Gone is the top-down perspective. Gone are most of the puzzle solving elements. It’s all been replaced by an action RPG. Battles are conducted from a side perspective. There’s an experience system. Outside of battles and towns you travel on a Dragon Warrior style overworld map. It’s so radically different from what came before that it doesn’t even feel like Zelda anymore. I owned it as a kid but that novelty turned me off time and time again.
The experience system didn’t help.
100 points gets you to the next level, but death or saving and coming back to the game resets the current counter to zero. (If you think that’s harsh, in the Japanese version upon death or resuming a saved game the levels—attack, life, and magic—would start at the lowest level of the three. So if attack was 4, life was 3, and magic was 1, all three would be level 1. Fuck!)
I didn’t understand the experience system until fairly recently, so I never understood why I could progress very far. I mean, why on earth does Zelda expect me to grind?
It’s also a hell of a lot harder than the first game. Combat is quick and brutal, and you need to have good reflexes. You think the knights that could only be hit in the back were annoying? How about knights that raise and lower their shields to deflect your blows.
Zelda II is a weird game, and nowhere close to my favorite Zelda game, but it’s also not my least favorite (fuck you Spirit Tracks). It’s an interesting hybrid of action and RPG that doesn’t succeed as well as, say, Crystalis, but it’s still well worth playing.
Time played: Hours.
How was it?: Better the farther you get into it. The beginning is rough.
Will you play it again?: Yeah, it’s time to finally beat it.