GSQ5: Link in park

Ah, Zelda II. I’m pretty sure I drove every game store and electronics department employee in a 10-mile radius crazy asking about this one. Zelda II was supposed to be out sometime in the spring of 1989, or maybe even sooner, but Nintendo’s infamous “chip shortages” — and what was that about, really? — delayed the game for months. I called around town asking to see if it was in stock practically every weekend for half a year, but to no avail. It wasn’t until I gave up that it finally showed up.

A friend of mine picked it up that December and was kind enough to lend it to me over the weekend before Christmas break. Unfortunately, I, uh… kind of forgot to give it back and ended up borrowing it over the entire holiday. Yeah, I still feel guilty about that one.

22 thoughts on “GSQ5: Link in park

  1. Ahhh…the old NES days when a game’s release date would be whatever random day it happened to show up at the store. The game industry has come a long way with regards to release dates (although it still has a ways to go).

  2. I think the chip shortages were much like the Wii shortages – Nintendo unwilling to gear up production due to the probability of netting a short-term profit increase in exchange for longer term infrastructure expenses. More chips would require more manufacturing, which might be a net loss in the long run.

    I was always more frustrated with the lack of availability of Sega CD games in Canada – manufacturing costs, other than the box, were pretty much negligible but it was impossible to find retail copies of Snatcher or Lunar 2.

  3. The game was supposed to be released for Christmas of 1988. I was 12 years old and searched everywhere. A few months later, my birthday is approaching and I am still looking for this damn game. My mom went out to a store alone and I instructed her to keep an eye out for “Zelda II”. She comes home empty handed, but mentions that the store had a game called “The Adventure of… something”. I couldn’t believe it! Needless to say, we jumped into the car and went right back to that store. Luckily, there were still two copies left. We bought one and went to Pizza Hut afterwards, where I lovingly browsed the instruction manual, careful not to get any grease on it.

  4. I remember getting this for Christmas and my parents let me play it for like 30 minutes before we had to go to the morning church service. That was the longest service of my life. I played it to completion that day and started another playthrough right afterwards. There are a lot of standout moments from the game that I still remember fondly: going down the chimney, running into the HUGE slime in the last dungeon, fighting Shadow Link, downstabbing everything, seeing SPELL turn a bunch of enemies into slimes. I like the topdown Zeldas as much as the next guy but I’d kill for a sequel.

  5. This was not the first NES game I played, but it was the first NES game that I actually owned. I got it Christmas of 1990 with my NES. I was late to the NES scene, being 11 (and a half!) at the time. For better or for worse, it probably set me on the path I am on now.

    Zelda II was crazy tough for me at the time. I got stuck at the point trying to find the hidden town. Somehow, I had forgotten that the hammer could also knock down trees. Thanks, friend that never returned the manual!

    Really, it’s a great game, only cursed with the association with the rest of the series. Had it not borne the Zelda moniker, it might be viewed fairly.

  6. Man, Zelda 2 is way better than the only NES game I ever “forgot” to give back to someone, which was Stanley: The search for Dr. Livingston. The kid I borrowed it from moved away shortly after he lent it to me and I guess I never got it back to him because its still in my collection. Doesn’t mean I ever beat it though, that game is terrible.

  7. Aside from the limited lives, I have mostly fond memories of Zelda 2. Nobody ever seems to talk about the games aesthetics, which, like Mario 2, are quite different from the rest of the series. The game seem to take elements from ancient Greece, and perhaps Romanian villages (odd combination, but hey). It’s also really interesting how there are curtains draped around the bosses, and at the beginning, as if the entire game is a play. The sound effects, like Ganon’s laugh and the sound your sword makes when it’s deflected are also memorable. I would say that because the game lacks structure, and is generally off-beat, it feels like far more of a trip (in the head and adventure senses) than any other entry in the series. Less of this world .

  8. I remember this game. It was more like Link In Reverse. Nintendo had taken the action and adventure elements in Zelda and isolated them from each other, making you realize just how important the symbiosis between the two styles really was. Splitting them left you with dull, aimless exploration, occasionally broken up with frustrating combat and platforming.

    I’m going to get reamed for saying this, but I think Rambo was a better execution of this style of gameplay, mostly because it was more consistent. There was no overworld map to bring the action to a grinding halt… the entire game took place from a side-view perspective, so it never felt like two games awkwardly stitched together. Also, for all the game’s issues the combat was a lot more satisfying. I remember Link being damned near toothless in Zelda II, but in Rambo, you felt like you had a fighting chance, even with the standard issue combat knife.

  9. Your memory betrays you. It took like five combat knife stabs for Rambo to kill a frigging moth, and Link could at least hop on dudes’ heads with his downward stab. WHO’S THE TOOTHLESS ONE NOW, EH?

  10. you know i’ll have to verify this when i get home, of course.
    (damned opera and its inability to read my lg touch’s shift key!)

  11. Have you heard the music from the Japanese version? The extra sound channel made it sound “harmonic” rather than “shrill and warbly.”

  12. I’m gonna say that the title screen and music rank among the best/moodiest/creepiest of all title screens EVER. The subtle background animation, everything. The works. Perfect. Very few title screens can have an “effect”. I’d throw Metroid and Metroid Prime in that list, too.

  13. Just played it up to the stilty spider and the kid who says “Ah! Ahh!” when you rescue him. It takes one stab to dispatch moths, and that’s before Rambo levels up.

    Of course, it does beg the question why moths are even a minor threat to a man who’s blown up entire countries…

  14. The combat, aside from Link’s short sword, was super solid. And yes, the downstab gave Link some nice pogo action.

    I really don’t think the synthesis between top view and side view was done any worse than, say, ActRaiser, which felt too segregated in that regard. And unlike most RPGs with a random encounter quotient, you could at least see said encounters. (It’s definitely one of my more favorite aspects about Dragon Quest IX.)

    And that there’s little solid sense of direction is no different from the first Zelda. Of course, thankfully most people are equal opportunity in that regard.

    Ever since Donkey Kong Country hit it big, I found the entire thing with Zelda 2 and Mario 2 being not as liked because they went off the series path churlish. Of course, DKC itself travels a different well-worn path, that of Mario, whereas the others were too different for their own good.

  15. I don’t really get the statements of later Zelda’s being more proper in their giving you an idea of where to go. As the original Zelda is usually hailed for its open world, and certainly requires you explore in order to find your next destination (with false turns guaranteed), why would this one be condemned for doing the same? I don’t accept the lives as an annoyance, as I always saw them as inclining you to take the dungeons more seriously. *shrug* I have no complaints whatsoever for this game. Oh, did I love carving my way through walls of falling blocks.

  16. i’ve always loved zelda 2–it was darker, moody, atmospheric, and featured an older, battered link who had to fight against his own inner demons.

    the manual art was amazing, too, and the world just felt so big and open for exploration, especially when you realise that the entirety of zelda 1 is like 4 forest tiles in the south west portion of the map.

    zelda 2 is way underrated, and is a better game even today than people give it credit for.

  17. What does the header mean? Other than the play on words I can find no relation to the article. Are you saying that both Zelda 2 and (terrible band) are just misunderstood?

  18. I can conjure two reads on the header:
    b – Link enjoys glorious outdoor adventures ( in a park )
    a – The series wasn’t making forward progress ( in park, like a car )

  19. You know, I always thought Battle of Olympus did much of what Zelda II set out to do, but better. It’s a shame there was no save battery and the game was even more sadistically hard than Zelda II was.

    I do like the idea behind Zelda II, just not how it was handled. I’d be very interested in seeing how a New Zelda II would be done.

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