My Top 100: #12 – Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

1987 - Nintendo (NES, Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console, eShop)

1987 – Nintendo (NES, Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console, eShop)


Wait…  so…  that guy you control isn’t named Zelda?

Similar to me not realizing Super Mario Bros. 2 was set in a dream world, I didn’t quite grasp the fact that Link was actually the name of the young man in The Legend of Zelda.  Like I said before, I wasn’t that good at reading English yet, and I’d say that had something to do with it…  but check this out; the following text is from the intro to the first Zelda game, before it was re-written for later releases.




The translation was pretty bad, so I’m not really surprised that last sentence’s significance was lost on me.

Adventure of Link has a reputation for being a black sheep in the franchise.  Most casual Zelda fans don’t care for it, and for the longest time, I didn’t appreciate the game all that much, either.  In fact, had I made this countdown two or three years ago, it might not have even made the list!

Unfortunately, I didn’t really play the game the way it was meant to be played when I was younger.  As I mentioned in a post a while back, my friend’s father owned the game, and I got to borrow it on a few occasions.  I played it a fair amount, but when it came to one of the more interesting tweaks to the formula – being able to level up your Attack, Magic and Life attributes – I didn’t even know what it did!  I mean, yeah, they all “get better” as you accumulate experience points, but I never cared about points!  I’m going to turn it off eventually anyway, and they all reset to zero when you do that.  Who cares about stinkin’ points, anyway?

Obviously, I was way, WAY wrong about that one.  For years, that level-up screen would pop up, and I’d press Start just to get it off the screen, not really caring about how it worked.  I knew it was all relevant to the gameplay, but didn’t much care for the game enough to really take a look at how you could use it to your advantage.

I was watching a speed run a few years ago, and the person flying through the game beefed up his Attack stats quite a bit before upgrading his Magic and Life.  I knew you could pick and choose what to improve and when, or that you could keep your experience points for whatever the next upgrade was that you were looking for.  As a kid though, I just had no interest in experimenting with that whatsoever.

So, on top of the fantastic swordplay, the countless NPC’s you can interact with, and incredibly satisfying difficulty (as opposed to the rage-inducing kind found in Battletoads), you have this wonderfully simple and intuitive system that lets you play the game however you want to play it…  and I only recently came to appreciate how awesome that made the game.

For many years, I neglected it because I thought it simply didn’t like me, or that it was too different to even be called a Zelda game.  That was a mistake on my part, and I’ve been making up for it by playing it quite a bit over these last few years!



I don’t necessarily have any one specific memory about this game.  Whenever I see the box art or the really shiny gold cartridge in my collection (which sticks out like a sore thumb), I can’t help but think of my friend’s father, who ended up one day giving me his copy of Zelda II.  He passed away a few years ago, and that made me realize just how fast time had flown by since we were little.

I spoke to my wife, and apparently, not everyone has that friend of the opposite sex when growing up…  you know, the kind that you play “house” with?  The kind that, no matter what anyone says, you’ll be married some day?  Little Katie next door was that friend for me, and though she eventually moved away, I always look back quite fondly on all those times we had fun when we were little.  I have so many random memories from our time as kids, some of it good, some of it hilarious, some of it sad, and some of it just plain weird.

There was the time Katie and I were having a picnic – which was actually just lunch on the back deck – where we were having fish sticks and fries.  I didn’t use a lot of ketchup that had been dabbed onto my plate, and when I finished up my meal with a fair amount of it left, Katie said “you better eat your ketchup, or else Mom will be upset!”

I thought, “how am I supposed to eat the ketchup, if I have nothing left to dip into it, and all I have is a fork?”

So, for the rest of the meal, I just dabbed my fork into the ketchup, wincing as I licked the ketchup off of it…  it was kinda gross, and it was obviously memorable enough for me to remember it for this long.  Ketchup goes great WITH stuff, but is quite strange on its own.

Then, there was the ottoman in the basement where the TV was.  I always used to go over on Sunday evenings to watch a few shows, namely Rescue 9-1-1 and America’s Funniest Home Videos.  They had an orange ottoman that could spin around and around, kinda like an office chair.

During the commercial breaks, I’d lay on my stomach on the ottoman, and Katie would sit on my back.  I’d start spinning it around as fast as I possibly could, and we would both laugh insanely hard.  It was a fun little thing we’d do to break up the monotony of commercials, and thankfully, her parents let us do it…  until the night I spun around so quickly she puked.

I, uh…  didn’t like that.  We didn’t spin on the ottoman anymore, after that.

In any case, playing Adventure of Link reminds me of her and her dad, and all the things you did and lessons you learned as a kid.  She got married late last year, and my wife and I were quite happy to be able to attend the ceremony.

Good times.


This wasn't the exact ottoman, but this is basically what it looked like. *WheeeeeeeeePUKE*

This wasn’t the exact ottoman, but this is basically what it looked like.

2 Comments on “My Top 100: #12 – Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

  1. I’m going to repost something I emailed you weeks ago, specifically about Zelda II.

    Back in 1988-1989, my parents would always rent a Nintendo system from the store down the street. We usually ended up getting the same 3-4 games for it; Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt, Ice Hockey, Wrecking Crew (once in a while), and my absolute favourite, Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link. My god, thinking about those 4 games feels like more than nostalgia, just pure happiness. I remember being excited every time they’d bring it home (a year later or so, we would end up owning a system).

    As a 5-year-old kid, I would play and play those games, barely being able to read what was on the screen. Zelda 2 actually helped teach me how to read, when I would talk to the townsfolk. I would travel all over the first area, killing the same bad guys (and dying from them, too) over and over again. I didn’t care, I just loved playing! I didn’t really know how the menu screen worked, so saving/loading my progress is something that only happened once in a while. We never owned the game, so my saved files always got mixed in with anyone else’s.

    So, here I was, adventuring here and there, all over the place, and some places would be dark, some places wouldn’t be. Hell, even some places would be dark at first, but lighter later on! Neat!

    Turns out, I just wasn’t paying attention to what the candle actually did. And not knowing how spells worked, I could never, really jump high enough to get through Ruto cave. Honestly, I just always thought that the starting area/Parapa castle was the entire game. Sure, maybe there was some sort of secret area below the rock (dude in town says I need the hammer, I have no idea where one is!), but looking back, I think I loved the mystery about it all way more than others would.

    So, for years and years and years, I put the game down, didn’t really go back. I don’t know why, but I just never gave it much thought. To any mature brain, if you know Nintendo, you know that unless it’s an arcade port, a game has an ending, and it’s never, truly unfair or unbeatable. Well, skip ahead about 15-16 years, I’m at a pawn shop, and they have, for $43, a boxed (though not sealed) copy of Zelda 2, gold cartridge and all. I hastily pick it up, and on the way home, think to myself ‘Wait… I’m not 5 years old anymore… I assume I can finally understand this friggin’ game (and love it even more)’

    That’s exactly what happened. Once I figured out spells, which took all of 2 minutes (had to get one first, of course), it all became clear. I don’t know if I have the right words to describe the absolute (and, frankly, ‘silly amount of’) wonder I was in when I made that jump… when I found new towns, when I got the hammer, and was able to destroy the roadblock. I felt like I was taking the controller from my 5-year-old-self, saying ‘Hold on a sec, buddy, I’ll help you out with this one’, and then giving it back to him/me, and sitting nearby, helping myself along.

    I’m looking forward to sitting next to a future 5-year-old son or daughter, doing that very thing for real someday.”

    This game is now among my favourite games of all-time, and is definitely my favourite Legend of Zelda game.

    • Nice!

      Yeah, once I managed to get the hammer (which wasn’t often) and explore beyond the walls of that first area, it really was quite mesmerizing.

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