by Carlos Gomez (aka, The Lost Hylian)
We’ve all been there as Zelda fans: there is that one title that we just couldn’t fall in love with at first sight. You know what I’m talking about--that Zelda game where the path to affection and understanding took just a little bit longer. For me, that was Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. I certainly wasn’t alone in this feeling because despite the game’s selling over 4 million copies, Nintendo returned to the top-down style of the original in many subsequent titles. However, this isn’t a bash session; instead, this is the story of my journey to loving the game that I once maligned.
I think the struggle started the moment I played the game for the first time as a young child. I had fallen in love with the first Legend of Zelda because of its sense of endless exploring. Even at eight years old, if I wasn’t the best player, I could still find secrets and journey across the landscape. With Zelda II, this wasn’t the case, as I felt the broad overworld to be lacking and the forced battles to be without joy. Overall, this Zelda game didn’t feel very Zelda.
To be honest, I never made it past the first palace. The level was fun and exciting, with some of the best music the series has to offer to this day. The boss at the end, however, was insurmountable. I found the haunting laugh of Ganon discouraging, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not defeat this enemy. It was maddening, and I found myself reaching a point where I put down the game and did not pick it back up. It would be many years until I would dare to try the game again. In my mind, The Adventure of Link was an abomination, a mistake in a long line of triumphs.
Then it happened: the game was made available for sale on the 3DS eShop. I purchased the title immediately but could not bring myself to play it for yet another few years. At the time, I simply purchased it just for sake of its being a Zelda title. If it has Zelda on it, I will always spend my hard earned Rupees to acquire it. So why did I give it another go? Well, what happened to me next is what happens to many gamers. You know what I speak of.
I was on an extended trip with no TV and no Internet. I had grown weary of the games in my library and longed for a real challenge. I turned on the handheld, and there it was, looking back at me defiantly. It alone was unbeaten among the titles I had easily conquered. Memories of my past defeat and Ganon’s laughter taunted me. It was at that moment the decision was made, and I selected the title.
That opening title screen music that I had not heard in so long called out to me. It willed me to complete the unfinished journey I had forsaken so long ago. So I began the game anew and a little wiser, with concepts like leveling up and identifying enemy strike patterns in my arsenal.
The first dungeon that long had been the gatekeeper to my success crumbled before me as I battled through the dungeon like never before. I had spent hours leveling up to achieve enough strength to handle the onslaught of enemies and to defeat Horsehead. I began to understand that the first section of the map was designed as a proving ground to learn the basics and was not an inescapable prison. The game was still as mysterious as it was when I was a kid, but now I saw hidden secrets where once I saw dead ends. When offered clues from townspeople, I was able to piece together most objectives. I will be honest: some puzzles were still too difficult, and without having past knowledge or the Internet, I would not have been able to circumvent them. However, that didn’t take away from the experience. This was reminiscent of the days everyone was reading Nintendo Power to get tips and special hints to make the most out of a game.
The combat of the game, which had once been the bane of my existence, was now my favorite aspect. The battles were intense, and trying to learn the unique combination of moves to defeat an opponent was gratifying. Also, the downward thrust is probably the best fighting move in video game history. Don’t believe me? We still see it occur in games like Super Smash Bros. today.
This game was hard, and I died many times (particularly near the end). However, not wanting to give up, I threw myself at the game over and over. When that didn’t work, I looked up the solution. I couldn’t help it (that Death Mountain maze of caves is out of control). Either way, when I finally encountered Shadow Link and won, it was a moment to be remembered. Without a doubt, it is the pinnacle of my gaming career. I had beaten so many titles in my life, some hard and some easy, yet beating this game from the long-gone 8-bit era stands alone as my greatest achievement.
I think that's what made me appreciate this game. Most games of today feel like a story that is unfolding and require little to no effort to complete. With Zelda II, it was a struggle from start to finish across forests, deserts, and swamps, yet, through that struggle, I found that feeling of accomplishment I had not experienced in a game for a long time. I realized in the end that just because The Adventure of Link was not a game I fell in love with right away didn’t mean it couldn’t find a special place in my heart. Perhaps because I didn’t approach the game with such unabashed enthusiasm, I was able to really enjoy some of the finer points that make this game so unique. This revelation has inspired me to search for other games that maybe I passed up and, hopefully, has done the same for you. Maybe this will inspire you to pick up that one Zelda title you just never could get into and give it another shot. Enjoy! Just remember: it’s dangerous to go it alone.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post. Do you have a Zelda title that took a bit longer to love or a title that you still can’t bring yourself to enjoy? Please share your thoughts: @The_Lost_Hylian on Twitter, thelosthylian on Instagram, or my Facebook page, The Lost Hylian.