Sunday, August 21, 2011

Replaying the Zelda NES Classics

You can say what you want, but I'm proud of myself. While I have replayed most Zelda games this year by now, I originally didn't want to play the NES Classics again. Not much fun I thought. But I'm glad I did it anyway, because of all my replays this has been the most rewarding so far. I've still got it and that feels great.

I played both games on my Wii Virtual Console, I had started to play both games when I downloaded them, but I never got to finish them. Originally I thought the only way I ever could beat Zelda II again was using an emulator with quick saves and maybe cheat codes. So, I'm really proud that I could beat this monster of game again without any help. But after I got the Hammer, the game went down quite smoothly actually. Even the Blue Iron Knuckles, which would give me nightmares in the past, didn't gave me much trouble. Probably the toughest enemy later in the game would be pits. Because unlike in all other Zelda games, if you fall down a pit, you won't just loose a heart, it's an instant death. And Link gets knocked back easily, later in the game there are some tricky parts, where enemy would try to fuck you up by pushing you into a pit, after you jumped over it.

My strategy for both Zelda II and the also quite tough 2nd Quest of The Legend of Zelda is gearing up as early as possible. Getting optional items and additional Heart Containers early or in case of Zelda II leveling up as fast as possible. In the dungeons I would only go for the item and leave the rest of the dungeon for later. In the 2nd Quest this only works with the last three dungeons, there you would get the Stepladder, Red Candle and Magic Wand very early. So, I would go to these dungeons early in the game to get an advantage for the other dungeons. In Zelda II, however, going for the items and not for the boss is a common strategy. It really helps, what you basically do is saving all six bosses until you're down to the last six levels. Because delivering a crystal gives you an auto level up, so you don't have to get ridiculous amounts of EXP to max your levels. Leveling up is something you're not used to in a Zelda game, but in Zelda II it's really the difference between life and death. For example I had big troubles with Death Mountain at first, but after adding some levels it got much easier. You really feel how you're getting stronger in this game and by now I could go through Death Mountain without a single scratch.

For me personally the NES Classic Zeldas focus on two things: exploration and getting stronger. And the difficulty is respectively based on maze-like dungeon design and fighting. While the games are very primitive by nature and miss a lot of elements, that make modern Zelda games great, these are essential aspects, which I would like to see getting more focus in the Zelda series again. And honestly Skyward Sword looks like a start here, it really focuses more on combat and it's said to feature non-linear exploration. But I doubt that we will get massive maze-like dungeon structures.

I really started to like the combat in Zelda II. You would always face one tough enemy at a time and it would feel like an epic duel. Unlike the enemies in Zelda I the tough guys would come right for you. You grow with every encounter and you get better and better in fighting. Replaying Zelda II really brought back my appreciation, no my love for this game. Beating Zelda II again was really an accomplishment for me and quite a rewarding feeling, though the game basically lacks everything I like about modern Zelda. But I can't believe how could write something like this not a long time ago...

Fighting in Zelda I actually wasn't as much fun. In the 2nd Quest you basically would just get tons of rooms filled with lots of nasty enemies, like Blue Wizzrobes, Red Bubbles (those steal your sword fuckin permanently!!! I just hate these things), Like Likes and Darknuts, who would all run around aimlessly being hard to dodge. I'd rather fight one of the Blue Bird Knights in Zelda II than going into a room filled with that crap... but whatever. What makes the 2nd Quest also very challenging is that the Letter is guarded by Lynels. That's my milestone for this game, after you got some Potions it's getting easier. And this basically has to happen before you enter any of the dungeons. But I've already beaten the later dungeons of 2nd Quest last fall (finished my unfinished GBA version), so overall it was not as a big deal as Zelda II.

About the other big aspect of the NES Classics, the maze-like dungeons, I'll admit that I sometimes used maps for navigation to beat the games again. And that's basically like using a guide for these games. It makes it significantly easier, if you plan a route beforehand, because you don't run aimlessly into dead ends. In Zelda II it's called "dead end", because you die (much like it's called "Death Mountain", because you die there)... going for the shortest route saves you many unnecessary encounters that just eat your health away. But anyway, since I'm not playing the games for the first time, I thought it's okay to use the stuff from VGmaps. Because after all I should be able to remember the dungeons anyway (I remember the layouts of most dungeons from all the other Zelda games, but these are mostly simpler...) and in some cases I even did. For example I still remembered the route through the Great Palace. But especially the later dungeons of the 2nd Quest are really crazy with those walls, where you can simply walk through, one way doorways and tunnels. Those dungeons are still very tricky even if you use a map on your computer while playing. You can really got lost there. Try getting lost in one of the dungeons of Twilight Princess. And I really appreciate the unconventional dungeon design of the 2nd Quest. For example the boss can appear somewhere in the middle of the dungeon or there might be something hidden behind the Triforce room.

What I noticed during replaying the 2nd Quest was that playing the Flute opens a lot of hidden caves. It doesn't do that in the 1st Quest. However, some Zelda games would later adopt this feature, namely Ocarina of Time with the Song of Storms that might open hidden grottos and Spirit Tracks with the Song of Discovery.

At the ending of Zelda II the first thing I wondered was... "how the hell did Link get back to North Castle so fast? Ah wait, he probably just killed himself..." Anyway... good stuff, I can only repeat myself by saying that replaying Zelda II was tough, but really rewarding.

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