Review by Aganar
"Change is not always bad."
As far as Zeldas go, this is definitely the oddball of the crew. Since it is not like the original and incorporates many more RPG elements, it was heavily bashed, like Super Mario 2 and Simon's Quest (hmm...those were the second game in the series too. Is there some hidden pattern here?). Unfortunately, it really has a bunch of false accusations to it. Hell, I actually like it more than the original! While certainly not as good as when it came out, it's still pretty good.
The graphics are really great for the time. For the overworld portion of the game, it looks alot like the original Zelda. Except now, everything is slightly smaller since it represents an overworld. However, it is alot more detailed. The game is much more colorful, and the colors more vibrant. As you walk around, the little monsters can flash around the screen, so you can at least try to avoid them. For entering locations, the game has a tile sort of teleportation system. But, it looks very pretty.
When you actually see it up close, it looks even better. Link obviously has matured quite a bit. Graphically, he has gone from being super deformed to looking more like an Elf. He looks alot older, and furthermore actually is sort of proportional, for the NES anyway. The enemies are all very detailed and very creatively drawn. Ganon is still a weird pig creature, but at least he's more detailed now (for what you see of him anyway).
The story is a bit weirder than the original. For one thing, it's quite a bit darker. I mean, until Ocarina of Time, this was the darkest of the stories. Ganon is dead, but a group of followers want to bring him back. So, a wizard tells him to bring him back, they must kill Link, and sprinkle his blood on Ganon's ashes! Also, the wizard has put a spell on Princess Zelda. Link must defeat the wizard to save his own hide and save Zelda or she will die. Another different thing about the story is that Zelda was not kidnapped. She's just dying. Also, most noticeably, Ganon is not in this game. He is only on the game over screen, implying that they did kill you and he came back. However, after the beginning intro, the story kind of fizzles out.
The strangest part from the rest of the series is its gameplay. Instead of being an action RPG, it is an action sidescroller, RPG. That sounds really weird, but allow me to explain. There is an over-world, like RPGs, and you have random battles. You can see the enemies, but touching them makes you engage into battle, since you cannot attack. So, instead of just fighting the enemies on a world map, you see them on the world map then go into an interesting sub-screen when you encounter them.
Once you go into a sub-screen, it gets really interesting. For one thing, you get to see Link up-close. But more importantly, instead of fighting them in a full range top down battle zone, you fight them in a platformer side-view battle. Link can wander around the small mini-screen, fighting the enemies in the area. An interesting graphical feature is that depending on what tile you encountered the enemy on, the level will have a different background. Each enemy that he kills gives Link experience points, as well as dropping items like potions, hearts, or even additional bags EXP. One of the really cool things is that the enemies respawn, so you can spend hours just on that one level, fighting whatever enemies show up. I've even gotten around 1000 experience points just from staying in one place, since the enemies tended to drop alot of EXP.
When Link levels up, he can increase one of 3 categories. He can increase his life points, his attack, or his magic meter. He simply levels up his life now, instead of going on all of those miniquests to gain heart pieces. As you may have guessed, leveling up his attack makes him stronger, so killing enemies becomes easier. The magic meter can be used to activate certain spells, like heal, shield, or fire, for example. I really enjoy the RPG elements like this, since I think it adds replay value and allows for more customization. But, not everyone did.
As for the rest of the stuff, it's all still there. Link now talks to alot more townspeople, as they give you tips and needed materials to further progress through the game. He now visits more towns, and generally just does more things typical of an RPG. There are still many dungeons, but it is now more about battle then solving the puzzles, since they were virtually wiped out, being that the dungeons are side-scrollers. There are also still some miniquests, but not quite as many.
I really love the music to this game. I was shocked to learn that Koji Kondo, one of my favorite composers, actually did not do the score for this game. Apparently someone else did it. Well, whoever it was, they did a great job. The dungeon theme, which most of you Super Smash Bros Melee fans should be familiar with, is excellent. I also really enjoyed the battle theme. It can get tedious constantly staying through all of the areas to level up, but a good battle theme always helps. The music is great, and still manages to retain the very weird feel that Zelda 1 did. As for the sound, it’s another good aspect. All beeps granted, but they're fitting.
One unfortunate low thing about the game is its replay value. It's not to say there isn't any. I mean, you can level up Link, so there's always seeing how high you can get (or low for people who like to test themselves) and beat the game. But unlike the others, there aren't as many miniquests. Since the dungeons don't have as many puzzles, and there are no heart-piece miniquests, sidequests are virtually wiped out. So, if you've beaten it, there's not much of a reason to go back. But, pulling it out of the shelve and playing it for awhile is always good for a quick burst of fun.
Overall, Zelda II was seriously overlooked. It wasn't really its fault, Miyamoto just wanted to try being a bit more RPG-ish. As far as I'm concerned, he was within his rights. Zelda sort of DID create the RPG genre anyway, regardless of it being turn-based or not. But, it just doesn't exactly feel much like a Zelda game. If it was just another Nintendo game and it was not Link, then the game would be very highly regarded. But, this was very unfaithful to the original, and thus, many fans do not like it.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/11/03, Updated 02/11/03
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