda's side; that is if you don't turn the game off. Yes I made that mistake to have dinner and when I turned the system back on... Back at Zelda's side. And maybe your experience was better than mine but ascending The Valley of Death was a miserable experience, so much so I almost had tears in my eyes when I finally got to see the gates of the Great Palace.

So where my final battle with Ganon was satisfying at the end of Legend of Zelda, just making it to the final, final boss was excruciating. First you have to make it through the Great Palace and then you have to battle Thunderbird (a boss that requires his own spell, Thunder, that you need to acquire in the town of Kasuto). Not only do you need to cast this spell so he'll reveal his face and you can actually hurt him, but it takes up so much magic you have to make a Sophie's choice on what other spells to cast. I chose to follow the advice of and use Shield and Jump but I also added Reflect to help shield off Thunderbird's multiple fireballs. It took a couple of tries but ultimately I was able to bring Thunderbird down, and now with very little life I was able to snag the last key and push forward to the last room of the Great Palace. And there waits the Triforce of Courage and the Triforce holder, and before he will give you the last Triforce the room goes dark and you battle the final boss, Shadow link (after Scott Pilgrim I like to think of him as Nega Link). Nega Link has all of your abilities and will make short work of kicking your ass (which he did the first time I made it to him). Luckily there is a way, if you hunch over in the corner and hit him whenever he tries to attack you, you can chip away at his health without losing any of yours. Is this a cheap way to win? Maybe, but after everything I'd been through to get there I wasn't about to leave without the Triforce of Courage in my hands. So with Nega Link vanquished it's back to the side of the sleeping Princess (again) but this time she awakens as you produce the three Triforce fragments and you become (at long last) the hero of Hyrule.

So with the first two games complete it was time to leave the old NES (or emulated NES thanks to the Wii) behind and move onto greener pastures. The Legend of Zelda was an epic first game, and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was so challenging it almost brought me to tears but now let's have some fun, shall we? The next game in the timeline should be the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) title The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past or the Gameboy title The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening but I beat those games in the past and I'm first going to concentrate on the games I haven't beat. So up next is the newly released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS. As I previously mentioned in my last blog, my game save was deleted leaving me shattered and at the time unwilling to re-accomplish everything I'd already done. Now thirteen years later... It's time to reopen that chapter.