I recently reviewed Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, but I love the game so much that I felt compelled to expand on my thoughts.
As I stated in the review, Zelda II seems to have a magic that not many games have. There’s something enchanting about the game that pulls me in every single time I play the game. It never fails. At this point, I’ve probably played through Zelda II about a dozen times. Maybe more. Yet, it never gets old.
I will admit that at least some of that is nostalgia, but some of it is also the fact that Zelda II, more than most games, seems to take me back to being a kid and playing these games for the first time. I realize that that sounds like the same thing, but it goes deeper than simple nostalgia for me.
If you didn’t grow up in the NES era, then you have to understand that the natural limitations of the system almost required an active imagination. If you take a game like Zelda II at face value, then you’ll see an overworld with some paint by number villages, a few caves, and some temples to explore. But, if you can place it in that time period, it becomes something much more. That overworld was a vast, sprawling land that compelled you to check every nook and cranny. You just didn’t know where a hidden treasure bag may be lurking or a house may be hidden in a forest area. It offered up a ton of possibilities. The system couldn’t present a land that looked like Ocarina of Time, so the developers instead presented the idea of that land, and for me, it worked perfectly.
I think this more than anything made the game seem massive. When you’d finished the temples on the first continent, you ride a raft to the east only to find an entirely new continent. It’s almost impossible to explain how amazing that was as a kid unused to such massive surprises hiding in a game. It was such a joy to find that you’d only gone through about half of the game at that point, and had so much more to do. A good comp for how it made me feel is how surprised players where in Symphony of the Night when they get taken to the inverted castle and have an entirely new map, the same size as the map they’d been exploring, to fight their way through. That’s how it made me feel, and I still get a bit of that wonder today when I replay it.
Zelda II also serves as a reminder of when there were no internet spoilers, and no FAQ’s to help you out. You needed to explore the land fully, lest you miss something good. That wasn’t an annoying task though, it was part of the joy of the game. Also, as a bit of an open-world game, Zelda II almost challenged you to sequence break. Could I get to the second area without getting the candle first? [For the record, yes, I can.] Can I take on the fourth temple before the third? What happens if I just get the item in the temple, but don’t place the crystal? For a kid, the possibilities were almost limitless. I couldn’t look up the answers to these questions, so I had to test each one out, and I kept coming back to the game to see what it would let me do.
Zelda II isn’t the only game that had that affect on me, but it’s the one that stands out the most in my mind, and the one that I still revisit regularly today. For the most part, I’m not certain that I can fully explain the hold it has on me, but it really does make me happy, and reminds me of a simpler time in both my life and in video games. A time that I sometimes long for, but can’t recapture. Still, when I play Zelda II, I get at least a taste of that time again, and I’ll never be able to explain exactly how important that is to me.
Brandon Nicholson is a blogger for TMRzoo.com and the founder of Just Another Video Game Blog and covers all gaming consoles and platforms including Sony Playstation 3 and PS4, Microsoft XBOX One and XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP and computer games designed for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Brandon provides his readers with reviews, previews, release dates and up to date gaming industry news, trailers and rumors.