Saturday, August 20, 2016

Replaying Zelda II on the 3DS

The Inspiration for Grand Theft Auto

It's Master Month on Hyrule Blog. After the Hero's Trial and Master Quest 3D the only challenge left for replaying was Zelda II - The Adventure of Link, the toughest Zelda game in existence.

With it I'm finally done with my entire Nintendo 3DS Zelda library, so this was the main motivation to beat this title yet again. That I couldn't gather enough motivation before can be displayed alone by the history of this savegame. I started it in September 2012, which is when the game originally was released for the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console. I then played the early parts in January 2014, continued a little bit in July 2015 and February 2016, after which I was about halfway through the game, getting the Up Thrust and Reflect Spell from Darunia. This is where I now picked off to finally finish the task.

And I had to do a "little" grinding at first in order to get to the levels 6-6-6. I didn't touch any bosses yet, so the final six levels were gained by placing the crystals in their statues. There is a more effective leveling system by skipping Magic and Life boosts at the right time and using the crystals to buy multiple level ups. I might try this, when I decide to play the game another time, but for now it was too late, so I was stuck with slaughtering Octoroks again and again.

I was also stuck with the tough second half of the game, where you are much more reliant on Magic and where the 5th and 6th Palace really increase the difficulty with their enemies. You might think that the Restore Points of the Virtual Console will help significantly with the game, but the game is still very brutal and at first it feels like the Restore Points don't make much difference. They are really helpful for every room with abysses though, since falling into one costs you an entire live (unlike every other Zelda game since then). And it happens more than once that you might get knocked back into one. Some of the rooms can be really nasty with its flying enemies and similar obstacles.

The Restore Points also help with bosses, if you happen to have enough Health and Magic or an extra live right before them. And they might also help with getting there, if you use them at the right time and are willing to replay rooms, if you took too much damage. They let you push your luck in places, where you potentially can get a Red Jar (or a Red Iron Knuckle to screw with you). So, there are many possibilities to make your life easier with Restore Points, but for most part I was still frustrated and I felt like I was just brute forcing my way through everything, trying to get as far as possible with the three little lives that you have. I didn't even finish a single palace in one turn (except the last one), because the three lives were barely enough to get the Palace Item and then the boss would require another run...

The tables then completely turned with the 2nd Quest. This is, where the game suddenly gave me a lot of fun instead of frustration up to a point, where it amazed me. I've never bothered with the 2nd Quest before, because you just play through the same game again and get to keep...

  • Attack, Magic and Life Levels
  • Magic Spells
  • Up and Down Thrust

But this changes everything! Having 8-8-8 from the start makes you very powerful in the first half of the game. You can kill both Horse Head and Helmet Head with two hits and every other early enemy (including the Dairas and the yellow and red Iron Knuckles) with one hit. Death Mountain suddenly gets to be easy and you overall feel super powerful. It's very satisfying and it fully changes the game. I've actually managed to beat the first five palaces without dying a single time and I've accumulated a total of ten extra lives during that run!

And with that I was able to beat the entire game without a single Game Over:

I was more careful and kept using Restore Points a lot more than in my first run. I also had a lot of luck with finding Red Jars, so there's that. But you can also shortcut through some parts of the game, for example you don't have to go to Darunia at all, since you already got all the Spells and Sword Techniques. You can just head straight for the Maze Palace.

Of course after the 5th Palace your advantages get nullified, at this point it's pretty much the same turmoil as before, but thanks to the many extra lives that you've collected (you get one after every palace for the 9000 EXP level up) you can do it all in one go and you don't have to return from the Northern Palace again and again. It doesn't make Death Valley any easier, but I normally just abuse the Fairy Spell on every screen and fly through the mess...

Ironically the Great Palace then is the easier part. On your first playthrough it's nice that you can continue from here, if you get a Game Over. I don't think that I would have ever been able to beat the game, if I had to go through Death Valley every time. But overall the Great Palace isn't that hard. I've completely memorized the fastest way through the thing, where near the end you even get a Link doll for an extra live and a fairy.

But the dreaded Fokkā enemies on the way aren't as troublesome as the Iron Knuckles in my opinion. They have similar powers and gained the ability to jump, but their jumping is what makes them easier to fight and even avoidable. When they leap over you, you an attack them with a well timed Up Thrust. Or you can just run for it and leave them behind you, which is hardly ever possible with the Blue Iron Knuckles.

So, it's not hard to get to the end of the Great Palace and there you only have one real obstacle: the Thunderbird. If you go all in with Magic (Thunder, Shield, Jump and Reflect), the battle is not too bad, though. Also, you have Restore Points as your safety net. And Dark Link can just be easily defeated with the corner trick, so once the Thunderbird is gone, the game is essentially won.

But with the 2nd Quest I've replayed the entire game just now in two evenings and it was probably the most fun that I ever had with Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. It's really the better game, if you don't have to level up anymore. And if you've never beaten the game before, I can only recommend to try the Virtual Console version on either 3DS or Wii U, because the Restore Points really can change things for the better and make the game less frustrating.

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