As you’d expect from a NES RPG, very little of the story is fleshed out in-game, leaving it to the manual and supporting materials to explain things thoroughly. However since the game was first released, many little details, such as where the towns got their names (the sages from Ocarina of Time) have given what little is hear a little more substance. 3
For this Zelda game, Shigeru Miyamoto left the development to another team, largely unsupervised. Because of this, the game is wildly different to its prequel, adopting a side-on view for the majority of the game. The only place the viewpoint is the same as its predecessor is on the overworld map, where action is limited to simple movement between towns and dungeons, avoiding random-ish monsters who, if touched, suck you into a mini-level full of enemies. The new viewpoint allows more jumping sections and technical combat not seen again until Twilight Princess. Unfortunately, the puzzles are even simpler than the first game’s, and Link has access to fewer items.
The game still has a high longevity, along with being the hardest Zelda of them all, and it remains the only Zelda where you level up through experience points. Newer gamers will lament the slow control, while the hit detection is quite clunky, making combat hair-rippingly hard or even unfair, despite similar games such as the Game Gear’s Ax Battler remaining immensely playable. 3
The graphics are better than in The Legend Of Zelda, but the locations are still rather bland. The side-view lends everything, including characters and enemies, a far more detailed realism, though dungeons become Metroid-style crawl-fests with black backgrounds. Although the game opened up the whole of Hyrule to the player (as opposed to just the south west in LoZ), the zoomed-out view means the NES has to represent landscape through primitive tiles, contrasting with the other viewpoint and thus leading to an overall disjointed experience. 3
The sound effects are predictably awful, though they disappointingly haven’t progressed from Link’s first NES outing. This time round, though, not even the tunes are catchy, which means that you’ll be reaching for the mute button quickly. 2
When they threw the top-down view point out of the window, they also threw what atmosphere the series had out with it. Instead, there is no longer any mystery, and we end up with a side scrolling beat ‘em up, brutalising the dungeons and overworld leaving little soul. Despite looking cobbled together, the world map adds a little grandeur as the view is quite zoomed out so you can see how vast the whole place is. If nothing else, you do feel like you are embarking on an epic adventure. 4
While a drastic change of pace from the first game, the game’s few lasting legacies are the magic bars and a mountain of broken controllers. The side-view did return in a few later 2D Zeldas such as Link’s Awakening, thankfully in an immensely more playable form. 3
There’s a sad lifelessness that permeates every facet of this game, along with clunky controls and a charmless soundtrack. Not good.