It was a HOT summer day. And a hot summer in Florida, is lava hot with a steam bath in between. I was in my friends garage. I can’t remember what year it was but for whatever reason, his parents made him keep his Nintendo in the damn blazing garage with one of those old 70’s TV’s with the clicky knobs on them. Why is it that we always got the hand me down TV’s for our Nintendo’s? Anyway, I remember being excited because Zelda 2 had just come out and I was curious about it. I don’t think I even owned a Nintendo yet but I had spent a good amount of time playing the original Zelda at some other house that wasn’t mine and on a Nintendo I didn’t own. So I planned to do the same thing here. I had no idea how disappointed I was about to become.
My friend had one of those magic Nintendo’s that never seemed to need a slap, or kick, or bump, or nudge, or alcohol cleaning kit, or air blower, it just worked. I envied him for that. So we popped Zelda 2 in and it fired right up. There was a sword and then a familiar screen with three save slots. After that, almost all similarity to Zelda ceased. Gone was the pseudo 3D walk anywhere look of the first game, replaced by a fairly typical looking side scroller. Not to mention Princess Zelda was right there on the first screen sleeping away like she was sleeping beauty or snow white. Strange, I thought. Perhaps it will get better. I walked to the right, jumping and throwing my little sword-that-looked-like-a-knife the whole way. Once I exited the temple the game began to look a bit more familiar. Back to pseudo 3D top down view. So I walked right and was immediately assaulted by a black blob with eyes. The screen shifted and I was in a battle scene. Being utterly confused I was killed almost instantly. Back to the temple. With one less life. Wait, I have lives in Zelda? Strange….
So I went out again, avoided the black slime ball and managed to make it to a town. Wow a town! People to talk to! Followed by, confusion. What do I do? I die. Over and over until a few minutes later I handed the controller to my friend and said “I’m going home, this game sucks!” And home I went, never to return to Zelda 2 for over twenty years. You see, when I was 8 years old, I had no clue what an RPG was or how to play one. Little did I know that Nintendo had actually turned Zelda into an RPG, complete with magic spells and experience points! There was nothing in me at that time in my life that would have made me play or understand Zelda 2 any better than I did. Fast forward 20 some years and a lifetime of RPG experience, and Zelda 2 gave off a new light.
Speaking of fast forwarding, after playing the original Zelda recently I figured why not give Zelda 2 another try? So I did. And impressed I was. There is simply no other Zelda like this one. It is an RPG through and through. You could argue that all Zelda games have “RPG elements” and you’d be right. But not like this one. Experience points, random monster encounters, spells and all this Zelda was something different. Dare I say that I might have had more fun with this sequel than the original. Hard to believe.
I’m not going to go into nitty-gritty details but suffice it to say that Zelda 2 is hard, REALLY hard. GameFAQs is your friend here. And without it I would absolutely not have made it through the game. Thank God I was playing it on an emulator or I may not have even finished it. This game is punishing. When those three lives run out, you go back. All the way back to the very beginning. Even if you are in the deep bowels of a dungeon. Trudging your whole way back to wherever you came from was redundant and brutal on every level. You might not even survive your way back to where you were!
The thing that hit me the hardest and of course made me feel like a complete tool, was the dungeon music. I immediately recognized it. Hey, I know this song! I love this song! How could that be? I haven’t played the game in 20 years! Turns out it was the music for one of the Zelda levels on Super Smash Brothers Melee. Go figure. My fondest memory of this game came from another game made 15 years after this game. Really weird if you think about it.