Friday, February 17, 2012

Game 2: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES) - Beginnings

"I found Link staring longingly at Zelda (the original princess) as she slumbered soundlessly on her royal bed locked away in a side room at the North Palace. Even though the current princess Zelda waited for his return, I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was ready to throw his life away for a chance to save this one. Rousing him from his daydreaming didn't take long, and only moments more passed before he had his bearings. In front of us was an arduous quest, and although this was still Hyrule, we found ourselves surround by unfamiliar terrain. Without knowing where these palaces were we aimlessly followed the road and came upon a village. Rumors abound of a Palace in Parapa, we determined this was our first destination. An old wise man knew of our desire to head there, and he taught Link a spell that would shield him from the harsh desert environment as well as deadly creatures."

Wow, I must have completely blocked out how tough Zelda II is. I'm fairly sure I beat this game as a kid, although I may have had some help from my brother. On first impressions, and I gather from the comment on the previous post, not many feel this is a CRPG, myself included. I look at the game; I look at the scale, but it doesn't quite feel right. I'll get to that later though.
Last night went fairly well. Even with the obvious difficulty of the game I managed not to game over until Death Mountain. It took quite a few attempts to map the mountain of accurate naming, but even so, it took a couple more game overs until I finally reached the hammer, which allows me to break boulders on the path. I'm getting a little ahead of myself though, so let me start over.

It was easy enough to navigate the over-world and find the first towns by following the road. From even these first few moments it was obvious to me that I remembered a lot of this game. I knew the first palace was through a cave past the forest to the west, and I needed to get a candle from inside. For this playthrough though I'm trying to find the clues in the game that lead me to the sights rather than heading straight for the hidden points of interest. Even so, I did end up getting the trophy that unlocks the second spell before being told to do so because I knew I needed to get it.
That's a very conspicuous looking boulder...
The game itself is definitely an action affair with lots of jumping and button mashing sword swinging fun. Link now also has the ability to cast magic. Spells must be learned from wise ones in each town. The first spell is pretty much handed to you while the others require some kind of fetch quest. One thing I noticed that wasn't mentioned in any other review is the lack of money. This never stuck out as strange in my previous plays, but with an eye on note taking for this blog it's definitely an oddity for a CRPG and for the series.

There are hidden areas on the map that stand out by their unique terrain, but sometimes they blend in with the surroundings. They tend to have heart containers, magic containers, or experience bags. Some areas are set, and unavoidable if I need to pass. Traveling over bridges has always brought up a side-scrolling area with set encounters. In these areas, the direction I enter from determines which side I start on, and exiting on the opposite end allows me to pass through. Traveling over anything except roads will cause monsters to spawn in three directions and move around randomly. If Link touches one of these, then a random encounter occurs with link in the middle of an area; the only escape is to leave out the left or right side (or die trying).
No boomerang?! How is this even a Zelda game?
I had thought enemies dropped health as well as magic or experience, but they sadly do not, which really adds to the difficulty. Luckily I've found the Life spell that allows me to heal, but it comes at a hefty magic cost. I've made it through the first two palaces grossly over-leveled, to compensate for my lack of skill, and part way through the third. I couldn't quite handle the horseman, and died during that fight. Completing a palace involves collecting the hidden item, defeating the boss, and placing a crystal in the statue, which brings your experience to the next level. Unfortunately, I didn't plan ahead, so this hasn't been as beneficial as it could. I've collected a candle that allows me to see in caves, the glove that lets me break blocks, and a raft to travel across the ocean.

The hammer from Death Mountain isn't gained from a palace, but it's been the most useful item so far, allowing me to quickly travel back after a game over. I've also been taught the downward thrust, which I remember fondly as my favorite move in this game. Some things can't be found without exploring though, and I don't think I got clear clues for getting the medicine to unlock the fairy spell (necessary to enter the third palace; it turns you into a fairy), nor do I believe there's a clue for getting the trophy, which is why I went out of my way to get it. Probably the most memorable character is Error (Bagu is a close second), and I was told to go speak with him about the palace, but I forgot to do this last night. Hopefully I can remember and document if his dialogue changes (I'm waiting for this to happen in a game, although I suppose "waking up" the monsters may count).
Is that really your name or are you broken?
I believe I'm near the halfway point. From memory, I know I need to find some water walking boots (I actually learned this from a town as well), I'll return some kid to get more magic, get a flute to unlock the next area, have to fight a Wizzrobe with the reflect spell, and a dragon with the upward thrust. The Great Palace is a huge maze that's going to take some luck to get through. Then there's two bosses to face at the end. I may not finish all this tomorrow, but I'll do my best for those that are unconvinced this is a CRPG and just want it to end.

"But this isn't a CRPG!" you scream? Well, let's work on the RPG scale and I ask you dear readers to please point out any flaws (I will cut the game if it falls below 10):

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link - Rating(11 RPP)
1) 3 - Character advancement: practice/experience based advancement, stat or level increases
2) 3 - Combat: character stats used for combat, additional combat options
3) 0 - Items and equipment: none
4) 2 - Story: main story at the forefront; world full of hints and lore
5) 2 - Exploration: open world from the beginning, visited locations remain open
6) 1 - Quests and Puzzles: side quests not related to the main quest

Character advancement is through experience gained from defeating enemies, collecting bags of... experience, and completing quests (placing the crystal in a palace statue). In addition to the stat increase from leveling up that raise attack power, defense, and reduce magic cost, there are life and magic increases in the form of heart and magic containers. Combat uses the attack and defense stats of Link, and allow him to deal and take more damage. Additional combat options exist, although rather loosely, with the upward and downward thrusts; also, some magic is beneficial to combat such as Shield, Reflect, Fire, and Thunder.
I would not look forward to that encounter rate...
The story remains at the forefront with hints about the palaces, and troubles in the land with Ganon's minions (some even hiding amongst townsfolk hoping to be the one to bring Link down). 'World full of hints and lore' is probably the weakest point, but with hints about hidden locations, and snippets of story relating to the people instead of the main quest, I believe it deserves the point. The world may not allow unlimited access, but there's rarely anything absolutely preventing it before completing all previous tasks; in fact, the palaces could theoretically be completed in any order, and exploration is a big part of finding hidden items. I'm leery about locations remaining open though, as palaces do lock you out if you've completed them, but towns and other areas are always open. Lastly, I'm counting hidden heart and magic containers, as well as the downward and upward thrusts, and some unnecessary spells as side quests. Yes, it'd be challenging without all these, but they're still on the other side of necessary.

If it has anything against it that makes it feel not like a CRPG, it's definitely the action parts (i.e. the game). Even without any points for the item section, if the game had a turn based battle system, I'd venture to guess there'd be no question. Are all action games not CRPGs though? I think there's too many to discount them all, so what is it about this game that makes it feel less than an RPG compared to something like Hydlide or Faxanadu. Is it the character lives? Or the lack of necessary grinding? Is an inventory really that necessary? Maybe the scale doesn't take something into account? So, let's get together and hammer at the scale to forge a better one, else I'm finishing this up and moving on soon hopefully. I beat this game before, and by gum if I can't do it again.


  1. I talked about this on the last post, but I'll say more here: I think Zelda 2's inclusion on this list is correct. Let me ask any naysayers this: if Zelda 2 isn't an action RPG, what genre is it?

    It has towns, an overworld, random battles, experience levels, magic, MP, item progression, open exploration, an emphasis on story, a stereotypical RPG setting, etc. etc. etc. Sure, it doesn't have money. That seems like a big oversight. However, I can't sit here and say that this is a straight action game. It's not really a platformer. It's not a puzzle game. People used to like calling Zelda games "adventure" games, but that's just completely off. Action adventure seems less correct than action RPG. If this isn't an RPG, what is it?

  2. I'll elaborate a bit more than be done with this topic.

    I think it's perfectly acceptable to skip the vast majority of the Zelda games from this list. Most of the series, while having RPG elements, simply aren't RPG's. They draw from different source materials, and they are genetically distinct. To put it another way, most Zelda games evolve RPG elements -separately- from the RPG genre itself. It's convergent evolution in action.

    However, that said, I think Zelda 2 is different. Zelda 2 is a major departure for the series.. largely because of elements taken from RPGs. Towns are added, but, unlike later Zelda games, they are added in a very console RPG way. You enter towns the same way you enter towns in console RPGs of the period.. which is completely different than every other game in the series. Ditto with experience levels, magic, magic spells, the overworld map, etc. Even when later games in the series had similar elements, these similar elements were either completely reinvented (i.e. - sharing no heritage with Zelda 2) or were more based on Zelda 1 than Zelda 2. For example, the "towns" in Zelda 3 and beyond are more like the hovels in Zelda 1 than the towns of Zelda 2 and RPGs. Progression in Zelda 3 and beyond is more like the heart container stuff in Zelda 1 than the exp. stuff in Zelda 2. Magic in later games is more based on Zelda 1's inventory system than Zelda 2's RPG system. Etc. etc.

    Zelda 2 is an anomaly. It is a hybrid of classic RPGs and the Zelda series' unique memetic heritage. As such, I think it belongs on an RPG blog, while the sequels, for the most part, do not.

    1. Err "then" be done with this topic. I'm sure there are other typos I haven't caught, but that shot a chill up my spine as soon as I saw it.

  3. 100% agree with you that Zelda is the exception.

    1. I wish there was a 'like' option or something, haha. I want to express my agreement without making a post about it.

  4. Error, 100% agree with you that Zelda 2 is the exception, and that the other Zelda gamesdon't even come close.