I enjoyed the Angry Video Game Nerd’s recent review of the NES game, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (a warning to those not familiar with James – his reviews are full of extremely salty language). However, I can’t agree with his assessment that it’s a great game despite its flaws.
The problem is not that it’s mostly a side-scroller, with the other Zelda games being from and overhead perspective. I’m not a Zelda enthusiast so that makes no difference to me. There’s an NES game similar to Zelda II named Faxanadu (buy my used copy here). It involves swords, magic, jumping, monsters, and labyrinths. It too is a side-scroller, and far superior to Zelda II. If Zelda II was of the level of quality of Faxanadu, it wouldn’t be considered a disappointment.
No, the main problem is that the overworld view is visually horrendous, tedious, and an embarrassment.
No, those graphics were not good or even acceptable by 8-bit standards. Here’s how an overworld should look in an 8-bit game, roughly:
That picture if from Phantasy Star, a game that puts Zelda II to utter shame. Notice how the water near the coasts has some subtle surf effects (the water line moved in and out to simulate waves), the sand features cactuses and dunes, there are some shadows around the town. Zelda II has none of that. It’s like they didn’t try. Is that a characteristic of a great game?
Zelda II’s dungeons are bland and repetitive. There’s very little variation in appearance, with the color of the bricks being the main thing that changes from one dungeon to the next. The environmental obstacles don’t go much beyond pits to jump over, blocks, and elevators.
It’s true that that complaint could be leveled against the first Legend of Zelda, but for whatever reason the labyrinths in the game were fun most of the time and rarely tedious. Faxanadu is a good example of variety and creativity in 2D dungeons.
James’ review covers the game’s difficulty and frustration level, so I won’t go into that aspect of it.
So, this was basically just a rant about a game that I think is overrated. Yes, it’s part of a beloved franchise, but even fans of that franchise should be honest and admit the Zelda II is a total lemon of a game.