Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is a direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda. Zelda II’s emphasis on side-scrolling, RPG-style elements (including random battles) and ability to jump, however, was a significant departure from its predecessor, The Legend of Zelda. Some fans, in fact, consider it to be the black sheep of the series for being too much of a departure. Despite it being the least popular entry in the series (both in popularity and sales), the game was highly successful and introduced many elements that would become commonplace in future Zelda games. It was followed in 1992 by The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
- For more information see: The story of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Shortly after the events of The Legend of Zelda, Link seeks out Impa to discover what the mark on the back of his hand means, she brings Link to "the door that does not open" in the North Castle. As Impa suspected, the mark opened the door, revealing the original Princess Zelda who has been put into a deep sleep.
Link discovers it is his destiny to break the enchantment of Zelda and restore Hyrule to its past glory. Meanwhile, the followers of the fallen Prince of Darkness are still seeking to murder the one who destroyed him; sprinkling Link's blood on Ganon's ashes will make him rise from the dead. With the return of Ganon, the world would face an unprecedented crisis.
Ultimately, Link defeats the great winged beast Thunderbird, and a doppelganger of himself (also known as Dark Link). Link is then given the Triforce of Courage by a small old man within the palace. He returns to Zelda in the North Castle, who awakens and embraces Link.
Zelda II bears little resemblance to the first game, or for that matter, any other game ever released in the series. Rather than the top-down view of the previous title, Zelda II features side-scrolling areas within a larger world map. The game also incorporates a strategic combat system and more RPG elements, including an experience points (EXP) system, magic spells, and more interaction with non-player characters (NPCs). Another notable difference is that Link has, and can pick up, extra lives. No other game in the series to date includes this feature.
In this installment, Link gains experience points to upgrade his attack, magic, and life (Defense) by defeating enemies; each of which awards him a certain amount of EXP. He can raise each of these attributes a maximum of eight levels. Raising a life level will decrease the damage Link receives when hit; raising a magic level will decrease the MP cost of spells; and raising an attack level will strengthen his offensive power. Link can also acquire up to four Heart Containers and up to four Magic Containers that permanently increase his life points and magic points.
Most other games in the Zelda series only allow Link to increase his strength through new weapons, items, and Heart Containers. Link can lose experience when attacked by certain enemies, though he will never lose a level once raised. Without fighting enemies and leveling up, the already challenging game may prove too difficult to complete.
Overworld map and side-scrolling
The second Zelda plays out in a two-mode dynamic. The overworld, which was previously where the majority of the action occurred, is still from a top-down perspective, but now serves mainly as a hub to the other areas. Whenever Link enters an area (town, cave, palace, etc.) the game switches to a side-scrolling view. This mode is where most of the action takes place, and is the only mode that Link can take damage and be killed.
Link also enters this mode when attacked by wandering monsters. Whenever the player traverses the various environments of Hyrule (fields, forests, swamps, etc.), black enemy silhouettes appear and pursue him. Of the three random creatures that appear, there are two types, which correspond to the ensuing battle: a smaller, weaker, blob; and a larger, stronger, biped. This separate method of travel and combat is one of many aspects adapted from the role playing genre.
Zelda II makes use of relatively simple controls and mechanics to produce fun and challenging battles. Link must alternate between standing and crouching positions in order to attack and defend against either high or low enemies and blows. Link must time his movements to attack the enemies' vulnerable points while defending against their varying attacks. The Iron Knuckle is a particularly challenging enemy because it changes the height of its attack and its shield depending on Link's current stance, forcing Link to continually change stances until he has a chance to attack safely. During the course of the game, Link can also learn techniques for downward and upward stabs in mid-air. Additionally, tall or airborne enemies require well timed jump and stab combos. Jumping is also used heavily for evasion.
In place of actively-used items, The Adventure of Link features spells for Link to use during action scenes. Each spell is learned from a wise man, each one in a different town. Before they teach Link their spells, he often has to complete side-quests such as retrieving lost items.